Hi Dr. B,
My one-year-old cat Lucky gets sick every time we take him in the car. He starts by drooling a great deal, then yowls and throws up. Why does this happen, and can anything be done about it?
Carsickness is a common issue for both cats and dogs. A couple of factors may contribute to the problem.
Just like some people, pets can be prone to motion sickness. The sensation of moving in a car acts on the inner ear, which may trigger nausea. In my experience, younger pets are more likely to have this problem, so there is a chance that Lucky will grow out of it.
As well, anxiety contributes to motion sickness in many pets. If every car ride ends at an unpleasant destination, your pet will associate car travel with the destination and become nervous. Nervousness can lead to nausea. In dogs, travel-related anxiety may be curbed by taking frequent, short trips to fun destinations such as the park or a friend’s house. Unfortunately, this tactic is not appropriate for most cats.
Some medications prevent motion sickness, anxiety, or both. However, I recommend medication only in severe cases. If carsickness is compromising your pet’s quality of life, your veterinarian may be able to suggest an appropriate medicine. Never give human medications to your pet without first consulting your vet.
Many cats hypersalivate (drool) and vocalize before vomiting, so it is not unusual that Lucky does this during his episodes of carsickness.