If you follow me on a regular basis, you know I work with a lot of disturbed kitties. Sometimes, they are just so scared and shy, they barely move. Others so aggressive, they lunge, spit and try to bite me on the regular. That’s why I’m a fan of gabapentin.
I want to share why you don’t need to be afraid of gabapentin and how it’s another tool we have as cat owners and fosters to use when needed. This drug helps our furry friends either go through basic things, like a car ride to the vet, or more complicated psychological issues from neglect or abuse. During my series on Medicine & Cats, I covered gabapentin a bit, but I wanted to devote an entire post to explaining what life is like for overly anxious cats, and how this drug helps them cope and heal.
Disclaimer: I’m not a vet or certified behaviorist. Please do not administer drugs to your cat without your vet’s blessing and a prescription. I will share my experience to hopefully arm you with knowledge you can use to have conversations with your vet if you think your cat needs gabapentin for any reason.
The Mind of an Anxious Cat
So often, people hear my cat Lucy is on gabapentin twice a day, and there is instant shock, questions, and sometimes judgement.
“Don’t you feel bad keeping her on medicine all the time?”
“That can’t be healthy.”
“Does she have to be on it forever?”
What people don’t understand is that cats like Lucy and my current foster Sunshine are fighting anxiety sometimes constantly. Imagine feeling like this …
Being unable to even recognize a familiar person (like an owner) because your anxiety has you completely blinded.
Constantly questioning everything in a room (including inanimate objects) because you don’t know if you need to fight or run to save yourself.
Getting subconsciously triggered by smells or sounds.
Being frequently scared and not know why.
Not sleeping soundly because you’re always on guard.
This is the life for these cats – constant anxiety. So often, they are victims of abuse or neglect, end up in shelters or foster programs, and are completely misunderstood. Owners and fosters are at their wits’ end from often anxiety-induced aggression. And I understand why. It’s frustrating and confusing.
What if there was a pill to control that anxiety, make the cat feel safer and calmer, allowed them to get meaningful rest, and actually see things for what they are? And what if the pill has minimal short- and long-term side effects? Wouldn’t it make sense to at least try it?
What’s Going on in the Brain?
What drives the anxiety in the brain? Obviously, what’s supposed to happen is an increase in excitability when there is a threat so that we (or cats) can get away from it if necessary. Fight or flight. Sometimes, we perceive things that aren’t actual threats as threats. For humans, it’s believed to be hereditary or caused from traumatic events.
Is it the same in cats? The hereditary piece is so hard to study because we often don’t know a cat’s father. One thing we do know that causes anxiety is repeated abuse and/or neglect. It can change the brain, and it will make a cat more easily go into fight or flight. A cat will be more sensitive to those excited signals in the brain, even when the abuser isn’t present.
The result is ongoing symptoms like these:
- Constant stare downs if you are in the room – Regardless of how big the room is and regardless of how close you are to the cat.
- Dilated pupils – Non-stop dilation.
- Growling – Very consistent, even if you aren’t near the cat.
- Hissing – Sometimes at the air, and not even directed at you.
- Twitching the tip of the tail – Even at rest, if not in REM, the tip is twitching.
Take a look at Lucy and Sunshine, each on their first day in my home. Turn the sound up and you’ll hear the growling:
But how is this different from just a regular cat hissing or a shy cat with dilated pupils? It’s different because the above symptoms occur nearly constantly in cats that are victims of ongoing neglect and/or abuse. Many times, it seems the cat flips a switch out of nowhere and turns into a demon. The symptoms are so excessive, there appears to be no apparent pattern to their behavior (there are always triggers, but they’re hard to spot).
How Gabapentin Helps Anxious Cats
How does gabapentin help with excitement in the brain? To my surprise – nobody knows. The best hypothesis is that gabapentin blocks calcium in what would typically signal the release of excitatory transmitters, telling the calcium “You shall not pass!”
Gabapentin was originally used to control seizures in humans, and then neuropathic pain. Although not labeled for anxiety, the benefits cannot be ignored. A recent study in cats showed that administering gabapentin before an annual vet visit allowed cats,that normally couldn’t be examined to get examined and receive vaccinations. This decreases the stress for the cat obviously, but also the owner, vet, and vet staff. All really good things.
