Medication Used to Sedate a Cat

Seeing your cat draped over the back of the sofa, it's difficult to imagine a scenario in which he would need tranquilizing. There are circumstances, however, that call for medication to sedate him, such as for travel or if he needs to undergo a medical procedure. Cats who are aggressive or anxious and ones who obsessively spray are also candidates for sedatives. If you think your kitty needs a sedative, it's 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.

"Man, mom must have slipped a mickey into my tuna!"
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Inhalable Medications

Halothane, isoflurane and sevoflurane are medications in gas form used for sedating cats. 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. According to the "Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook," the cat's weight and facial structure must be factored in. Additionally, some breeds are more sensitive than others to anesthesia.

Sedattion Via Injection

Acepromazine, diazepam, xylazine and ketamine are sedatives that are administered through injection. The vet determines the correct dosage based upon your cat's weight. Cats tend to be sensitive even to ordinary amounts of some drugs, 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 Sedatives

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. Buspirone and alprazolam are pills commonly prescribed for feline sedation. Cats aren't known for willingly taking medication, so getting a sedative down your kitty's throat can be difficult and could end up in bloody scratches and hurt feelings. Try hiding your cat's sedative in a treat or his food. If he's too clever to fall for that, 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. 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

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 "McCurnin's Clinical Textbook for Veterinary Technicians" also indicates increases friendliness in cats.

Over the Counter

Some people forgo consulting a vet when they want to sedate their cats for something routine such as travel. They medicate their kitties with an over the counter antihistamine such as diphenhydramine. You should never take it upon yourself to medicate your cat without talking your veterinarian first. Even though you can purchase diphenhydramine without a prescription, it can affect your cat adversely. 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, Colorado State University cautions against using diphenhydramine with cats who have glaucoma.