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.

“My female housecat isn’t spayed and I don’t see why I should do it.” The Wizard of Veterinary Medicine will tell you why, and with humor.

Good golly, it still amazes us that in 2013 we still need to have this conversation about spaying. Dr. Richard Orzeck, DVM who calls himself Dr. Oz the Wizard of Veterinary Medicine tells us why it’s vital to spay a female cat and he’s funny about it too. We are presenting two of his articles, one which is very funny, and one which is more scientific. Both are well done and informative, you’ll enjoy both and if you have friends who need coaxing about spaying, please forward this newsletter.


The funny version:

http://www.worldsvet.com/unspayed_diseases.html

The scientific version:

http://worldsvet.wordpress.com/2008/04/11/pyometria-ovarian-and-breast-cancer-diseases-of-un-spayed-dogs-and-cats/

How long do Comfort Zone with Feliway diffuser plug-ins last?

Comfort Zone with Feliway diffuser plug-in at CatFaeries.com

Our customer Kit asked us this question recently and we thought everyone would like some insight (and a sale!).

The manufacturer says the diffusers typically function well for 6 months and after that they should be replaced. However, we find this is far from typical! Our customers report that most of their Comfort Zone with Feliway diffuser plug-ins are still going after years of continued use. Personally, we have many of the same diffusers we installed over 10 years ago.

You will notice on those older diffusers that residue collects on the white ball shaped portion. This is normal. It’s the oil which has migrated upwards. And it’s easy to clean off – remove the diffuser from the outlet and take a damp Q-tip to remove the oil and the dust which is clinging to it.

If your Feliway refill bottles are running out in 4 weeks time then your diffuser is still working perfectly. If your refill bottles take longer than 4 weeks then it’s time to replace the diffusers.

Advice on older cats who stop using the litter box

Dear Cat Faeries,

Bart’s inappropriate elimination ramped up. He is now 16 and hasn’t used a litter box for the past month. I don’t want to put him down for this! He is such a lover boy!

Diane in Minnesota

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Dear Diane,

Sometimes when a cat gets to be Bart’s age the kidneys are starting to shrink and not function as they once had. Shrinking kidneys lead to various stages of renal failure, and it’s time to begin diet changes, and often sub-cutaneous fluids. But what we often aren’t told is that it can lead to behavior changes including avoiding the litter box. So have your vet examine Bart and run some blood work.

A few other medical conditions come into play as well. Arthritis is another big one for many cats as their back legs and lower backs become stiff and sore so that getting in and out of a little box can be painful – when that happens your cat might pee next to the box or on a surface like a bathmat. Or they can enter the box but they don’t squat – the urine flies out their back end and hits the wall or spills over the sides of the box.

The solution for this is easy pie: a box that’s shallower for easy in/out access. Or even better, get a large storage container and cut out an opening that’s low enough for easy entry. The high sides are tall enough to contain urine that might be sprayed out. See below – that’s some of our washable waterproof pads in front of the box opening. This box is from Rubbermaid. Another option is a semi-transparent box such as those from Sterilite – some cats may feel less closed in that way.

Advice on older cats who stop using the litter box
(click image to see it larger)

 

Another factor in renal failure is that cats often lose some or all of their hearing. This can lead to loud caterwauling both in the middle of the night and during the day. When a cat goes deaf their world can shatter and this can affect their behavior and out of panic or not understanding what’s going on with their body the cat could stop using the litter box. But the cat’s sense of smell is still very much intact, one of the many reasons we love Comfort Zone with Feliway so much. It works with your cat’s sense of smell. If your cat is feeling rotten from malfunctioning kidneys (it will feel like a hangover to your cat) or scared from not hearing well, Feliway will be soothing and comforting and allows that the negative behaviors can be corrected. You and your cat will be much happier with the smell of the Feliway pheromone wafting through the house. But don’t be concerned about the smell, only your cat can detect it.

“I found some unopened and expired Comfort Zone with Feliway refill bottles, are they still good?”

Recently we got an email from a long time favorite customer who wrote to say that shortly after her beloved cat Puck died she went going through his things and found a few Comfort Zone with Feliway refill bottles for her diffuser. She told us that they had expired two years ago and wondered if she gave them to a friend if they would still work. She also asked us if there was any way expired bottles could be harmful.

Very good questions and we love these! The expired diffuser refill bottles will not be harmful. And because she had never taken them out of the box or removed the cap they will still work – but they won’t be as strong. In the name of being thrifty and being generous they’ll be of benefit to her friend’s cats.

To customer B.F., we are so very saddened to hear of your loss of Puck, we know how dear he was to you. We are pleased that his things will help other cats.

What to do with old litter boxes – clever ideas from our readers!

We are big on urging people to replace litter boxes annually for two big reasons. No matter how much you scoop and clean, even use Anti Icky Poo cleaner once or twice a month to help with litter odor control they still get stinky after awhile and this can bother the cat. And goodness knows we don’t want to do anything to cause a cat to develop “litter box aversion.” Another plus to replacing boxes annually, we help to ensure a nice neutral smelling home for all who enter it.

But, we also detest land fill and waste. So what to do with those old litter boxes? We posed this question to our Face Book fans and here are the replies. If you have a clever idea, email us and we’ll include it in a future newsletter. Please put “uses for old litter boxes” in the subject line.

Debra: “Use to establish seedlings.”

Tara: “A flower box”

Patricia: “Planters”

Jody: “My partner uses them to store messy garage stuff”

Sandi: “I knew a man who used one when changing the oil in his car”

Brenda: “I use aluminum roasting pans, cheap. Dump out soiled litter, put pan in the recycling bin”