Can Cats Get Jet Lag?

Can cats get a jet lag?

When we travel, we often bring our beloved cats along by car, plane, or bus. But did you know cats can also experience jet lag, just like humans? While cats are generally better at handling time differences, they can still show specific symptoms.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the concept of cat jet lag, understand what causes it, recognize its symptoms, and learn how to make your furry friend’s journey comfortable and pleasant.

Cats and Jet Lag: Yes, It’s Real

When we think of jet lag, we often associate it with weary travelers struggling to adjust their internal clocks after crossing time zones. But did you know that our feline companions can also experience their own version of jet lag?

Just like us, cats can be affected by changes in time zones when we travel with them. While they may not be consulting their watches, their internal rhythms are still sensitive to shifts in day and night. In this section, we’ll explore the intriguing world of cat jet lag, shedding light on how it works and how we can make their journeys smoother.

Indeed, cats can experience jet lag. However, their sleep patterns and daily routines play a significant role in how they’re affected. Unlike humans, who have a more strict sleep-wake cycle, cats are known for their ability to nap throughout the day.

Nonetheless, they still follow a daily rhythm influenced by the shift between day and night. Cats tend to have a deeper sleep pattern when it becomes dark rather than taking short naps during the day.

Additionally, regardless of the local time at their destination, cats are creatures of habit and expect their meals consistently every day, even at night.

A tired cat lies on a bed

Understanding Jet Lag

Jet lag temporarily disrupts your sleep-wake cycle after long-distance flights crossing different time zones. This phenomenon arises when you rapidly travel to a destination, such as by plane, where the local time is ahead or behind compared to your departure point. As a result, your body’s internal clock can become disoriented with the new time zone.

The severity of jet lag is not determined by the duration of the flight but rather by the number of time zones crossed and the direction of travel. Generally, individuals experience more difficulties with jet lag when flying from west to east. In this scenario, you lose time. For instance, if you depart from Amsterdam at 2 p.m. and arrive in Bangkok at approximately 7:00 a.m. local time, it will feel like you have missed a night of sleep.

Cause of a Jet Lag

Within our bodies is an internal biological clock that operates on a 24-hour cycle. A small region in the brain acts as an alarm clock, orchestrating various bodily functions such as sleep, hunger, and thirst and even regulating body temperature, blood pressure, hormone levels, and glucose in the bloodstream.

Our eyes have specialized fibers that detect light and darkness to assist in aligning our internal clock with the external environment. When the eye perceives a sunrise or sunset occurring significantly earlier or later than usual, it sends signals to the hypothalamus—a region in the brain responsible for regulating bodily functions. These signals can trigger responses in the body before it is fully prepared, leading to jet lag.


Jet lag can manifest in various symptoms, and it’s crucial to prioritize your cat’s and yourself’s well-being. Aside from jet lag, your cat may experience discomfort after a long plane journey due to the altitude during the flight.

Here are potential symptoms you might notice in your cat’s behavior:

  • Malaise
  • Muscular pain
  • Dehydration or lack of moisture
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Disorientation
  • Reduced energy and concentration
  • Decreased appetite
  • Diarrhea
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No specific medications are available to prevent or treat jet lag in cats or humans. However, ongoing research is exploring new medicines that may alleviate jet lag symptoms in the future for both species.

Transition Measures

Most cats are naturally adept at adjusting their sleep patterns, making the transition easier than their human counterparts. However, as a responsible pet owner, you can further facilitate the adjustment process by implementing the following measures:

  1. Gradual Transition: Gradually adjust your cat’s routine and schedule in the days leading up to the trip. Shift meal times and play sessions gradually closer to the desired plan at the destination.
  2. Exposure to Light: Upon arrival at the new location, expose your cat to natural light during the day. This helps reset their internal clock and aids in adapting to the local time zone.
  3. Adequate Rest: Ensure your cat has a comfortable and familiar space to rest and sleep during the journey and upon reaching the destination. Providing a cozy bed or blanket can help your cat feel secure and facilitate relaxation.
  4. Hydration and Nutrition: Offer your cat plenty of fresh water to prevent dehydration during the journey. Additionally, maintain their regular feeding routine, even if it means adjusting the meal times gradually to align with the local time zone.

