Are there different safe forms of cat sedation for vet exam/visit and travel?

My cat is 13 and has not been to a vet or held by any human in 11 years. We found him (just a baby) crying in a bush, took him right to a vet. When we tried to feed it water or food, the kitten was so young we needed a nipple or eye dropper. We nursed it, carried him in our backwards hoodies for months until he specifically only preferred to be handled by our older male cat. Soon, we were no longer able to approach him. The vet visits stopped as we felt the stress it caused him was more harm than good. He has had a loving home and safe backyard-happy life.

The older cat died and the younger cat, then 12 year old, began to tolerate our smell and wants rubs, but still will not let us pick him up. He has become clingy and we love it. But he has drastically slowed down this month, had trouble climbing and jumping high, so I MUST GET HIM SEEN. He has 4 sets of claws, he trusts me and I’d hate to lose his trust. I don’t want the first time I pick him up to be [me dropping him off at curbside to go in to vet alone]. I think he’d rather die. My elder cat was sedated by the vet once (probably unnecessary) and when they brought him back to me, his disposition was odd and violent. In his 16 years I had never seen him that way. Sedation scares me now. The elder cat had regular vet visits all his life, developed thyroid issues and then cancer.

Now I’m at a loss on how to get my 13 year old cat examined as soon as possible. I don’t want him to suffer a car ride and strangers and strange smells and sounds and lights after 11 years of never going to a vet, but I know he must be seen. I’m afraid that if he has cancer, the stress of the vet visit will make it worse.

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    Is the cat in distress? The symptoms otherwise perfectly fit 'being old'. Perhaps you should just let him be.
    – Laurence
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 0:23

5 Answers 5


Maybe a better alternative to picking him up and dragging him to the vet is getting him to go into the carrier on his own volition. It's basically what zoos do with animals that can't be handled by humans.

The process will take a few days (maybe two weeks) but is rather simple. Put his carrier somewhere where he likes to be every day. Put some yummy treat into the carrier and let your cat explore it and get his treat in his own time. If it takes him several days to get in there for the first time, so be it. Never put pressure on him or shove him inside, always let him go in and out on his own volition.

Repeat this process multiple times for several days, always putting a very special treat in the carrier until he reliably goes in without much hesitation. Only then make an appointment at the vet, so you can be sure you'll get him into the carrier in time.

When the appointment arrives, put a treat in the carrier, let your cat go in, close the door and go to the vet with him. Maybe the vet can give him a mild sedative while he's in the carrier to calm him down. Once you return home, repeat the carrier training for several days after the vet visit. This is important to connect the carrier with positive memories so you have the chance of repeating the trick when he needs to go to the vet next time.

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    Good answer and I think it’s one reason why it’s common practice to have the carrier standing in the open somewhere in your home. This way the cat is always used to it and can always explore it.
    – Michael
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 11:04
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    This answer seems to mostly apply if forcing them into the carrier is the thing they have about having to go to the vet. While shoving a pet into a carrier can be a massive contributor to the discomfort of having to go to the vet, getting a cat to trust/like the cat carrier isn't inherently going to make the cat trust/like the vet visit itself. One of our cats is the perfect example, he happily enters a cat carrier even after many unhappy vet visits. But he absolutely hates car rides and while okay with the vet herself, hates every form of treatment or inspection that the vet engages in.
    – Flater
    Commented Oct 6, 2020 at 9:39

Most vets offer home visits.

Giving cats some sedatives or similar medication to reduce stress is possible. However, dosing is very important and should only be handled by a vet.

If your budget allows a home visit, I would definitely suggest that. He will be in his familiar turf while having some potentially unpleasant (for him) interaction with the vet.

If your budget doesn't allow you a home visit, contact a vet beforehand and ask how you can sedate or tranquillise your cat to reduce his stress. He can give you or tell you where to obtain the medication and you will administer them according to his suggestions.

I assume you do not know the weight of the cat as well, I mean you can't weigh a cat without picking him up, so definitely do not try to dose some human medication yourself.

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    I always weigh my cat by 'luring' him to the scale with some treats. He eats his favorite stick of treats and I read the scale. No picking up involved.
    – Ignatius
    Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 17:15
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    Most people don't have scales well calibrated for cat weight. If you have one, you can of course do it.
    – ck1987pd
    Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 19:25

I was in a similar situation with my 14-year-old cat a few months ago. Because of the pandemic my vet wasn't able to do a house call, but she advised me to try Zylkene to calm her nerves. It is a natural product that reduces stress. It comes in capsules with a powder that you can just sprinkle on top of some wet food.

My cat took to it wonderfully and I noticed a real change within the first week of using it. A previous vet visit left her hyperventilating from fear, but this time she seemed more at ease. And no trust issues after. I took her off the Zylkene after the last vet visit (she had to go twice) and all is fine.

I like having this option for emergencies, instead of having her on heavy anti-depressants. Maybe it can help your cat too.


Search for "mobile vets" in your area. There are an increasing number of such practices who will come out to your house with appropriate equipment to handle 95% of treatment needs. Handling animals with anxiety about car rides and office visits is specialty.


Our vet is 'Fear Free' certified and our 16yo male, never happy about vet visits before, seemed to actually enjoy his visit with the vet. This included getting his temperature taken and receiving a vaccination. Part of their 'trick' is that they feed him turkey baby food from a spoon and it REALLY WORKS.

  • 2
    Welcome to Pets, the actual essence of your answer that could be potentially useful for the question's author is only the bit about the veterinarian spoon-feeding feeding turkey baby food, it's a bit short, please add some more information.
    – lila
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 20:46

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