Like people, cats can become stressed by a variety of situations. Causes of stress include moving to a new home, adding another member to the household or just taking a trip to the vet. A calming natural or prescription medication could be just what your stressed-out furbaby needs to relax.
Prescription Anti-Anxiety Medications
Benzodiazepines are a type of prescription drug used to treat cats with anxiety or aggression problems. Some commonly known ones are diazepam or lorazepam. These drugs reduce cats' fear response, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Unlike other types of anxiety medications, benzodiazepines work immediately to calm your cat.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are another type of prescription anti-anxiety medication used to calm cats with behavioral problems. These drugs affect your cat's seratonin, a chemical produced in the brain that affects mood. SSRIs help reduce your cat's anxiety and fear, alleviating litter box issues, issues with other cats in your home or compulsive behaviors. Effects may not be immediate; SSRIs take up to four months to be effective. Examples of SSRIs used with cats include fluoxetine and sertraline.
Usage of Prescription Medications
A veterinarian must prescribe prescription anti-anxiety medication for your cat if she is experiencing prolonged periods of stress or exhibits problem behaviors like urine marking or aggression. These types of medications change the chemistry of your cat's brain, usually over a period of time. Some of these medications can be used long-term, like SSRIs, while others, like benzodiazepines, can't because they can affect your cat's memory and may make her sluggish. Most must be administered daily to see any results.
Cats taking prescription calming medications should have a yearly blood test to determine if their kidneys and liver are functioning correctly. These medications are metabolized by the kidneys and liver, so cats with medical issues related to these organs should not receive them.
To calm your cat for a short period of time, such as for a trip to the vet or an airline flight, a natural flower essence would be in order. Natural calming cat medications are derived from plants like chamomile and valerian. Unlike anxiety medications, natural calming remedies do not require a veterinarian's prescription. Add those in liquid form to your kitty's food and water an hour prior to an anxiety-inducing event. Others come in treat form that you can feed to your cat directly. These medications last a few hours to keep your cat relaxed, with no side effects.
Consult with your vet before using natural calming remedies in case they could interact badly with any of your cat's current medications or medical conditions. You'll find natural calming remedies in pet supply and health food stores.
You can administer synthetic pheromones as an alternative to anti-anxiety medications, or you can administer the two together. Synthetic pheremones mimic your cat's natural facial pheromones, which make your cat feel calm and safe when she inhales them. They come in liquid sprays and in small bottles that work with electric diffusers. Diffuser refills last for about a month; you plug them into electrical outlets in areas where your cat has been urine-marking or where she tends to fight with other cats in your home. Apply the spray form directly on carpeting, bedding and other surfaces in these areas. Spritz the inside of your cat's carrier with pheromone a half-hour before placing her in it. The calming scent has no side effects for your cat and humans can't smell it.
Speak with your vet and bring your cat in for an exam if you notice your cat experiencing behavioral issues or aggressive behavior due to stress.
An overly active kitty may just be in need of some exercise during the day to tire her out. Engage your cat in play with interactive cat toys for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, especially before bedtime to ensure that she sleeps through the night. Enrich your cat's environment with plenty of toys, scratching posts and cat trees to keep her occupied and active. These appropriate outlets for her energy, or the addition of a feline friend to play with, can alleviate certain hyperactive or destructive behavior.
Spaying or neutering can reduce problem behaviors like aggression. If training efforts and natural remedies fail to modify your cat's behavior fail, your vet may feel that prescription medications can help. These will help calm her and assist with behavioral modification in most cases.
Monitor your cat's behavior when you start administering natural or prescription medication to her. If you notice any changes in her appetite or any odd behaviors, notify your vet immediately. Extreme lethargy or trouble breathing require emergency vet care. Never give more than the prescribed dose of medicine to your cat, as doing so can cause a dangerous or fatal overdose.
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.
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Behavioral Medications for Cats
- VetInfo: Medication for Feline Anxiety
- PetPlace: Pheromone Sprays for Cats
- Petfinder: Keeping Your Cat Calm at Night
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Pet Pheromones
- VetInfo: Herbal Remedies for Cats
- Holisticat: Flower Essences/Remedies
Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, finances, crafts, food, home improvement, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared on City National Bank's website and on The Noseprint. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.