Motion Sickness in Cats

Key Takeaways

Motion sickness is the feeling of nausea during land, sea, or air travel caused by excessive or unpredictable movement.

• Symptoms of motion sickness in cats include nausea,  salivation, and vomiting

• Symptoms of motion sickness stop  following cessation of the motion trigger

• Symptoms are common in cats during travel but it is unknown if cats are experiencing motion sickness or simply stress

• Uncertainty complicates diagnosis, although a general work-up is indicated to rule out other causes of nausea

• Preventative measures and treatment include conditioning a cat to travel, or providing medications that have anti-nausea or sedative effects

A Closer Look: What is Motion Sickness in Cats?

It is uncertain if motion sickness is common in cats, because anxiety associated with travel causes similar symptoms. The symptoms are generally mild and cease following travel, so treatment is not indicated. Cats who must travel frequently may benefit from conditioning strategies and the use of anti-nausea and/or anti-anxiety medications.

Risk Factors

As stress and anxiety commonly occur along with motion sickness, symptoms like vocalizing, restlessness, and defecation may also occur.

Possible Causes

The cause of motion sickness is the effect of movement on the relevant parts of the central nervous system. The experience of motion sickness may cause a cat to develop anxiety in association with being placed into a car, so symptoms may occur even prior to being in motion.

Main Symptoms

• Nausea • DroolingVomiting

Testing and Diagnosis

Cats that have difficulty traveling may benefit from a veterinary visit and medication. Recurring bouts of vomiting during travel suggest a diagnosis of motion sickness, but may also indicate the affected cat is reacting to the stress of travel rather than the trigger of motion. Cats presenting with apparent motion sickness generally undergo routine diagnostic work up including physical examination and blood work to rule out any other underlying cause of vomiting.

Steps to Recovery

Some trial and error may be necessary to determine what works best for an individual cat. Options include: 

• Antiemetic medication • Anti-anxiety medication • Sedatives • Calming pheromones

• Gabapentin (an anti-seizure medication that appears to work well for cats who travel poorly, regardless of the underlying cause)

Symptoms of motion sickness or travel-related sickness will cease once the pet is no longer traveling.

Prevention

This condition cannot be spread to other pets or people. Motion sickness can be prevented by avoiding travel.

Is Motion Sickness Common in Cats?

Unlike dogs, it is unknown if motion sickness is something cats can experience. More likely, cats experience anxiety and stress during travel and these elicit similar symptoms.

Typical Treatment

• Desensitization • Sedative medications • Gabapentin • Anti anxiety medication • Antiemetic medication

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