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Cat Hyperventilating in Car (Now What? +Prevention)

If your cat is hyperventilating in your car, when you are traveling, you may be scared and wondering why it’s happening and what you use to calm her down (Click here to see my best solution, on Amazon).

Why is my cat hyperventilating in the car?

While some cats are perfectly happy in a car most get extremely nervous. It is an unfamiliar environment with no escape routes. Cats cannot sweat so they will hyperventilate when they are nervous and their heart rate is elevated. They will also do it when they are too hot as a way of cooling themselves down.

What you will need for your cat to travel well in your car

Description Image My Rating
01. Feliway calming pheromone (My Best)
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5 stars
02. Feliway Plug-in Diffuser
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03. Pogi’s fragrance-free wipes
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4 stars

So, now you know why your cat is hyperventilating in the car. But, why do some cats act like this? How can you calm her down while you travel? Should your cat be in a carrier, or left to roam free in your car? Keep reading for these answers, and much more.

What is hyperventilating?

As you may realize from the word hyperventilating just means breathing very fast. When your cat is hyperventilating they will be breathing with their mouth open and exhaling much more frequently than they inhale. This will cause the carbon dioxide in their blood to drop sharply and could lead to them fainting.

Why do some cats freak out in a car?

While traveling is a routine part of your day it isn’t for your cat. Believe it or not, your cat has its own schedule. It is accustomed to doing certain things at certain times each day. You may have noticed your cat moving to its food bowl just before you would normally feed it.

Your cat knows what is supposed to happen when and is distressed when their routine is disrupted.

Cats are also very territorial.

They will have carved out their own areas in your home and marked it with their scent. They are even accustomed to how you smell so if their owner is sick or gets pregnant this can affect their smell and upset the cat.

Moving the cat to the car is a double-whammy. Their schedule is disrupted and at the same time, they are being taken out of their territory where they feel safe. There are new noises and smells and this is very stressful for them.

How can you calm your cat in the car?

The first step is getting the cat used to the cat carrier and being happy inside it. We’ll cover more on this later. It is also beneficial to prepare your car before taking your cat out to it. Here are a few tips:

01. Pheromones

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You can get sprays and plugins which contain pheromones that are soothing to cats. As a minimum, you should spray the carrier and the car 15 minutes or so before it’s time to go.

If your cat is a particularly nervous traveler it might be worth buying the plug-in (Click here to see the price, on Amazon #Ad). Have it running in whatever room your cat uses most for a couple of days before the trip.

This should mean they’re already more relaxed before getting a topped up dose from the spray.

02. Soothing Music & Temperature

Firstly, make sure the car is already at a comfortable temperature for your cat (more on this later). Also,
play soothing music. Believe it or not, there is classical music out there that is specifically made for cats as well as tracks with cats purring.

If you can’t get hold of these then studies show that classical or country music is most soothing for cats

03. Talk soothingly

Talk to your cat in a low and reassuring tone to soothe her. Remember, she is not a baby so don’t use any shhh or hushing sounds. These are too close to a hiss for your cat and may come across as threatening.

Does the car temperature make a difference?

Your car temperature dos make a difference. Cats are likely to hyperventilate to help cool themselves if they are too warm. If your cat is already nervous this will increase the problem and put greater stress on their body.

Remember that most carriers are made of plastic so even when running the air conditioning they can heat up in direct sunlight. If the trip is going to take longer than a few minutes monitor your cat carefully and possibly consider adding a cooling mat to the floor of their carrier.

If it’s very cold add extra blankets to their carrier. Blankets that they use regularly and are covered in their scent are best and will provide extra comfort.

Will talking to your cat make her feel calmer?

Talking to your cat may make your cat calmer, but, this is not certain. If your cat is used to regular “conversations” between the two of you this may help it feel more grounded and that everything is normal.

Remember, a cat’s ears are much more sensitive than ours so speak quietly. Your cat is already likely to be feeling overwhelmed from the noise of the car (Click here if your Kia is smelling of urine) and traffic outside so be careful not to make it worse.

What are the symptoms of cat motion sickness?

Unlike in humans motion sickness in cats is caused by their anxiety and stress at the unfamiliar situation they’re in. A cat will not turn pale or sweaty so what are the signs to look out for? A cat who is feeling motion sickness will display some or all of the following:

  • Stomach upsets such as vomiting or diarrhea
  • Licking their lips a lot as well as drooling
  • “Yelling” – loud vocalizations such as howling
  • Their movement will likely be one of two opposites. Motion sickness can make the cat restless so they pace up and down their carrier. On the other hand, they may be very lethargic and lie limply on the floor.

As motion sickness in cats is stress-based the best way to prevent it is to use the steps listed above to keep your cat calm. It may also help to keep some fragrance free wipes (Click here to see the price, on Amazon #Ad) on hand to clear up any messes.

Should your car be in a carrier or free in your car?

No matter how calm it may seem your cat should always be confined to a carrier when traveling (Click here to see the price, on Amazon #Ad). Cats are always going to be nervous when out of their home and if startled they may dart in front of you obscuring your view.

The cat may even end up trapped over or above the pedals and cause an accident. The final risk is when you arrive at your destination and leave the car the cat may escape before you can secure it. It could be hit by passing traffic and killed or else become lost. Don’t take the risk.

What is the best way to get your cat used to the cat car carrier?

The key here is to allow your cat to become accustomed to the presence of her holder before you even step into the car. Open the door, and simply leave it in a room the cat spends time in. Put one of the cat’s favorite blankets inside and maybe a couple of toys.

Don’t try to force your cat into the carrier. You simply want to leave it there and allow your cat to explore it in their own time.

If your cat starts to spend time relaxing in it you can try closing the door so the cat is not scared when you do it to transport them. The hope is that eventually, your cat will see the carrier as a place where they are safe and happy.

Will exercise before car travel help?

Some owners find that their cat gets so stressed out during car journeys that the only way to soothe them is to give them a sedative. If you’re concerned about medicating your cat an alternative is to play with them lots in the hours before your car ride.

If you can get them to run around a lot chasing a laser pointer or a toy they may be so exhausted they’ll drop off once in their carrier and sleep through the journey.

Lindsey Browlingdon