How to Prevent Motion Sickness in Cats

how to prevent motion sickness in cats

So you’ve traveled a few times with your cat.  He may have shown signs of being sick or drowsy.  You are probably wondering how to prevent motion sickness in cats?  Whether you went to his yearly trip to the vet or just to go out for a quick hike, it’s always a good idea to be prepared.  Believe it or not, motion sickness in cats is a real thing.  First of all, what is motion sickness?

Motion sickness in cats is similar to when humans get motion sickness.  Have you ever tried to read a book while a car is in motion?  To lots of people it can cause you to get dizzy or have “motion sickness”  Continue on and I will teach you how to be prepared in case your little feline friend decides to get motion sickness while you are traveling.

What Causes Motion Sickness In Cats?

Motion sickness can happen in more than one place.  Motion sickness is most common on boats and in cars.  It occurs when the constant movement of a vehicle disrupts a cat’s sense of balance.  Motion sickness affects all cats regardless of age, size, and breed.  It is also more likely to affect a kitten than an adult cat because they are still developing.  Although a kitten is more likely to get motion sickness, I believe it is best to start them young.  The quicker your cat acclimates to car rides, the better it will be in the future when you start traveling a lot more.

Not only does the constant bumps and vibration cause motion sickness, it is also possible that your car’s engine noise can disrupt and cause stress to your cat.  Motion sickness from a car ride is not fatal, but it can cause fear and subsequent rides in a car will be much harder for your cat.  Motion sickness in cats can also cause dehydration and anxiety.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Motion Sickness?

The first thing to do is examine your cat.  He may look lethargic and may not eat a snack when he is given one.  Your cat will start to be very vocal during the trip when they start to experience motion sickness and they may also start to excessively drool.  During prolonged periods of motion sickness, your cat may also begin to pant.  This is usually a sign that your cat is dehydrated because cat’s do not sweat the same way us humans do.

Another sign of motion sickness in your cat is restlessness.  Restlessness comes in a few forms.  Your cat will start to be more vocal and will constantly be moving around or “restless”.  Your cat may also experience vomiting.  Motion sickness makes your cat dizzy and causes nausea.  This leads can lead to dehydration which can be fatal if it is not addressed accordingly.  Your cat may also start to urinate or have bowel movements more frequently.  You will easily be able to tell this is happening by the smell of your car.

Don’t worry, the more your cat rides in the car with you, the less likely he will become car sick.  It’s better to start traveling with your cat when they are young so once you start your adventures, he will also be accustomed to riding in a car.

Can I Give My Cat Motion Sickness Medicine?

Yes.  You can actually give your cat medicine to treat motion sickness before going on a trip.  You can use an over the counter medicine like dramamine from amazon.  A safe dose to give your cat is 12.5 mg.  These tablets are dosed at 50 mg per tab, and have a score down the middle for easy cutting.  Once you cut the pill in half you will then need to cut it in half once more to create a quarter pill which is 12.5 mg.

Be careful not to overdose your cat on this medication because the side effects can be potentially fatal depending on the dose.  I would also advise speaking to your cat’s vet before giving them any form of over the counter medication.  Some cats will respond fine while other cats may have a negative reaction.

How to Prevent Motion Sickness In Cats Naturally

You may just have bad luck and your cat is more prone to car sickness than another cat.  All cats are different in this aspect.  Some will handle cars without getting sick at all, while others will get sick almost every time until they get used to it.  The single best way to help your cat through motion sickness is to get them used to traveling inside their carrier.  Take them with you whenever you leave the house to expose them to as much drive time as possible.

This may seem counter productive at first, but after awhile you will slowly start to notice subtle changes in the way your cat behaves during the car rides.  He will start to act more “normal”.  Start getting your cat used to his carrier by slowly introducing it to him at home.  Leave the carrier door open and leave cat treats inside.  Always reward his behavior whenever he goes inside his cat carrier.  Encourage him to play near it as well as sleep in it at night time.

Once you feel that your cat is used to his carrier, you can start placing him inside the car while he is in his carrier.  Remember, always use positive reinforcement with him and the carrier.  This is very important to calming him down once he is inside the carrier and car.  The next step is to start the engine and do small drives around the block to get your cat used to the feel of the car.

