Should You Put Your Cat on Medication?

May 6, 2011

Dr. O'Brien and Tuna

Dr. O'Brien and Tuna

Today’s guest post by Dr. Anna O’Brien explores the option of anti-anxiety medications to help cats’ behavioral problems. Dr. O’Brien has first hand experience with her own cat, Tuna, who is currently on Prozac. I’m looking forward to your thoughts on the topic!


When to Put Your Cat on Prozac
by Anna O’Brien, DVM

“Kitty Prozac” is currently a hot topic in the veterinary and animal behavioral communities. Often seen as a last resort, medicating our pets to alter their behavioral status may seem to some people as an “easy out” to fixing complex behavioral problems. However, understanding the basis of these problems helps illustrate why sometimes medication may be the only solution, especially when the last resort may lead to pet relinquishment.

With any new behavioral problem, first take your cat for a thorough medical evaluation. Next, assess litter type and litter box size, placement, location, and number to see if changes there might solve the problem. You can also try other behavior modifications such as pheromones. If you are still unable to prevent your cat from engaging in inappropriate elimination, you are dealing with what is called a “learned aversion.” This means that although there may be nothing wrong with the litter box situation, your cat has come to associate elimination in the litter box with negative experiences, be it pain or other types of stressors. In order to circumnavigate this learned aversion, anxiolytics (medications which decrease anxiety, such as Prozac) can help immensely.

Currently, fluoxetine (the drug name for the trade name Prozac) is available on the veterinary market for use with dogs to help manage separation anxiety (under the brand name Reconcile) and veterinarians have begun using this drug to manage feline elimination problems as well. This drug can be used for a range of cat behavior issues, from urine spraying to defecating outside the box.

Fluoxetine increases serotonin levels in the central nervous system. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter involved in facilitating social interactions, coping mechanisms, and adaptability. Absorbed extremely well orally, this drug is administered to cats most commonly in pill form. This medication is also available through compounding pharmacies as a transdermal application.

It usually takes a few weeks to a month on this medication before an owner begins to see corrections in litter box behavior, since the onset of this drug’s action can be slow. Some cats can gradually be weaned off the drug after four to six months. Others seem to need to be on it for the remainder of their lives.

Fluoxetine is a prescription drug and should only be prescribed and purchased through your veterinarian. The most common side effects reported in cats taking fluoxetine are lethargy and anorexia, and to a lesser extent hyperactivity, irritability, and other behavioral changes. If you’ve started your cat on medication and begin to see side effects, note their duration and severity and talk to your veterinarian. In some instances a re-calculation of the dose may be required, while other times, cessation of the drug may be warranted.

There are a handful of other drugs on the human pharmaceutical market that are sometimes used for feline behavioral problems, drugs such as the tricyclic antidepressant clomipramine and diazepam (Valium). Your veterinarian can help decide which is the most appropriate choice for your cat, while working closely with you to help solve this problem.

Anna O’Brien is a veterinarian in central Maryland. In addition to her practice, she also volunteers her time at local animal shelters, working with cats and dogs awaiting adoption. Currently, she shares her home with a Lab mix named Shadow and three cats: Tuna, Scabs, and Amber. Tuna himself is currently on Prozac for reasons Anna doesn’t want to embarrass him about. In her spare time, Anna writes on various veterinary topics. Visit her weekly online column “The Hoof Beat”, follow her on Twitter or visit her web site.

Leave a Comment

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

lisa mundy May 6, 2011 at 2:37 pm

very good article. great common sense advice.

Reply

M Devereaux July 16, 2012 at 9:48 pm

This article was VERY helpful! We have 4 cats, our next to youngest is 2yrs old and started urinating in various locations around the house about 5 months ago. We thought it was a change in litter, so we went back to what we werer using prior to her urinating around the house… that helped for a time. Lately it has gotten worse, no matter how clean the boxes are. UTI test showed no infection. She also started pulling out her fur around the same time as the urinating and we noticed that the other femail cat (4 yrs old) started “picking on” the younger female. Our Vet is now thinking that it could be an anxiety issue and has recomended prozac. Your article has given me a lot of hope that this treatment will work…. thank you!

Reply

Kathleen September 21, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Dear Dr. O’Brien:
I was very interested in your article a bouts ‘kitty prozac’ as I just started my 10 year old female Bengal on it yesterday. She’s always had litter box issues but they’ve grown exponentially within the last 4-6 weeks. I do not know the cause. She’s a very affectionate and playful cat but she just seemed always want to pee in our bed. Four times in about two weeks was just too much so we locked her out of our room. She was not pleased and found the couch a good substitute for our bed. Needless to say, after a very through exam and urine test she was found to be tip top shape and so the Prozac has begun. How do you administer the drug? I cannot ‘pill’ my cat, Nikki. Too stressful for everyone involved. I’ve been pouring out some and mixing it with her wet food. She still hasn’t had an entire 10mg pill yet. She’s only 12.75lbs so I thought if I gave her most of a pill a couple of times a day that would work.

