Amitriptyline Vs. Buspirone for Cats

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If your cat suffers from anxiety or displays tendencies toward "inappropriate elimination" -- a euphemism for peeing or pooping anywhere but the litter box -- your vet might be able to prescribe medication to help him. Buspirone and amitriptyline are human drugs that are used off-label by vets for felines.


Marketed under the brand name Elavil, amitriptyline is a tricyclic antidepressant often prescribed for cats exhibiting nervousness, urine spraying and other elimination issues, as well as excessive grooming. The latter behavior resembles a feline obsessive/compulsive disorder. If your cat suffers from feline lower urinary tract disease, your vet might prescribe it as a treatment for cystitis. It also serves as an antihistamine, although it's unlikely your vet would prescribe it primarily for that reason as many other antihistamines exist with fewer side effects.

Amitriptyline Side Effects

This medication can cause some serious side effects in felines, including drooling, disorientation, urinary retention, appetite changes, weight gain, drowsiness, constipation or changes in heart rhythm. Cat with diabetes, liver or heart disease should not receive amitriptyline. Avoid giving it to pregnant or nursing felines. Follow your vet's dosing instructions to the letter, as overdosing Kitty with amitriptyline can prove fatal.


Buspirone hydrocholoride, marketed under the brand name Buspar, might be prescribed for kitties with elimination issues or behavioral problems. If Kitty freaks out during thunderstorms or hearing the fireworks on the Fourth of July, for instance, this anti-depressant can help him get through the situation. It's also a good choice if he's spraying urine around the premises. While the standard dosage is 5 mg twice daily, your vet makes the dosing decision based on your cat's size and other factors. For elimination issues, Kitty could take the medication for several months, if not longer.

Buspirone Side Effects

Buspirone's side effects are a bit odd, compared to the usual list of pharmaceutical reactions. It can have the effect of a feline love drug -- Kitty becomes unusually, perhaps annoyingly, affectionate. According to Veterinary Partner, some cat owners complain that their pets, under the influence of buspirone, won't let them sleep because of the need for petting and attention. Because the drug causes felines to lose inhibitions, it also can result in aggressive behavior in some cats. Other side effects include appetite loss, sleepiness, restlessness and nausea. Don't give buspirone to cats with liver or kidney disease.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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