10 Medications To Help Manage Your Cat's Anxiety
Here’s what you need to know 💊
If your cat suffers from anxiety, you probably want to know what your options are to help her feel better.
Some cats might need a little extra push to help them be their best, and that’s where cat anxiety medications come in.The Dodo reached out to Dr. Michelle Burch, a veterinarian from Safe Hounds Pet Insurance, to find out more about the different kinds of anxiety meds for cats.
Over-the-counter medications for cat anxiety
If your cat experiences anxiety but you aren’t ready to try prescription medications, there are a variety of over-the-counter (OTC) medications that you can choose from. These can be used for either short-term or long-term effects.
Short-term OTC anxiety meds for cats
Short-term anti-anxiety meds aren’t meant to treat a cat who suffers from chronic anxiety. Instead, they’re best for one-off situations, like thunderstorms or car rides.
Compared to long-term anxiety medications, short-term meds take effect in a shorter period of time and only last for several hours.
According to Dr. Burch, Bach Rescue Remedy is her go-to for short-term OTC remedies for cat anxiety.
“Rescue Remedy Pet is a blend of five flowers in an alcohol-free formula,” Dr. Burch told The Dodo. “It has been shown to reduce stress in cats before veterinary visits, fireworks, thunderstorms or guests in the household.”
Long-term OTC anxiety meds for cats
Long-term OTC anxiety meds would be best for cats who suffer from chronic anxiety but whose anxiety might not be severe enough to require prescription medication.
“For long-term over-the-counter treatment of anxiety, I recommend looking for products containing L-theanine, magnolia, [phellodendron] extracts, whey protein concentrate, thiamine or alpha-casozepine,” Dr. Burch said. “Depending on the supplement used, it may take up to six weeks to see the full effect.”
Some long-term OTC anti-anxiety medications for cats include:
Effects in: 15–30 days
Anxitane has the active ingredient of L-theanine (50 milligrams).Even though Anxitane is effective for long-term anxiety, it can also be used for any one-off events by slightly increasing the dosage. “When your cat experiences a stressful situation, the supplement is started 12 hours before the event, then two hours before the event, and continued every six hours as needed during the event,” Dr. Burch said.
Effects in: 30–45 days
Solliquin contains L-theanine, magnolia/phellodendron extract and whey protein concentrate to help control anxiety in a cat.
“Solliquin has been shown to help cats stop over-grooming, hiding, spraying and inter-cat aggression,” Dr. Burch said.
VetriScience Composure Chews
Effects in: 20–30 minutes
VetriScience chews have a patented blend of proteins, thiamine and L-theanine to help calm a cat's anxiety.And the best part is that cats actually enjoy taking it. “With this supplement being a chew option, many cats enjoy the taste and are easily administered,” Dr. Burch said.
Effects in: 1–2 days
Zylkene is a supplement with the main ingredient casein, which comes from cow’s milk, and is proven to be an effective and natural supplement for both short- and long-term anxiety.
“Zylkene may be used for situational stress or long-term stress management,” Dr. Burch said.
Prescription anxiety meds for cats
If your cat isn’t responding to other methods of treatment, or if her anxiety is severe, a veterinarian might prescribe her with an anti-anxiety medication.
“Veterinarians have multiple medications that can be prescribed to help with anxiety and may be used in combination,” Dr. Burch said.
Some of the most common prescription anti-anxiety meds for cats are:
Common brand: Xanax
Alprazolam is a benzodiazepine, a GABA receptor agonist (a drug that produces sedative effects like relaxing the body) used for anxiety disorders.
Alprazolam is dosed every 8 to 24 hours, depending on symptoms and how your dog responds to the medication.
Common brand: Elavil
Amitriptyline is an adrenergic uptake inhibitor (to help alter mood) and tricyclic antidepressant (to increase serotonin). “This medication will help control behavior by blocking norepinephrine and serotonin reuptake in the brain,” Dr. Burch said.
Amitriptyline is dosed every 24 hours.
Common brand: Clomicalm
Clomipramine is a tricyclic antidepressant and has the highest serotonergic activity.
Clomipramine is given once a day.
Common brand: Prozac
Fluoxetine is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). “SSRIs will alter the serotonin levels in the brain to decrease anxiety,” Dr. Burch said.
Fluoxetine is given once a day.
Common brand: Neurontin
“The exact mechanism of action of gabapentin is not known,” Dr. Burch said. “Still, it influences glutamate, norepinephrine and substance P,” which are neurotransmitters in the brain that play a role in your cat’s anxiety.
“Gabapentin has sedative and anti-anxiety effects and will be used in combination with other medications,” Dr. Burch said.
Gabapentin is dosed every 8 to 24 hours, depending on symptoms and how your pup responds to the medication.
Other anxiety treatments for cats
If you’re looking for other methods of treating your cat’s anxiety without meds, Dr. Burch recommends these:
The pheromones used in pheromone diffusers mimic the ones produced by mother cats to calm their young. “Having this pheromone available for your cat to smell and stimulate the olfactory system can reduce anxiety,” Dr. Burch said.
Calming wipes are perfect for those short-term calming needs, like when traveling to the veterinary office. “The calming wipes mimic a cat's natural facial pheromone to help create a state of familiarity and security,” Dr. Burch said.
The synthetic pheromones embedded in these collars help reduce fear and stress during unpleasant events. “The collar emits pheromones for up to 30 days and is with your cat anywhere in the house,” Dr. Burch said.
Like swaddling a baby or using a weighted blanket, an anxiety vest will apply gentle and constant pressure to your cat's torso. “The gentle pressure releases the calming hormone oxytocin and endorphins,” Dr. Burch said.
Cats with anxiety need to make sure that their exercise needs are being met daily. “Cats who are bored or have too much energy develop anxiety and stress more often than pets who meet their daily exercise needs,” Dr. Burch said. “I recommend exercising your cat for a minimum of one hour [per day] to help prevent anxiety.”
Exercise options can include:
Play calming music
Another method to help calm cats who have stress or anxiety is to play calming, classical music. “I recommend purchasing the ‘Through a Cat's Ear’ album, which uses scientifically proven songs to induce calmness,” Dr. Burch said. “The songs are bioacoustic compositions that are specifically designed to appeal to your cat's sense of hearing.”
If you’ve tried everything else, talk to your veterinarian about cat anxiety medications, either over the counter or prescription, and if they’d be a good option to help your cat feel better.
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