Treatment problems in cats

Many people consider cats to be excellent animals, because they are relatively independent. If we provide them with a basic - a clean tray, fresh water and access to a nutritious food - they live with us, not requiring constant care. However, the same advantage can sometimes create problems when circumstances fail. If a cat develops a behavior problem, the owners often do not know how to solve it.

As with dogs, many behavioral problems in cats can be solved by changing the care of the animal or its living environment. For example, problems with the tray can often be solved by replacing the tray, filler, or other factors associated with using the tray. With scratching in the wrong places you can cope by providing the cat with suitable surfaces for scratching, and too noisy game can be wrapped in an acceptable kind of activity.

However, sometimes cats develop behavioral problems that the owners can not reduce or solve. For example, problems can occur between a large number of cats in the house, a cat may stop using the tray due to a disease that does not even bother it more, or the cat can excessively take care of the coat, so that all the hair can fall out.

When cats have similar problems with behavior, skilled professional animal behavior experts can help. After considering all the characteristics of your cat's behavioral problem and all the factors that affect it, a behaviorist can develop a successful behavior change plan to solve the problem. In some cases, the behavior problem can be treated most successfully by a combination of behavioral changes and medications.

Whether medicines are necessary?

Perhaps you do not want to give the cat a medicine and prefer to find a solution that is focused on changing the behavior or the living environment of the cat. Nevertheless, remember that some problems can be solved faster and with less stress for you and for the cat, if you include the drug in the treatment plan.

The most effective approach to treating the problem of behavior of a cat is a change in behavior. Behavior change plans developed by competent qualified professionals solve the problem of behavior in the following ways:

  • Change in the perception of a cat situation or object
  • Changing the consequences of a cat's behavior
  • Providing the cat with an acceptable way out for her natural behavior or the possibility of acceptable behavior instead of problem behavior
  • Using a combination of these solutions

Unfortunately, in some situations, changing the behavior can be difficult. For example, the natural behavior of a cat sometimes does not match the environment of her residence. Many modern houses have many cats. But cats are lone hunters, and although they sometimes get along, it's also normal for them to avoid each other. Since living together is not their own, sometimes it is necessary to help cats living in the same house to learn to accept each other. This can be done through a behavior change procedure called desensitization and counterconditioning. However, sometimes cats are so excited and upset by the sight and smell of each other that this procedure is impossible. In such cases, the drug to solve behavior problems can reduce the reactivity of cats to each other, and the procedure can be carried out successfully.

Can I use a drug instead of changing behavior?

Usually, one change in behavior is not enough to solve problems with behavior. The drug serves to reduce the emotional component of the situation, but it does not solve the behavioral component. While the drug controls the emotional reactions of a cat, behavior modification is used to change its behavior. For example, if your cat is afraid of another cat in the house, she may not use the tray because of her fear. A drug may help a cat react less to another cat, but does not help teach it to use the tray again.

What are the best drugs in which situations?

In the treatment of behavioral problems in cats, four types of drugs are predominantly used. These are benzodiazepines, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, tricyclic antidepressants, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

The following table shows the various problems of behavior of cats that are successfully treated with a combination of drugs and behavior modification:

Behavior Problem

Type of preparation

General timidity

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, tricyclic antidepressant

Tray visit problems caused by anxiety

Benzodiazepine, a tricyclic antidepressant, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor

Urine labeling

Benzodiazepine, a tricyclic antidepressant, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor


Benzodiazepine, a tricyclic antidepressant, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor

Obsessive behavior, such as excessive hair care

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, tricyclic antidepressant

Cognitive dysfunction

Monoamine oxidase inhibitor

Drugs for the treatment of sudden intense fear and aggression

Antibiotics must be taken for a while before they begin to fight bacteria. The same applies to drugs for solving problems of behavior of cats - they must be taken daily for several weeks before the results appear. In situations where the cat behaves aggressively at the slightest sight or smell of another cat or has other severe reactions to the fear of something else, waiting for several weeks may be too much. Benzodiazepines can reduce the reactivity of the cat immediately. Benzodiazepines give a result immediately after admission, so they can cope with fear or aggression for several hours.

Some common benzodiazepines include diazepam (Valium®), alprazolam (Xanax®), chlordiazepoxide (Librium®), lorazepam (Ativan®), and clonazepam (Clonopin®). Benzodiazepines act by increasing the activity of a chemical in the brain, which prevents the activation of areas of fear.

The effect of the dose

You can find out if the medicine works only if you understand what effect to expect. The following list shows the expected reactions of cats to different doses of benzodiazepines:

  • Small doses of benzodiazepines reduce the intensity of excessive behavior and reduce excitability.
  • Moderate and large doses of beznodiazepines can reduce anxiety and increase playfulness, but can also cause disturbances in movement and thinking, including disorientation. Benzodiazepines act on some of the same parts of the cat's brain cells, as does alcohol on the human brain, which causes similar effects. Large doses can increase anxiety and anxiety, especially if the animal has already been suppressed during taking the drug.

Side effects

Benzodiazepines can increase appetite and insomnia. They can also have a negative impact on learning and memory, so they are not suitable for long-term use with the procedure of desensitization and counterconditioning.

Impact on health

Benzodiazepines are metabolized in the liver and excreted by the kidneys, so if the veterinarian advises you to treat the cat with benzodiazepines, he should check the liver and kidney function of your cat and make a simple blood test. If your cat has had kidney or liver problems in the past, be sure to let the veterinarian know.

Drugs for the treatment of long-term behavior problems

Behavioral problems that include daily household issues, such as conflicts between a large number of cats in the home, or such long-term problems as excessive hair care, are best treated with drugs that need to be given long, such as tricyclic antidepressants, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, and selective inhibitors of the inverse seizure of serotonin.

