To prevent car sickness in cats, start with placing the carrier in the proper position to reduce the amount of motion the animal feels. Reducing anxiety by gradually introducing the pet to travel also might help, and sedatives are available if it absolutely will not calm down. It can also help to not give the cat food before traveling, make sure that the temperature of the vehicle stays consistent and try a motion sickness medicine if other methods don't work.
Placement of the Carrier
Movement in a car tends to be bigger or more exaggerated in the back seat than in the front. To prevent car sickness in cats, put the carrier up front if possible. This isn’t always an option, based on the design of the car, because air bags can hurt an animal in the same way they can injure a small child.
In some cases, the reason why a feline gets sick when traveling isn’t because of a physical issue, but because it becomes overly anxious about traveling and being in the car. Place the cat in its carrier in the car without starting or moving the vehicle, giving it some familiar items to play with. When your pet is used to this, take it on regular, short car trips. It is beneficial to go to places other than the veterinarian so that the cat doesn’t associate the car and travel with the stress and pain of a medical examination.
When gradually introducing the pet to going places in a car doesn’t relieve the animal’s anxiety, an option is to get a sedative medication from a veterinarian. This is not ideal, because any medication has the potential to have negative effects. It also can be costly over time, especially if an owner travels often. Good veterinarians who want to prevent car sickness in cats will look at the pet’s overall health and do their best to keep medical costs down when they prescribe a sedative, however.
Control of Food
Cats, like other animals, have a quick vomiting response in the throat. This response might be triggered more easily if the animal eats shortly before traveling. Don’t give the animal anything to eat for at least several hours before the car trip. This way, even if the cat ends up not feeling well and throws up, the amount of vomit won’t be extreme.
Keeping the Car at the Right Temperature
When traveling, people typically have the luxury of being able to add or remove layers of clothing if they become cold or overheated. Animals cannot do this. Being too cold or warm during a trip can trigger vomiting, so a major part of how to prevent car sickness in cats is controlling the temperature in the vehicle.
During cold months, adding some old towels or a throw blanket into the carrier can help the animal ward off any chill. If it is extremely frigid, try wrapping one or two gently-warmed stones in towels and putting them in the carrier. Some carriers come with pre-fitted electrical warmers that fit into a space under the bottom of the main compartment.
When the weather turns hot, do not put the cat inside the car until the air conditioning system has sufficiently cooled the interior of the vehicle. Although the position of the car will change as travel goes on, pay attention to where the sun is in the sky and try to put the animal’s carrier in a position where the sun isn’t beating down on it. Placing a sun shield similar to those used to block the sun for infants on the car window can help. Instead of putting warmed stones in the carrier, use lightly-chilled ones. Make sure to stop often to give your pet water, and keep a towel available to moisten and drape over him if needed.
Regardless of whether the heat or air conditioning is on in the vehicle, keep in mind what settings are in use and where the vents are directing air. If the animal is too close to a vent and a high setting is on, it might get too much direct heat or cool air. Try to run the systems at a low, consistent setting rather than alternating between periods of blasted air and not having anything on.
Motion Sickness Medication
A cat whose car sickness truly is motion related sometimes benefits from a small dose of dimenhydrinate, often sold under the brand name Dramamine®. This is the same medication people take to prevent motion sickness. It’s important to speak to a veterinarian before giving any animal this medication, but the dosage needs to be tailored to the animal’s size.