This is not the time to take him on a 100 mile road trip.  Start small and gradually increase the distance traveled every few days or so.  This will also give you a good idea on how your cat behaves while you are driving.  It’s easier to handle the situation when you are just doing test drives.  How awful would it be if your cat started panting, vomiting, and shaking while you were on your way to a trail for a hike?

Car Comfort Tips for Your Cat

  • There are a variety of things you can do to help keep your cat comfortable during a car ride.
  • Make sure you plan your trip ahead of time and make sure he hasn’t just eaten.  A cat with a full belly is more likely to get motion sickness than a cat with an empty stomach.  If you must feed your cat, wait a few hours before you start your travel.
  • Be sure to place your cat in the correct position.  Do not face him backwards or sideways.  Always keep him facing forward toward the front to help with his orientation.  Keeping his orientation correct will help prevent motion sickness.
  • Have you ever felt stuffy while riding in a car?  Well so does your cat.  Go ahead and crank the ac on to give him a breath of fresh air.  Circulating the air in your car will help him from getting sick as well.
  • I already said that the noise from your cars engine can cause anxiety in your cat.  For your first few trips try to refrain from playing loud music.  This will just be another form of stress added to your already stressed out cat.
  • If you notice your cat starting to show signs and symptoms of motion sickness, go ahead and take a quick break.  Stop your car and go for a small walk to calm him down and relieve his motion sickness.  The short stroll and fresh air will work wonders for him.

Preventing Motion Sickness On A Boat

Motion sickness is very common when on a boat.  Being on a swaying boat usually gets to the best of us as well.  I remember the first time I went whale watching at the pier.  About halfway through the trip I just started to feel really dizzy.  After the dizziness then cam the nausea.  I didn’t actually end up throwing up during my whale watching trip, but it definitely made my trip less enjoyable.  Well the same thing can happen to your cat while on a boat as well.  Boating with your cat can be a good time, but you will need to know how to keep him safe from motion sickness.  Your cat’s chances of catching motion sickness on a boat is very high.

The main thing you can do for your cat is to keep him away from the middle and top of the deck while the boat is in motion.  The higher up your cat is on the boat means the more of the waves that he is going to feel.  It is best to keep your cat below deck levels in order to prevent motion sickness from creeping up on him.  The waves and shaking are felt substantially less on the bottom floors.  This is also a good tip for humans that tend to get motion sickness on boats as well.

Another thing to do to help prevent motion sickness in your cat is to put him in his cat carrier on a cooling pad while the boat is in motion.  Keeping your cat on the bottom deck in a carrier will help minimize your cat’s movement.  Adding a cooling pad like this one from amazon will also help in relieving anxiety and nausea that may be building up from the boat rocking.

What Do I Do If My Cat Starts Vomiting?

There is nothing much you can do about the vomiting part.  You will have to wait until your cat stops vomiting before aiding him.  Once his vomiting has subsided he may be dehydrated.  This is a good time to slowly introduce water.  The keyword here is slowly.  Giving him too much water at once can cause his electrolyte imbalance to worsen.  If your cat will not drink water (this may be the case) because he is not feeling well then you can try to provide him with some wet cat food.  Wet cat food has a small amount of water and may help in replenishing lost fluids.  It may not be much, but at least it’s something.  Avoiding giving your cat any treats or dry food at this point until you are sure he is starting to feel better.

Does My Cat Need To See The Vet If He Gets Motion Sickness?

For the most part no.  Your cat does not need to go to the vet if he has had an episode of motion sickness.  Motion sickness is not a disease or an illness.  Motion sickness is more commonly referred to as a temporary condition.  Once your cat escapes the source that is causing the motion sickness then he should be fine.  The only time you will need to take your cat to the vet due to motion sickness is if he gets severe dehydration.  Severe dehydration can happen if your cat decides to not drink or eat for a few days after vomiting from motion sickness.  Your cat will act lethargic, tired, and will most likely not be himself when he is dehydrated.

Final Thoughts

I’m sure you have experienced motion sickness at least one time in your life whether on a boat or in a car.  The reality is it sucks.  I remember getting motion sickness the first time I went whale watching.  I couldn’t enjoy the trip at all because I was too busy trying not to vomit.  In essence, motion sickness in cats works the same way.  They will learn to hate going in the car and that is the last thing you want for you feline friend.  Start slow and take the needed steps to acclimate him to car rides.  I’m sure if you take everything I have mentioned and put it to use, traveling with your cat won’t be as difficult as you thought.

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