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Like humans, cats can experience stress, anxiety, and fear in various situations. In certain cases, such as travel, veterinary visits, or grooming sessions, you may be able to treat your cat’s anxiety by administering cat sedatives. 

It’s important to note that the use of cat sedatives should always be approached with caution and under the guidance of a veterinarian. Different situations may call for various types of sedatives, and understanding when and how to use them can contribute to the well-being of your feline friend. Always consult a vet to determine the most suitable approach for your specific cat, as individual reactions to sedatives can vary. 

Keep reading to learn more about cat sedatives, when they might be considered, and how to use them safely. 

Types of Cat Sedatives

Cat sedatives are commonly used to create a low-stress environment for vet visits. There are various types of cat sedatives that may be considered to address the specific needs of a cat, considering factors like fear, anxiety, and individual reactions to stress. Common cat sedatives include: 

At home options

Whether you’re going to the vet or preparing for a grooming session at home, sedation provides a preemptive approach to alleviate anxiety and fear. Several options your vet might prescribe for at-home sedation include: 

  • Gabapentin: Commonly used for seizures and pain relief, Gabapentin also produces calming effects, making it effective for reducing anxiety. 
  • Lorazepam: Lorazepam is a benzodiazepine that helps to reduce anxiety in cats by acting on the central nervous system to produce a calming effect. 
  • Fluoxetine: Fluoxetine is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), not a sedative, used for long-term management of anxiety and behavioral issues in cats. 
  • Sertraline: Sertraline is another selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), not a sedative, that modulates neurotransmitter levels in the brain, effectively managing anxiety and certain behavioral issues in cats. 
  • Alprazolam: Alprazolam is a benzodiazepine that works by enhancing the effects of a neurotransmitter in the brain to induce a calming effect. It’s commonly prescribed for the short-term management of anxiety and panic disorders in cats. 
  • Pregabalin: This GABA analogue has been shown to help alleviate anxiety and fear in cats, particularly associated with vet visits.1 
  • Trazodone: Trazodone is an antidepressant that’s commonly prescribed to manage anxiety and fear in cats in the short term.2 

At the vet

In a veterinary setting, cats may receive intramuscular medications before specific procedures to induce sedation and facilitate medical care. These medications are administered directly into the muscle tissue and play a crucial role in ensuring the comfort and cooperation of feline patients during various veterinary procedures. 

  • Acepromazine
  • Hydromorphone
  • Morphine
  • Methadone
  • Dexmedetomidine
  • Butorphanol
  • Midazolam
  • Alfaxan3

When and How to Use Cat Sedatives Safely

Ensuring the well-being and cooperative behavior of cats during stressful events like veterinary visits, travel, or stress-inducing events at home is crucial. Cat sedatives can help minimize stress, anxiety, and fear in cats, ultimately contributing to a safer and more comfortable experience for everyone involved. 

The intramuscular cat sedatives we discussed previously can only be administered by a vet. However, there are several cat sedatives you can use at home before a stressful situation. 

Common times when you might choose to sedate your cat include: 

  • Veterinary visits: Cats often experience fear and anxiety associated with in-person vet visits. Pre-hospital sedation, administered at home before the appointment, can ease their stress. 
  • Travel: Cats may find travel unsettling. A cat sedative for travel can make the experience less stressful for both the cat and the owner. 
  • Stress-inducing events at home: Changes in the home environment, such as moving, introducing new pets, or thunderstorms, can trigger stress in cats. Sedatives can be used to help them cope during these times. 

Administering cat sedatives at home requires careful consideration and adherence to the safety guidelines and instructions given to you by your vet. At their core, at-home sedatives are anxiety medicines for cats that must be prescribed by a veterinarian. Here are essential tips for using cat sedatives safely: 

  1. Consult with your veterinarian: Before administering any sedative, consult with your veterinarian. Keep in mind that it’s never safe to give your cat human medications because they might not be safe, and dosing is different across species. 
  2. Follow dosing instructions: Always follow the recommended dosage provided by your veterinarian. Overdosing can lead to complications, while under-dosing may result in ineffectiveness. Use a precise measuring tool for accurate dosage. In most cases, your vet will prescribe a tablet, making it easy to understand dosing. 
  3. Choose the right time: Administer sedatives well in advance of the stressful event. Medications like trazodone take 1-3 hours to become effective, so if you give it to your cat too late, you might miss out on the sedative effects of the medication at the right time. 
  4. Create a calm environment: Ensure your home environment is quiet and calm after administering the sedative. Your cat will likely feel tired, and loud noises or disruptions can counteract the sedative’s effects. 
  5. Monitor your cat: Keep a close eye on your cat after administering the sedative. Look for signs of adverse reactions or excessive sedation. If you notice anything unusual, contact your veterinarian immediately. 

Side Effects of Cat Sedatives

The side effects of cat sedatives can vary depending on the specific medication administered. In general, sedation is the most common and desired result, promoting a calm and relaxed state. However, it’s essential to be aware of potential side effects that might accompany the use of these side effects. 