Any suggestions?

Thank you so much for your time,

Sincerely

Kathleen

PS. We have a two Bengal household. Both indoor cats, Nikki and Peet an 8 yr old. Both have been spayed and neutered since they were 4 or 5 months old.

Reply

jen January 8, 2013 at 11:22 pm

greenies cat treats make “pill pockets” now- such an awesome idea. it’s a treat with a hole in it for medicine!

Reply

Eric Corbridge January 15, 2013 at 9:45 pm

Hi Dr. O’Brien,

I was just wondering if you could give me some advice about my cat Fiver. He has been on Fluoxetine for a little over a year now (.25 of a 10MG pill/day). He is about 2.5 years old now and I got him from the SPCA (Towson) when he was about a year old. But, he soon developed very extreme behavioral issues where he would stalk me and my wife and attack without provocation. Long story short, for our safety we ended up getting the pill for him to calm him down. However, I’m wondering at this point if I should try to ween him off of it at some point or if I need to keep him on it for the rest of his life. I’m worried about the long-term affects on his health and on his personality. I had heard that if I took him off the pill it could do more damage than good though, and that it might not be possible to put him back on it after that. Obviously I have plenty more concerns/questions, but I was wondering if you could help?

Thank you.
Eric Corbridge
Fiver’s proud Papa

Reply

jeffrey April 16, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Quality articles is the main to interest the users to pay a quick visit
the web page, that’s what this site is providing.

Reply

jose April 19, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Hi, everything is going perfectly here and ofcourse every one is sharing facts, that’s genuinely excellent, keep up writing.

Reply

Cuckoo for coupons April 27, 2013 at 9:24 pm

obviously like your website however you need to test the spelling
on quite a few of your posts. Several of them are rife with spelling problems and I to
find it very troublesome to inform the truth however I’ll surely come back again.

Reply

M. Carlson May 14, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Short story: Prozac has brought peace and quiet to the house
Long story: We had three kittens show up, abandoned and sick, in our garden. Working with a rescue organization, we got them fostered and healthy and with new homes. Except for the little blond guy – he just had wormed his way into my heart. After bringing him into our 3 cat household with the usual precautions, we went through three weeks of normal litter box use by the little guy. However, After my husband went on a 10-day trip and came back, everything changed. He jumped in my husband’s suitcase the minute he put it down and peed in it and then it was non-stop in inappropriate locations from our laundry basket, to my husband’s chair, to the linen closet. We took him to the vet at least 2 separate times to be checked for UTIs (nothing there), we tried the pheromones (ComfortZone/Feliway), which helped but didn’t truly resolve anything.

Finally, in tears, I took him back for one more UTI check, at the end of my rope. We never would’ve given him away or put him down – we would’ve just put up with it and locked him out of the rooms he preferred, but the stress was killing me. Once again, he didn’t have a UTI and she hesitatingly suggested Prozac. She knew we had been trying everything (moving the boxes, changing the litter, all the games).

After being on it for about a week (still using the pheromone diffusers and spray), he finally stopped. I hesitatingly opened up the spaces he had gone in and cleaned them like mad using Nature’s Miracle and LOTS of ComfortZone after the cleaning. After about 2 months on it, since our female cat had calmed down – she had been dominant towards him – we tried to wean him off it. :sigh: No go. It may be that he is just an anxious cat by nature due to his scary kittenhood and this is what he needs. If that’s the case, so be it. He is the most wonderful, affectionate, playful little guy and is a joy in our house.

Kitty Prozac has saved my sanity!

Reply

Exciting info June 18, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Hello, Neat post. There’s a problem together with your web site in internet explorer, might check this? IE still is the market chief and a big element of other folks will miss your great writing because of this problem.

Reply

webs.com June 20, 2013 at 7:11 pm

Good info. Lucky me I came across your website by chance (stumbleupon).
I have saved it for later!

Reply

jquery validate coupons July 4, 2013 at 6:48 pm

It’s the best time to make some plans for the future and it’s time to be happy.
I have read this post and if I could I desire to suggest you some interesting things or tips.
Maybe you could write next articles referring to this article.

I wish to read more things about it!

Reply

Previous post:

Next post: