Are behavior modification drugs right for your cat? Do they really work?

Here’s an article by guest cat-tributor Issac Newton:


I’ve been asked how I feel about behavior modification drugs prescribed for cats. First, I must admit that I do partake in a little ‘nip on occasion. But that’s just for fun and the effect is short term. Shouldn’t we think very carefully before using drugs that could not only affect personality, but also have adverse side effects?

The ASPCA has published a good overview of behavioral medications used in cats. http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/cat-behavior/behavioral-medications-cats


Typical behavior problems include timidity/aggression, litter box avoidance, urine marking and compulsive behavior (e.g. excessive grooming leading to hair loss).

Before asking for a “magic pill” cat parents should carefully assess the home situation. The following includes some of the questions to answer:

  1. How many cats live in the household?
  2. How many of these cats are exhibiting behavioral problems?
  3. Are litter boxes and private spaces sufficient and strategically placed? Sometimes cats just need a place of their own to chill out.
  4. Have there been significant changes in the environment? (e.g. new pets, children, furniture etc.)

Armed with this assessment the cat parent is better equipped to take Kitty to the vet for a complete physical. Cats generally hide their illnesses well, but if the environment hasn’t been altered a behavioral change may very well be due to some physical cause.

If no physical problems are detected the first course of action should be to try a natural solution such as Feliway, calming music, or flower essences. Your veterinarian might also prescribe a food containing amino acids that reduce anxiety. (Please give any of these methods at least a month before making conclusions regarding their effectiveness.) However, if the problem(s) persist the next step would be a consultation with an expert in animal behavior. The veterinary specialist should visit your home to see Kitty’s behavior in her own environment.

(Cat Faeries’ note – Feliway, calming music, and flower essences are available at CatFaeries.com)

After exhausting all of the options above the veterinary behaviorist may want to try a prescription drug. There are four classes of medications that may be used depending on the problem behavior. As with human medications, positive results are not guaranteed and there are many potential side effects. Be sure you are aware of these and know what to do should they occur. Also ask if any foods are contraindicated while taking the medication.

Oh, did I mention that these medications must be given daily? Is Kitty suffering from anxiety? Imagine how she will feel about taking a pill every day. (I know how I would feel about it!) However, many drugs are now available as flavored “treats” or in transdermal gels. This alleviates the stress for everyone, but consistency is vital.

As a cat I think I can safely say that we would all prefer to “just say no to drugs”. However, if they must be used please keep us safe with regular veterinary checkups and blood tests as required.

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