Remember, each cat is unique, and their response to travel and time zone changes may vary. Observing your cat closely and consulting with a veterinarian if you have any concerns about its well-being during or after the journey is essential.

Managing Jet Lag: Tips for You and Your Cat

To make handling jet lag easier, you and your cat can take a few simple actions., You can take a few steps for both you and your cat.

  • Spending time in natural light or using special lights can help reset your internal clock.
  • Staying hydrated and walking also boost your overall well-being, which goes for you and your cat.

Helping Your Cat Avoid Jet Lag

  • When preventing jet lag in your cat, gradually changing their eating and sleeping routines is key.
  • Slowly adjusting meal and sleep times allows you and your cat to adapt to the upcoming time change.
  • Begin by offering meals a bit earlier or later than usual, aiming to match the new time zone’s meal schedule.
  • It’s important to make these changes step by step, initially shifting the program from 30 minutes to an hour.

Syncing with the New Time Zone

  • If this works well, keep progressing until you and your cat are in sync with the local time zone.
  • Apply the same method to your cat’s bedtime routine.
  • Change the time if you usually settle your cat in a bed or basket before sleep.
  • Sticking to these changes consistently can help you and your cat experience fewer jet lag symptoms.

Being Patient and Providing Comfort

  • Throughout this process, remember to be patient and create a familiar and cozy environment for your cat during the transition.
  • Introducing these gradual adjustments increases the chances of smoother adaptation for both you and your cat, lessening the effects of jet lag.

Tips for Make a Long Journey Comfortable

Here are some essential tips to ensure a comfortable and pleasant journey with your cat, especially during long trips. While these tips serve as a general guide, please consider your cat’s specific needs and adjust accordingly.

  1. Offer food and water before the trip: provide your cat with a meal and fresh water before embarking on the journey. This helps ensure they are well-nourished and hydrated throughout the trip.
  2. Keep your cat in a carrier: secure it in a suitable carrier or travel crate to ensure its safety and prevent them from wandering inside the vehicle. Choose a carrier that is well-ventilated, spacious enough for them to move comfortably, and secure it properly.
  3. Bring fun toys: pack some favorite toys or interactive play items to keep your cat entertained during the journey. Familiar objects can provide comfort and help alleviate stress or anxiety.
  4. Travel safely: secure the carrier properly in the vehicle, preferably using a seatbelt or other reliable restraints. Avoid leaving your cat unattended in the car, as it can quickly become dangerously hot or cold.
  5. Ensure identification: ensure your cat has proper identification, such as tags with your contact information and a microchip. This helps if your cat gets lost or wanders off during the journey.
  6. Prepare for messes: pack essential cleaning supplies, including pet-safe wipes or paper towels, to quickly clean up any accidents or spills during the journey.
  7. Make regular stops: plan frequent stops every 2-3 hours to allow your cat to stretch their legs, use the litter box if needed, and have some fresh air. This can help reduce anxiety and provide a break from being confined in the carrier.
  8. Consult with your vet: discuss any potential options to manage anxiety or motion sickness during the journey with your veterinarian. They may recommend suitable medications or calming techniques based on your cat’s needs.
  9. Talk to your cat: provide reassurance and talk to your cat calmly and soothingly throughout the journey. Your comforting presence can help them feel more secure and reduce anxiety.Offer occasional treats: occasionally offer your cat treats as rewards or distractions, helping to keep them calm and occupied during the journey. However, be mindful of the quantity and choose cat-safe treats.

Remember to monitor your cat’s well-being during the journey, and if you notice any signs of distress or discomfort, make necessary adjustments to ensure their safety and comfort.

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In summary, the answer to “Can cats get jet lag?” is a definite yes! While cats are generally more resilient to jet lag than humans, they can still show symptoms after a long journey, particularly when crossing multiple time zones.

While complete prevention of cat jet lag might not be feasible, you can take measures to reduce its impact before and after the trip. However, don’t let the potential for jet lag discourage you from traveling with your cat, as cats are usually adaptable and can swiftly acclimate to new time zones.

If you found this article helpful, you might also be interested in learning about the possibility of bringing your cat into the airplane cabin as carry-on luggage.

By Marleen

Marleen is a truly madly deeply cat lover and founder of That Is for My Cat. She wants to share her knowledge about cats with other people who like to know more about cats.

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