Antidepressants for Cats
Help for Overly Frisky Felines
By Louise Knapp
Cats can be cute little bundles of fur, but rub them the wrong way and they can turn into vicious terrors.
Cat bites and scratches can inflict deep wounds on fellow felines, which can turn into painful abscesses and large veterinary bills.
An antidepressant drug that may turn hisses into purrs is about to undergo a drug trial.
"We're not talking about cats just hissing at each other, but about those that seriously fight, harming each other and their owners," said Tracy Kroll, a veterinary resident and researcher at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, where the trial is being conducted.
Cat fights create the most problems in multi-cat households where the feline inhabitants just cannot get along. In such situations, Kroll said, owners often feel distraught and helpless to see the animals they love entangled in a yowling cat punch-up.
"When the owner comes home, he doesn't know what he is coming home to," Kroll said.
Situations like these are the leading reason owners give up pets for adoption. Some owners have even been known to euthanize them, Kroll said.
"The owner feels he has to get rid of one of the cats because the situation has gotten out of control," she said.
The drug trial will establish whether the medication -- called clomipramine -- can help restore peace to these households.
Clomipramine works by inhibiting the re-uptake of serotonin. This means that more serotonin -- one of the neurotransmitters associated with upbeat moods and decreased anxiety -- is made available.
Clomipramine has already gained FDA approval for human and canine use. It's currently used in humans to treat panic and anxiety disorders, and for canines suffering from "separation anxiety," when the dog finds the absence of its owner too much to bear.
Clomipramine has occasionally been prescribed for cat anxiety, but it's considered an "off-label" use -- the FDA has not given approval for this treatment.
While veterinarians can legally prescribe such drugs, they usually will use only those that are recognized as a treatment option in the veterinary world.
A veterinarian could be considered liable, said Evan Grossman, veterinarian at the Alameda Pet Hospital in California, for prescribing something that is considered out of the ordinary.
If the trial is successful, pharmaceutical companies may seek FDA approval to use the drug on cats. This is an expensive process, but it can reap large profits for the pharmaceutical company while providing advantages for the veterinarian.
"If it had FDA approval, I would feel more comfortable prescribing it," Grossman said.
FDA approval would also highlight the need for treatment for overanxious cats and show that there are options available.
"FDA approval means that more people become aware of this new specialization in medicine -- people are made aware that behavioral problems can be treated -- so it can be good advertising," said Valarie Tynes, resident in behavior sciences at the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
Kroll agrees. "Cats are down the totem pole for getting looked at by people.... People don't know they have an option to treat cat aggression. It's just at its beginning stage."
If the drug were marketed specifically for cats, that would also mean it would be sold in a cat-friendly form.
"This would make it more convenient to give to cats -- the right strength and size for cats," Grossman said.
The trial, which will evaluate cats from 20 households, is slated to begin in early March. Before selecting the cats to be included in the trial, Kroll and her team will evaluate each one for suitability.
"Each cat will be looked at individually in terms of how many other cats are in the home, whether the cat is considered the bully or victim and the size of the apartment they are in," Kroll said.
The cats will then be brought in for a behavior consultation and medical exam, and the 8-week trial will begin. They will be given a daily dose of the medicine; strength of the dosage will be determined by the weight of the cat.
"It's the same as the medication currently given to dogs, a meat-flavored chewable tablet," Kroll said.
Owners will be asked to keep a before-and-during diary of the trial.
"We will have the owners give us a 'day in the life of their cat' rundown, and then we will enter this into a computer database to evaluate the progress," Kroll said.
Even if the drug trial proves to be successful, however, it may not be a cure-all.
"There is no silver bullet out there. The drugs afford a window of opportunity to help, but there has to be work done with the cat as well," Kroll said.
Grossman agrees. "These drugs should not be used solely, without behavioral therapy."
Added Tynes: "Behavioral modification is needed too -- you need learning techniques to teach the animal to deal with certain situations. You have to desensitize them to things that are scary to them."
The trial is being sponsored by Novartis Animal Health.
I have a cat they could use for this trial on antidepressants!!!!
Was the trial successful?
Just wondering if anyone knows if the trial proved to be successful. I also have a cat I would have liked included in the study. :rolleyes:
Dr. Kroll treated my cat
I can't believe I'm reading about Tracy Kroll on this board! I posted the entry just below before I met her or ever heard of her.
Dr. Kroll came to my home last summer and examined my cat, The Pumkin. She felt his aggression was a fuction of biological anxiety and perhaps being taken away from his biological mom too early. She put my little fierceling on an antidepressant.
Today we have a changed cat who purrs instead of hisses and loves to be petted.
Dr. Kroll, Thank you!!!! You're the best thing since Tuna!
My cat"Rocky"is actually on this antianxiety drug right now,in a gel form.I apply 0.1ml to the inside of his ear once a day.
He has had two incidents,in two years, where he attacked me after seeing a strange cat outside to the point where I had to get medical help,tetanus-shot and antibiotics.The last time a couple of weeks ago,I waited until night-time to seek help,as my leg was swelling rapidly from a large wound,I am still under treatment but it's almost healed now.
He is normally a wonderful cat,once the head of my 3-cat-household,he's cuddly when he wants to be and usually stays close to where I am.He is however a little nervous around the new boss,a 5yr old male,Rocky is 7yrs old,so I suspect it all has to do with some loss of territory.
I have not noticed any change in his behavior,nor any adverse affects to the drug,but it worries me a bit that it is not FDA approved,I certainly do not want to cause him any harm.
Rocky does not fight my other cats,he usually has a friendly tumble with my youngest cat(Vinnie),almost 2yrs old and he is not bothered when Vinnie gets playful.
They are not out-door cats,I do not work so I am home with them all the time.They have been trained to stay in our large back-yard and Rocky only once jumped the fence to our neighbor.
In the winter I take them out for just a little while,they don't like the cold,but in the summer they'll be outside with me much of the day.
The two times when Rocky has attacked me,he turns into something nightmares are made of,but having him put down is out of the question,I love him very much and since I know the reason why he gets this way,I have to try to avoid him seeing a strange cat by keeping the windows closed,which will be difficult in the summer.
Well,Rocky has been on clomipramine now for about a month.I really do not notice much change other than he sleeps a bit more.
He still sprays when he gets excited,still runs from window to window if he sees a strange cat outside.
I get worried everytime this happens,afraid of being attacked again,so I try to isolate him until he calms down by closing the door.
My other cats react to strange cats too,it's understandable,but not the way Rocky reacts.
I am going back to the vet once this supply is finished and we will evaluate and decide if continuing the meds is worthwhile..
Unlike human meds,there was no side-effects listed and it worries me some.Does anyone know?
Well,after more than a month on Clomipramine,Rocky has had couple of incidents where he blacked out and yesterday he had what seem to be a siezure.I talked to the vet and since he has no record of a seizure-disorder,we decided to take him off the medication and he's been ok since.
The vet made a notation in her book,probably since not much is known about this drug.So,I am back to square one...
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