If your cat has never flown before, you might think that sedating her will make her trip less stressful. But, is sedation really a good idea? The answer is no – not for overseas travel, anyway. The American Veterinary Medical Association strongly recommends against it. Airlines and professional pet transport companies such as Starwood will not accept cats and dogs that have been tranquilized.
We know you love your dear Cleo, but it’s just not safe. Sedation will dull her mental faculties as well as her physical capabilities. She won’t be able to properly maintain her balance within her carrier, which could put her at risk of injury. She won’t understand what’s wrong with her, and that will frighten her. She will feel woozy, and that will frighten her even more. So, while tranquilizing your kitty might seem like the nice thing to do, it will only make things worse.
Preparation is the key to calm
But, if you cannot safely sedate your favorite feline, what can you do? There are actually several steps you can take to prepare her for her overseas journey. Much of her pre-trip prep has to do with acquiring the necessary health certificate and other documentation required by your destination country. You, and they, want to be sure Cleo has a clean bill of health and that she is properly vaccinated before she reaches her new home. However, there are things you can do to reduce her pre-trip stress, too.
This is a very helpful article that explains how you can help her make friends with her airline-approved travel crate. (The article talks about dogs, but the process is the same. Just don’t tell Cleo.) Crate familiarization is the single-most important way you can prepare her for a low-stress journey, because this carrier will be her home-away-from-home while she is in transit. If it feels and smells like home to her, she will be less anxious. There will be plenty of strange sights and smells and sounds, but they will all be outside her personal space.
In effect, her crate will be her security blanket. And, in fact, you’ll have to put something absorbent in the bottom of her carrier, just in case she has an accident. If you use a small blanket of hers or a shirt of yours (not yet washed, so it smells like you, not laundry detergent), that will lessen her anxiety even more.
There are times when sedation is safe and can be truly helpful. For example, when visiting the vet for a fear-inspiring nail trim. There are also alternative products and calming methods for times when Cleo is scared by thunder or your 9-year-old’s birthday party. But not for air travel.
That said, if Cleo is the especially-anxious type, ask your vet if something such as spraying a lavender fragrance on the blanket inside her travel crate might help. Lavender is known to relax cats as well as people, and the fragrance won’t interfere with her ability to function.
Sedation is just one question pet owners ask
Our Insider’s Guide to Relocating Your Pet covers everything you need to know to ensure your kitty has a safe, comfortable trip that is as short as possible. She probably won’t think it was the most fun experience of her life, but even if she holds a grudge for a few days, you know she will be thrilled – and relieved beyond all else – to be back in your lap again.
Time to celebrate your togetherness, with lots of petting and purring. And maybe a new catnip toy, to reward her for being such a good and brave feline.