It seems like cats are never not sleeping. And that's because they do sleep a lot — most average 14-16 hours per day. So it might be difficult to think of a scenario when you'd want a cat to sleep more, but there are quite a few circumstances that do call for sedation, such as for travel or medical procedures.
Understanding how sedatives work and which situations they should be used for your cat are an important part of being a pet owner.
Cats who are aggressive or anxious and ones who obsessively spray are also candidates for sedatives. If you think your kitty needs a sedative, the ASPCA advises that it is imperative that you only sedate him using prescribed medication, and under your veterinarian's care. Always consult an experienced veterinarian regarding the health and treatment of your cat.
Inhalable cat sedative medications
There are different forms of medications used to sedate cats, including: halothane, isoflurane and sevoflurane. All of these medications are in gas form. Not many cats will sit still long enough for a mask to be placed over their mouths and noses, and then for the medication to take effect. Typically the cat is placed in an acrylic box into which a combination of oxygen and the gas is pumped. The mixture must be balanced and adjusted for the individual cat. Further, the cat's weight and facial structure must be factored in. Additionally, some breeds are more sensitive than others to anesthesia.
Sedation via injection
Acepromazine, diazepam, hydromorphone and ketamine are sedatives that are administered through injection, according to Veterinary Anesthesia Specialists. The vet determines the correct dosage for drugs like acepromazine based upon your cat's weight. Cats tend to be sensitive even to ordinary amounts of some drugs like acepromazine, though, so it's common for a vet to divide the calculated dose into several small doses and administer them separately until the drug takes effect.
Oral cat sedative medications
Sedatives in pill form are likely the only tranquilizing medications you would personally give your cat unless your vet has trained you to give injections. PetCoach reports that buspirone and alprazolam are pills commonly prescribed cat sedative medications. Another commonly given cat sedative is gabapentin for cats.
Cats aren't known for willingly taking medication like gabapentin for cats, so getting a cat sedative pill down your kitty's throat can be difficult and could end up in bloody scratches and hurt feelings. Try hiding the cat sedative in a treat or your cat's food. Gabapentin for cats also comes in powdered form, which is simple to mix into your cat's food and won't be as noticeable to your cat as a pill in the food.
If he's too clever to fall for oral medications in his food, kneel over your cat on the floor, with one leg on each side of him. You should both be facing the same direction so you can place the thumb and middle finger of one hand on either side of his jaw to gently open his mouth. Use the forefinger of your other hand to place the pill as far back on his tongue as you can, recommends Pet Health Network. Allow him to close his mouth, but don't let him run off before you see that he's swallowed his pill and hasn't spit it out.
Common side effects of sedatives
No medications are free from side effects. Common consequences of sedatives in cats include vomiting, hypotension, increased appetite, anxiety, hallucinations, disorientation, diarrhea and restlessness. Sometimes sedation is considered a side effect of a drug, as with buspirone that also indicates increases friendliness in cats.
Over the counter sedatives
Some people forgo consulting a vet when they want to sedate their cats for something routine such as travel, and opt to medicate their kitties with an over-the-counter antihistamine such as diphenhydramine. Even though you can purchase them, these drugs are manufactured for humans and can actually negatively affect your cat.
You should never take it upon yourself to medicate your cat without talking your veterinarian first. Sedation is one side effect, but others can include: dry mouth, problems urinating, vomiting and/or diarrhea, loss of appetite or anxiety and agitation. Additionally, avoid using diphenhydramine with cats who have glaucoma or high blood pressure, warns VetInfo.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.