Can cats get carsick?

Can cats get carsick? - a cat in a harness perched in the back of a car

Bouts of motion sickness are unpleasant for cats and pet parents alike. No one wants to feel sick in the car. If you are concerned about how car rides might affect your cat’s tummy, read on to learn:

  • Why do cats get carsick?
  • What are the common symptoms of motion sickness in cats?
  • Can I help my cat with its travel sickness?
  • Can I prevent motion sickness in my cat?

Dealing with a carsick cat is never fun. However, there are ways to help your cat’s upset stomach when traveling.

What is motion sickness in cats?

Motion sickness in cats is a feeling of nausea and stomach upset during travel. It can occur in cats in cars, on planes, or any other form of transportation. Because cats most often travel with their owners in cars, cat owners most often associate the condition with car sickness.

Motion sickness vs. anxiety in cats

Motion sickness and situational anxiety in cats have similar symptoms, so it is difficult to know which is occurring. “Many cats become uneasy outside the comfort of their normal environment and can become stressed in the car,” explains Dr. Jo Myers, a Vetster veterinarian. “Previous stressful experiences with a car, such as only traveling by car to the vet, can increase this anxiety.”

What are the signs of motion sickness in cats?

Symptoms of motion sickness can vary between individuals. Cats with motion sickness may have:

One way to differentiate car sickness from anxiety is symptoms of car sickness stop once the constant motion of the car stops, while anxiety can show similar symptoms before and after the vehicle's movement.

How can I help my carsick cat?

There are many ways to help motion-sick cats. Cats who have been acclimated to the movement of a moving car are less likely to experience symptoms of travel sickness. Gradually acclimatize a cat to its pet carrier and the car starting as young as possible. Create positive associations with the car by giving favorite treats and toys and riding in the car without going to the vet clinic or other stressful places. Include comfort items in the carrier, such as a bed or a familiar blanket. Also, facing the travel carrier forwards in the car rather than sideways or backward, and covering the carrier can help.

You can discuss using pheromone sprays, anxiety medications, or anti-nausea medications with your veterinarian to help relieve symptoms. There are over-the-counter and prescription medications available that may help. Never administer medications, including human medications, to your cat without consulting a veterinarian first.

Can motion sickness be prevented in cats?

Find a method that works for your cat to reduce stress and nausea during travel. This can include acclimation to the car and carrier, familiar items, adjusting the direction of the carrier in the car, or using medications to alleviate the discomfort of motion sickness. Car sickness in cats may never be fully prevented, but symptoms can be reduced in many cats.

In cats with severe physical symptoms in the car, it may be best to leave them at home during your next road trip. Utilizing an online veterinarian for non-emergent health issues and wellness exams can keep your cat from experiencing car sickness while still providing the medical care they need.

Why do cats get car sick?

Motion sickness in cars, planes, boats, and other modes of transportation is caused by unpredictable motion affecting the inner ear. The inner ear helps regulate balance by telling the brain how the body is oriented in space. As the body and head move, fluid inside the ear moves in parallel. This movement sends a signal to the brain, which sends compensation signals to the rest of the body, preventing falling or dizziness. When the head moves unpredictably, as when traveling by car, the fluid in the inner ear moves around rapidly, sending confusing signals to the brain that can result in feelings of nausea and vomiting. Anxiety symptoms overlap with the symptoms of car sickness and can be the source of nausea. If you’d like to ask a vet about medications, symptoms, or causes of motion sickness in cats, you can make an online virtual care appointment to discuss the problem with a veterinarian.

FAQ - Can cats get carsick?

How long does motion sickness last in cats?

Symptoms of motion sickness usually start and stop with the vehicle's movement. However, feline anxiety has similar symptoms to travel sickness and can start before and continue after riding in the car.

What helps nausea in cats?

Nausea caused by motion sickness can be helped by prescription or over-the-counter medications, acclimatizing to the car before travel, and facing the carrier forward in the car. Comfort items can help reduce the anxiety that may be contributing to nausea.

Why does my cat poop and throw up in the car?

Cats experiencing motion sickness or anxiety in the car can exhibit symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, vocalization, and incontinence. Find ways to help your cat’s anxiety or car sickness when traveling, such as medications and comfort items.

The Vetster Editorial Team is comprised of seasoned writers and communicators dedicated to elevating stories about Vetster, pets and their owners.
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