Driving for 500 miles or so with a stressed-out cat is no picnic- especially when he is howling the entire time. When you plan a long drive with your cat, you don’t typically expect him to caterwaul for 8 or 10 long hours. Under normal circumstances- peacefully roaming in the comfort of this home- your cat is a mellow, laid-back pet that rarely, if ever, complains. Yet, you may find that, once you coerce him into his carrier and the car, however, he becomes a different cat.
He may howl, scratch at he carrier door, drool, cry and then scratch and howl all over again! This is a situation that may be avoided. I think that, if you are planning on taking such a trip with your cat, you should think about trying some great, all-natural remedies designed to calm car-stressed cats. And I think that now is the perfect time to try them out, before that long trip, to see what works and what doesn’t. These remedies can also be used for short trips (i.e to the vet, if you happen to have one coming up), so there may be more opportunities than you realize to “test” out one or more of the following calmatives. If you find one that works, you can cross one more thing off your list to worry about.
I happen to be a big proponent of these herbal remedies for relieving stress in both my canine and feline patients. I often recommend a product called “rescue remedy”, or Homeopet oral drops, or Bach’s Rescue Remedy, also oral drops. Other natural calmatives are:
It is amazing what a little scent can do. Pheromones, airborne chemicals naturally secreted by animals through specialized glands, communicate distinct messages and are perceived by some-species animals. These pheromones trigger certain responses and can cause an animal to feel safe or calm his anxiety.
Cats respond to a pheromone that’s found in feline facial scent glands, used to mark their territory. Veterinary Product Laboratories in Phoenix , Arizona, makes a synthetic version called Feliway that is available n spray and electric diffuser forms. I have been recommending it for years, because it can be used in many ways to reduce stress. It can be used to wipe the inside of a carrier prior to travel. To translate how it works into words a cat might feel: “I recognize this as my space. I feel comfortable in my space, and I don’t have to mark this again.” It helps them feel calm and secure in their environment. When they don’t feel safe, they act out.
Plant based calmatives are available, as I described, in pre-concocted products at your local pet-specialty store or through your veterinarian. Here is a brief description of how the active ingredients work:
Valerian: Acts as a sedative, and is the natural form of valium (diazepam). It is useful for the treatment of anxiety and modifying behavior and behavioral training.
Chamomile: Chamomile is used as an anti-anxiety remedy, but is also may stop spasms (such as a hyperactive bowel). It is ialso thought to promote tissue healing as a topical anti-inflammatory.
St. John’s Wort: This is used mainly as an antidepressant. It hasn’t been proven in human (or cat) clinical trials yet, fyi.
Passiflora: Also known as passion flower, passiflora comes front he same plant as passion fruit. It is used as an anti-depressant and an anti-anxiety remedy. It is a source of harmane, a chemical compound that acts as a monoamine oxidase inhibitor.
Melatonin; A hormone secreted by the pineal gland that regulates circadian rhythms, melatonin is often used as a sleep aid. It is mediated by exposure to sunlight.
L-Tryptophan: The cause of many post-Thanskgiving dinner naps, L-tryptophan is a naturally occurring amino acid that induces sleep and acts as an anti-depressant. It is a precursor for serotonin, the neurotransmitter that SSRI anti-depressants work on.
Of course you should always talk with your veterinarian prior to offering your cat any of these products. He or she may help you choose one that is best for your cat and your individual needs, based on the situation presenting itself. Note that a natural approach might not work with all cats, so if you do determine that, discuss a tranquilizer for your cat with your vet. Once you get the plan, and the ok, start planning your trip.
Keep posted for some upcoming blogs in the next week or two that will give some specific tips for traveling with your cats. It will also mention some cat and dog friendly hotels, cities, etc. that you may want to plan on checking out.