Side note: The study gave cats the 100 mg gabapentin 90 minutes before the event. I recommend giving it 120 minutes (2 hours) before. The dosage may be different for your cat. Please consult your vet.
Why Is Gabapentin so Great? Few Adverse Side Effects
Minimal short-term side effects have been reported in cats, but they include sedation, ataxia, vomiting, and diarrhea. All typically resolve within 8 hours, and remember, the sedation can be a good thing for stressful events. Also, I’ve found that lower doses of gabapentin can be given if the side effects are too intense.
A note on this: GI upset is not uncommon in cats who are anxious. I wouldn’t be surprised if the vomiting and diarrhea reported is more related to initial anxiety than the gabapentin. Just a thought!
I could not find any long-term negative side effects in my research, but more studies need to be performed to really know (there haven’t been a lot of studies on gabapentin in cats). The main reason there doesn’t appear to be long-term side effects is that gabapentin isn’t really metabolized, and is excreted by the kidneys. It sort of goes out the way it goes in. Obviously if a cat has kidney disease, gabapentin could put a further strain on the kidneys, so a lower dosage may be recommended.
How do you know if gabapentin is too strong for your cat? Relaxed and napping is okay … totally stumbling all over the place is not. If your cat is doing that, they likely need a lower dose OR another medication. The anxious cats I use it on will still run and play while on it, so I know it’s pulling down the anxiety, but not knocking them out for hours on end. Please talk to you vet about proper dosing for your cat.
Here’s Lucy on gabapentin:
Why Controlling Excitability Helps Anxious Cats
Imagine you can’t think straight, and you are so terrified, you just want to run, or are prepping to fight for your life.
Does that sound healthy? Enjoyable? Obviously not. That’s why I think it’s so important to give extremely anxious cats some relief with gabapentin. By preventing excitability from reaching high levels, they’re able to think more clearly. The goal is that when they are calm, I can teach them that I’m not scary. The environment is safe. And we can even play and have fun. They can watch birds outside or take a nap. Slowing down things in the brain helps them relax.
After working with them, they can often be weaned off the gabapentin; however, if their case is severe, like Miss Lucy’s, daily gabapentin is likely her medicine for life.
Are there visible differences? Yes. When Lucy or Sunshine take gabapentin, their dilated pupils disappear. They curl up into balls to take naps and show their bellies. They are calmer and happier – but they still have their personalities. If I accidentally do something that triggers them, the growls, swats, and hisses return, but are on a much more manageable scale. It also makes it easier to recognize what triggers each cat, because everything is slowed down. Their excitement more quickly dissipates and returns to normal, where as without gabapentin, anxious periods last longer.
Are Lucy & Sunshine Really Happier?
Yes, Lucy and Sunshine are happier since being treated with gabapentin. I’ve taught Lucy how to walk on a cat wheel and how to walk with a harness in the park. They both play, have fun and escape anxiety by chasing and batting around toys, and being cats. Another thing they love to do is sit at the window and watch the birds. They even purr when I’m petting them, whereas initially, they could barely be touched.
Lucy and Sunshine’s progress isn’t because of the gabapentin, but gabapentin provided the space for progress. That’s how I would like people to look at it. It’s an option when a cat’s anxiety appears excessive. It’s a way to calm the cat down so you can interact with them or help them relax for a vet visit. It doesn’t cure anxiety, but it helps manage it when nothing else seems to work.
Whether you decide to use it as a one-off or want it for longer-term use, please consult a vet and/or certified cat behaviorist. Good luck!
Did you miss my article on how to work with shy and scared cats? Check it out here.
77 replies on “Gabapentin: Miracle Drug for Anxious Cats”
When my cats suffer from anxiety I also have had the vet prescribe them gabapentin. It provided enough of a runway for them to regain their momentum and sink back into a calmer, more natural routine. My lovies are now doing much better and their love for mama shines thru!
Thank you for reading my article. Sounds like you know exactly what I’m talking about. I think it’s so important to make the conversation around it more positive and help people understand that it just helps get them where they need to be. And sometimes, they just need it a few times. Your lovies are so lucky to have you!