GI disturbances are a few of the most common side effects of cat sedatives.2 If your cat experiences vomiting or diarrhea, or seems to have lost their appetite, contact your vet immediately. 

Keep in mind that different sedatives may exhibit unique side effects. It’s crucial to discuss the specific treatment plan with your vet to understand the potential reactions associated with the prescribed medication. 

Meanwhile, if your vet recommends the use of intramuscular sedatives for vet appointments, you should have a detailed discussion about potential side effects. The suitability of the sedative for your cat depends on factors like its health, medical history, and tolerance to the medication. 


Is sedating a cat safe?

Sedating a cat is generally considered safe when done under the supervision and guidance of a qualified veterinarian. Vets use sedation for various reasons, such as reducing anxiety during vet visits, facilitating medical procedures, or managing behavioral issues. The safety of sedation depends on factors such as the cat’s health status, the specific sedative used, and the correct dosage administered. 

Sedation plans are tailored to each cat’s individual needs. Factors such as age, health status, and the specific procedure or situation requiring sedation are taken into account. For instance, it may not always be necessary to use intramuscular sedatives if a cat has already taken trazodone before their vet visit. 

Pet parents receive clear instructions on how to sedate their cat at home and prepare their cat for sedation at the vet, which may include pre-sedation fasting. If your cat is sedated at the vet, you’ll receive guidance on post-sedation care, including monitoring the cat as it recovers and addressing any potential side effects. 

Is gabapentin a sedative for cats?

Yes, gabapentin is considered a sedative for cats, and it’s commonly used to reduce anxiety and fear in various situations. Gabapentin primarily works on the nervous system and is known for its calming effects. It’s particularly useful in managing fear and stress in cats during events such as veterinary visits, travel, or other anxiety-inducing situations. 

One notable aspect of Gabapentin is its versatility. It can be administered at home before a stressful event, allowing pet owners to take a proactive approach to minimize their pet’s anxiety. 

For example, it’s often given a few hours before a vet visit to help the cat remain calm and cooperative before the visit. The sedative effects of this medication contribute to a more positive experience for the cat, the pet parent, and even the vet. 

What do cats act like after taking a sedative?

The way a cat acts after taking a sedative varies based on the specific medication, dosage, and the individual cat’s response. However, in general, you might see: 

  • Calming effects: Sedatives are used to induce a state of calmness and relaxation. After taking a sedative, a cat is likely to exhibit subdued behavior, reduced hyperactivity, and a general sense of tranquility. 
  • Decreased anxiety: One of the primary purposes of cat sedatives is to alleviate anxiety and fear. Cats may appear less stressed, and their reactions to stimuli that would typically cause fear or nervousness are reduced. 
  • Drowsiness or sleepiness: Sedatives can induce drowsiness or even mild sleepiness in cats. They may be less alert and more inclined to rest. 
  • Changes in movement and coordination: Some sedatives may cause slight changes in a cat’s movement and coordination. This can manifest as mild unsteadiness or wobbliness, especially if the sedative has a muscle-relaxant effect. 

Again, every cat will react to sedatives differently. While many may become calmer, others may become hyperactive. It may take some experimentation to determine the right medication and dosage, which is why it’s crucial to report any side effects to your vet. 

Woman holding her cat in front of laptop during an online vet consultation

Final Notes

Understanding when and which cat sedatives are used is crucial for the well-being of your feline companion. Whether preparing for a vet visit, managing travel-related stress, or addressing anxiety at home, cat sedatives offer a proactive solution to alleviate discomfort and fear. 

Remember that each cat responds uniquely to sedatives, and open communication with your vet is key to addressing any concerns and ensuring the safety and well-being of your feline friend. Try Dutch today to get unlimited follow-ups with a vet to ensure your cat’s medication is safe and effective. With a Dutch membership, you can skip the stress of in-clinic visits and ensure your cat receives the best quality care. Members also receive free prescription delivery right to their door from our online pet pharmacy



  1. Patel, Nirav N., et al. "Update on the Management of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease." Cureus, vol. 13, no. 9, September 2021, pp. e17733.

  2. Sung, Wailani. “10 Cat Anxiety Medications.” PetMD,

  3. Serenity Now: Practical Sedation Options for Cats,

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Dutch is an online veterinary pet telehealth service, created by pet parents and board-certified veterinary specialists. We use a science-backed approach to provide pets relief for their everyday physical and behavioral health issues. Dutch connects you with licensed veterinarians over video chat and messaging to help you get care for your dog or cat quickly wherever you are — without the stress or expense of a vet visit. We also partner with pharmacies who can deliver prescription medication (in applicable states only) and over-the-counter treatments directly to your door. Dutch isn’t a veterinary practice or pharmacy, but a company that helps facilitate these services for pet parents to make veterinary care more accessible to all.

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