How can I Prevent my Cat from Getting Car Sick?

Sheri Cyprus

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.

Proper placement of a pet carrier inside a car will help to prevent cat car sickness.
Proper placement of a pet carrier inside a car will help to prevent cat car sickness.

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.

Motion sickness medication may be used to help prevent cats from getting car sick.
Motion sickness medication may be used to help prevent cats from getting car sick.

Preventing Anxiety

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.

Keeping cat food out of reach before a car journey may help to reduce the likelihood of cat car sickness.
Keeping cat food out of reach before a car journey may help to reduce the likelihood of cat car sickness.

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.

A cat.
A cat.

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.

Young kittens.
Young kittens.

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.

Vet inspecting a cat.
Vet inspecting a cat.

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.

It's a good idea to keep paper towels in the car in case the cat becomes sick.
It's a good idea to keep paper towels in the car in case the cat becomes sick.

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Discussion Comments


My wife and I travel a lot with our cat. I've noticed that my cat gets more car sick if I put her carrier sideways. She doesn't get so upset if I face her toward the front. I think that prevents car sickness.

For some reason, she also loves having potato chips while traveling. I haven't figured out why but I think the salt in it settles her stomach. This is the only thing she will eat during a road trip and she doesn't drink any water either.

I think instinctively, cats know what they need. So I give her some chips when we stop for a break, let her walk around a bit with her leash on and then put her back. My wife also sits in the back seat sometimes and strokes her (there is an opening on the top of the carrier). She really likes that, it calms her down.

Thankfully, she's doing fine and sleeps most of the way now.


@anon166661-- I was going to ask the same thing. There are anti-stress products out now for cats. I saw anti-stress supplements and an anti-stress cat coat at one store recently.

So you're saying that this anti-stress stuff works for car sickness?


Our vet gave medication to prevent my cat from getting car sick. But it didn't work so we gave her another dose. It still didn't work and I think the dose was too much for her so she ended up being sick for three days after the trip. She refused to eat and slept a lot. I was so worried. I have never used that medication afterward.

I don't give her anything. I just don't feed her too much and let her sleep through it. She has gotten more used to traveling so it's not as bad as it used to be.


My cat Lily, is extremely car sick, she panics, so when ever I take her in the car I give her some "Serin-um" bought from the pet shop, about £8.00 a bottle. It lasts for ages, and just relaxes my little Lily, so she is not unhappy.


Yeah, I have a cat like this, and I swear he does it just for fun. I love cats, but you know how they can be a little evil sometimes.

He never seems to feel even the slightest bit of motion sickness when we go places regularly in the car, but whenever we start heading to the vet he suddenly starts throwing up everything he ever ate.

I love him, but it is a total pain to clean up after him. At least my dog doesn't get travel sickness...


These are all excellent tips on preventing cat car sickness -- in fact, I tell a lot of these to my clients when they come complaining about their cat puking every time they get it near a car.

You would be shocked how many cat owners don't have a little common sense about things like this. But those pale in comparison to the ones who come into my office demanding that I prescribe their pet a sedative or some kind of strong motion sickness pill just because they get a little urky in the car.

I can understand wanting to make sure your cat is OK, but I can't just hand those pills out like seasick wristbands or something!

And besides, there's no need to get freaked out over a little cat throw-up -- now bovine motion sickness, that's why I start turning green!


Oh, I used to have a cat named Fargo that would get so, so carsick whenever I had to drive him anywhere. I tried everything, I mean, I tried to get him used to the car by putting his crate in it when it wasn't moving, and giving him a little treat after car rides and everything, but he just never took to it.

I never knew that it was actually that common for a pet to have car sickness -- I always thought that Fargo was kind of the oddball (which he was in many ways).

Of course, he really didn't like to go anywhere outside of the home, even just walking long distances or anything, so maybe he had a generalized travel sickness instead -- like the farther he got from the house the more sick he got, or something.

Either way, I will always have memories of cleaning up cat puke from every single visit we ever took together. Do you guys have any fun cat memories like this?

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