cat in a carrier

Good Management & Helpful Meds

Question:
We have a cross-country move at the end of the summer and are curious what recommendations you have for moving with kitties. We have two (11yrs and 4yrs), both of whom we adopted while living here in Georgia. Now we’re moving back to my home state of Minnesota. The cats do not enjoy the short car rides to our local veterinary clinic and likely won’t be thrilled with the 17 hour drive.

Dr. Nichol:
Cats can be vocal and highly stressed car travelers. “Are we there yet?” You know the drill. But it’s the unpredictable motion, the noise, and a feeling of vulnerability that trigger serious anxiety. Not drinking, eating, or eliminating can lead to trouble.

Cat carriers should be big enough to allow movement while providing the sense of a hidden den. Cover the carriers with sheets so your reluctant travelers can only see out the bottom of the doors. Locate them on the floor of your car to reduce queasiness.

Cats on-the-move may suffer from motion sickness, recognized by constant drooling or occasional vomiting. A safe, over-the-counter preventative like Bonine (meclizine) can help. Give (1/2) of a 25 mg tablet once daily, about an hour prior to piling everybody into the car.

If your kitties cry, yowl, or hide under the pad in their carriers they may do better with an antianxiety medication given ahead of the white knuckle ride. (You’ll drive gently; it’s your cats who’ll believe they’ve been abducted by Mad Max.) Your veterinarian can prescribe 100 mg gabapentin capsules, which you can open onto your cats’ food. Give gabapentin 1-2 hours before disembarking on your motoring adventure.

Sileo is a treatment that’s actually approved for noise phobias in dogs but is also safe for cats. Apply this gel between your kitties’ lower lip and gum 20 minutes before take-off. I’d advise separate gabapentin and Sileo trials prior to brief errands so your transcontinental excursion doesn’t become a grand experiment.

Finally, avoid the old-fashioned tranquilizer acepromazine. “Ace” does essentially nothing to reduce anxiety, instead causing a sedated pet to struggle in a chemical straight jacket, leading to even greater freak-outs during subsequent travel.

Dr. Jeff Nichol provides pet behavior consultations in-person and virtually by telephone and Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Post pet questions on behavioral or physical concerns on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.