Tricyclic antidepressants

Tricyclic antidepressants were first used to treat depression in humans. First of all, they act by increasing the level of serotonin and norepinephrine - neurotransmitters, which are involved in the regulation of emotional activity. They also affect other neurochemical substances involved in emotional reactivity. Tricyclic antidepressants, most commonly prescribed to cats, include amitriptyline (Elavil® or Tryptanol), clomipramine (Anafranil® or Clomikalm®), doxepin (Aponale®), imipramine (antideprin or deprenyl), desipramine (Norpramine® or Pertofran) and nortriptyline Sensoval). Each cat is unique in terms of behavior and physiology, so one tricyclic antidepressant may not work, and the other can give excellent results.

Despite the fact that tricyclic antidepressants were originally used to treat depression in humans, they can also reduce anxiety, fight obsessive behavior and help irritable people. They are successfully used on cats to treat obsessive behavior, for example, excessive hair care, reduce reactivity to other cats in the home and treat anxiety.

Application Scheme

Tricyclic antidepressants are for daily use. If you do not take the drug every day, it will not be effective. Typically, tricyclic antidepressants do not work on the first day or even the first few days of admission. Because at least part of their effectiveness depends on the changes they cause in the brain, tricyclic antidepressants need to be taken at least 2 to 3 weeks before the results are visible. Treatment should last at least two months before a conclusion is made about the effectiveness of the drug.

Impact on health

Tricyclic antidepressants are metabolized in the liver and excreted by the cat's kidneys, so if your veterinarian advises treating the cat with tricyclic antidepressants, before starting treatment, he should make a simple blood test to the cat to make sure that these organs work well. If your cat has had kidney or liver problems, be sure to let the veterinarian know. It is recommended that you do an annual blood test (twice a year for older cats) to ensure that the medication does not damage the liver or kidneys.

Tricyclic antidepressants should not be used with monoamine oxidase inhibitors, because a combination of these two types of drugs can increase serotonin to an unhealthy level.

Side effects

Tricyclic antidepressants can increase swelling, and puffiness causes dry mouth. As a result, cats can have foam in the mouth and strong thirst. Because of thirst, they can drink more water than usual. Water retention in the body can also lead to constipation and even diarrhea. Such problems can lead to bowel movements / urination in the wrong places. Tricyclic antidepressants can also cause a sudden increase in heart rate.

Inhibitors of monoamine oxidase

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors act on similar neurotransmitters as tricyclic antidepressants, but act differently and less selectively, so they have a more general effect on the brain. Selegiline (Anipril®) is an inhibitor of monoamine oxidase, which appears to primarily affect the dopamine neurotransmitter. It is used in the treatment of cognitive dysfunction in elderly cats, and studies indicate that it can slow the aging of the brain.

Impact on health

Some monoamine oxidase inhibitors have dangerous side effects if the patient eats cheese. Selegiline does not fall into this category, but since some people have reactions to the cheese during taking the drug, the owners should not give the cats cheese when they take selegiline.

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors should not be used with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, because a combination of these two types of drugs can increase serotonin to an unhealthy level.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors act on a chemical in the brain called serotonin. Common selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors include fluoxetine (Reconsile® or Prozac®), paroxetine (Paxil®) and sertraline (Zoloft®).

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as fluoxetine and sertraline, have been successfully used to treat a number of behavioral problems associated with anxiety, such as panic fear, fear of other cats in the home, or aggression directed at other cats. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors also effectively fight obsessive behavior, for example, with excessive licking.

Impact on health

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are metabolized in the liver and excreted by the kidneys. Even if your veterinarian does a blood test before starting treatment to check the condition of the liver and kidneys, be sure to tell him about the diseases that are or were in the past in the cat. It is good to annually examine the liver and kidneys of a cat if it takes a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors should not be used with monoamine oxidase inhibitors, because a combination of these two types of drugs can increase serotonin to an unhealthy level.

Application Scheme

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors should be taken daily so that they are effective. If you do not take the drug every day, it will not be effective. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are rarely effective on the first day, and in fact can increase anxiety in some cats before a therapeutic effect appears. Since selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors cause changes in the brain, they must be taken at least six weeks before the result appears. Treatment should last at least four months before a conclusion is made about the effectiveness of the drug.

Since a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor results in a few weeks, some people at the beginning of treatment also treat their cats with other drugs, such as benzodiazepine.

Serotonin receptor agonists (5-HT)

Buspirone (Buspar® or Bespard) is the only serotonin receptor agonist that is regularly used in the treatment of pet behavior. Sometimes it is used in combination with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants at the beginning of treatment, but is also sometimes used alone.

Application Scheme

Like other drugs that affect serotonin, buspirone must be taken daily so that it is effective. If you do not take the drug every day, it will not be effective. The therapeutic effect of buspirone usually appears after about three weeks, although this period may decrease if the drug is taken in addition to a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor.

How to give a cat medicine

If you decide to use the drug to help the cat cope with the behavior problem, you may face difficulties trying to give it a medicine. Sometimes it's hard to get a cat to swallow pills, and some cats are so upset about it that they start to avoid the hosts. To learn how to give a medicine to a cat, so that it upsets it as little as possible, read the article "How to give medicines to a cat".

Seek advice from an experienced professional

This article is designed to help pet owners understand what common medications are for treating behavior problems in animals. This is not a guide to choosing a drug. If your cat suffers from fear, anxiety, obsessive behavior, or another behavior problem, and you want her to take the drug, be sure to first consult with a certified animal behavior specialist. A qualified animal behavior expert can assess your cat's problem and help formulate a treatment plan, give advice on medications and cooperate with a veterinarian to maximize the success of the treatment program.

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