Motion Sickness and Traveling
If you have to take your cat on a trip you may have to deal with motion sickness. Cats are generally pretty good about not getting motion sickness. The structure of their inner ear, which also allows them to have such grand balance, usually precludes them from getting travel sickness like dogs or even people. However some cats are prone to motion sickness more than others and if your cat has an ear infection or too much of a waxy buildup in the ear, he/she could suffer from motion sickness.
Before you travel you may want to take your cat to the vet for a check-up to make sure your friend can travel. Some airlines even require a recent clean bill of health for pets to travel. You can talk to your vet about prescribing anti-nausea pills if you know your cat tends to get motion sickness and/or something to calm kitty down if he/she has a tendency to get too excitable or anxious on trips. If you are traveling with your cat on an airline and your cat is going to be placed in cargo it is recommended that you do NOT medicate your pet in any way shape or form before the trip. And as always, do NOT give your cat over-the-counter medications or any medications without consulting your vet.
Make sure you purchase a comfortable cat carrier if you don’t already have one. Your pet store will have specific “airline” approved carriers as well. Personally, we prefer the Sherpa® bags which are cloth (made out of luggage material) bags that are very comfortable. When choosing the size of your carrier make sure that it is about one and a half times the size of the cat. Your cat should be able to lie down flat, and to stand up and turn around. After you first purchase a carrier you will probably want to leave it out for your cat/s to sniff around and get used to. You may also want to put some toys, blankets or other familiar smells in the carrier. Whatever you do, try to make sure your cat feels safe and “at home” in his/her carrier. Lastly, make sure your cat has all the proper identification tags on before going on any trip.
Although your cat will enjoy taking a few breaks to run around, he/she will be much more comfortable on the trip (especially car/train/boat trips) if he/she is confined to the smaller area of the carrier. This will limit the cat from moving around too much and helping keep his/her stress level low.
Try to limit food and water about 12 hours before the trip and don’t give your cat food or water while traveling. This could exacerbate an already upset tummy. If you are traveling by car you may take a few ‘test runs’ a few weeks before the big day (if every time your cat gets in the car he/she goes to the vet he/she may see a pattern!), this will acclimate your cat to the car, car smells, and car trips. Also, keep your cat’s carrier in a warm, slightly dark, safe and immobile position in the car/bus/train. And try to talk your cat through the trip. Your friend will feel much more comfortable traveling if he/she knows you are there with him/her. If you are traveling by plane the airline will have specific rules of travel for you. You can sometimes keep your pet in the compartment under the seat in front of you if the carrier is not too big. If not, your kitty will have to go in the cargo compartment of the plane which is not very conducive to a happy cat. If your cat is going to be separated from you make sure to mark the carrier clearly with ‘live animal’ signs and an upward direction for which way the carrier should be played.