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Should My Cat Be Sedated for My Cross-Country Relocation?

Published on: April 7, 2022  |  Author: Starwood Pet Travel

cat-green-backgroundEvery cat owner knows felines can be finicky. And never more so than when it comes to change. They don’t like it, and they would rather not deal with it. Unfortunately, sometimes change happens, and if you’re relocating across the country that is going to be a major change for your feline family member in many ways. Just getting from your current home to your new one may be a challenge.

Should you sedate your cat to help ease the stress of their cross-country trip? It sounds tempting, particularly if they're a talker. The thought of listening to them grumble, cry or just plain yowl while you’re driving may make you think about sedating yourself, too. Obviously you would never do that and get behind the wheel, but here’s the thing about sedating your cat: it’s not necessarily good for them, either.

If they were flying to their new home, tranquilizers would be out of the question. The American Veterinary Medical Association strongly discourages use of any type of sedation, because it can confuse and upset animals, putting them at greater risk instead of calming them. While traveling at altitude can exacerbate the negative cardiovascular and respiratory effects of sedation, the same cautions apply for ground travel. Your drugged-up kitty may be too “relaxed” to carry on and complain, but the reality is they won’t be able to balance or otherwise control their own body in a situation where they already feel out of control and anxious.

It is essential to talk with your veterinarian about your expected road trip before you even consider sedating your cat.  

There are other ways to keep your precious feline calm(er) in the car.


Let them get used to the carrier.

It’s unsafe for your cat to ever ride loose in the car. But if you had to ride in a cardboard box with a couple of holes punched in it for hours on end, wouldn’t you be cranky? For long-distance travel, your cat needs a carrier roomy enough for them to stand up. sit down, spin around and lay down comfortably. Put their favorite blanket in the bottom, so it’s cushy and they won’t slide around. Purchase the crate early, so they have plenty of time to explore it and get used to playing or sleeping in it.

Let them get used to the car.

Have they ever ridden anywhere other than to the vet? If your cat learns to associate the car with something other than pain and indignation, they will have a more positive attitude about your road trip. So load them up in their new feels-like-home carrier and take them with you when running an errand or two. Then be sure to give them a treat when you get home. See? That wasn’t so bad. If you can, try to make some of the trips longer as your move date nears.

While carriers should have plenty of ventilation around the sides, many vets suggest you place the carrier where your cat cannot see out the window, or else cover part of the crate, because the view of objects whizzing past the car may be stressful for them.

Why not hire a private chauffeur for your cat?

Don’t laugh. Far from being a crazy idea, allowing your beloved kitty to travel with a professional pet transport service makes great sense – especially if you’re looking at a multi-day drive. Consider the advantages of a door-to-door service:

  • Experienced pet drivers who are dedicated pet lovers will pick them up at your door (or from your vet or boarding facility, if you want to leave earlier).
  • They will give them a feline-perfect cross-country ride. When you choose Starwood, they won’t even have to share their trip with someone else’s cats or other pets. (Although all your pets can travel together.)
  • They will attend to their every need, and you can enjoy your trip instead of juggling cat food, water breaks and kitty litter along the way.
  • It’s worry-free. Should your cat become ill along the way, what would you do? Professional pet transport drivers are highly trained and ready to calmly and appropriately handle any challenge or emergency that might arise.
  • And here’s a bonus that will make you purr: moving expenses you incur when relocating for a job are usually tax-deductible, and that includes pet moving expenses. Check IRS publication #521, or talk with your tax advisor about this nice perk.

When your cat arrives at the door of your new home, you can have all their stuff (maybe even all your stuff) in place, reassuring them that they are indeed home again.

Starwood Animal Transport has rebranded to Starwood Pet Travel. We are still the same great company with the best team, just now with a slightly different name.