Hi! Thank you for the information!! We are flying & taking our cats first the first time. I tried a test run of Gabapentin today & it worked great for one of my cats. 100 mg. Got him in the carrier & went for a drive with no issues. However, my other cat has anxiety & I gave him the same dose & he is still crying & trying to get out of the carrier. Any suggestions? Can I give him a dose in the morning & then another in the afternoon on the way to the airport? Any help would be great appreciated!!
Hello! This is something you should talk to your vet about bc they know the weight and health condition of your cat and what dose they can handle. I’ve never given more than 100 mg but your vet can advise if you can increase the dose or frequency
Thank you for the great article. My cat has feline hyperesthesia disorder, and it suddenly flared up again after being very manageable for almost a year. Yesterday I found a sore on her neck from her over-grooming, and on the advice of her vet she is on gabapentin at least until the scab can heal.
Since taking it this time, she has been so much more cuddly than normal, even six hours after bringing her to the vet. I have definitely enjoyed that part.
My concern when I tried gabapentin in the past is that it made her less interested in play, and I think playing really helped her FHS. Once she heals, I might try bringing her off it again, or just lowering the dose – I was told to use it as “needed” and I am beginning to suspect one of her triggers might be seasonal. But I will definitely bring it back out again if her attacks return.
I’m so glad your cats have you!
That’s so great that it’s helping her! And yes, you can totally decrease the amount. Hyperesthesia is tricky so I would say she’s lucky to have you too;-) Thanks so much for commenting and sharing. Please LMK how she’s doing in the future.
Thanks for the article. I recently adopted a foster cat the shelter had decided to euthanize after I had cared for her for 4 months. She takes 100mg of Gabapentin 2x daily and is a completely different animal on this medication than of it. She growls constantly off it, while she accepts chin runs, comes when called, and rolls around belly up in the sun. She’s taken this med the whole time I’ve had her, and no one ever advised me that it could cause ataxia. She slips and stumbles when she walks all the time, which I thought was physiological. (She is quite stiff and possibly arthritic despite her young age.) Could you describe what you’ve seen when a cat become wobbly on Gabapentin? I’m wondering if we should experiment with a lower dose to see if she still gets the mood benefit without the wobbles.
Hi Katie. Thanks for your comment and reading the article. It really makes anxious cats so much happier, doesn’t it? And thank you also for adopting! Typically if it’s too high of a dose, the back legs get especially wobbly and they seem off balance. They sort of walk like they’re intoxicated. I’ve only seen this with my super senior, so I don’t give it to him. My resident who is on it still runs and plays, and my foster who’s on it intermittently does the same, so it’s def not every cat. I would DEFINITELY check with your vet (bc I am not), but if your kitty seems to be walking straight and not off balance, she is probably okay. Some cats do great on a lower dose of 50 mg, so you could always try 50. Again, be sure to check in with your vet. Thanks again so much for reading and commenting. Good luck and lmk if you change anything and how it goes.
So, I have had Tyger for 4 years and his son Jasper for 3. Both are neutered males and fat happy cats. In January I took in Jasmine whose owners were leaving state and going to leave her outside. She has caused such craziness in my house. She attacks the cats and the dogs. She literally fights my 6 month old Cane Corso and they are ROUGH. She has sent Tyger to the vet from hurting him so bad. Poor Tyger could not walk. He had multiple puncture woods on his leg and had to have antibiotic shots and pain meds. Tyger and Jasper constantly hiss when Jasmine is near them. I have bought the calming pheromone collars and plugins. They are EVERYWHERE and didn’t help at all. My vet is AMAZING. She suggested gabepentine. So we have done it 3 days now. Jasmine seems super super out of it. I kinda feel bad. We are doing capsules. I am going to attempt to try a smaller dose. Kinda hard to do with a capsule though. Sound normal?
Thanks for your comment. I’ve seen cats be out of it the first few days and then it levels out. For other cats, the capsules (usually 100 mg) are too strong. For those cats, I’ll give 50mg or 75mg (you can get the 50mgs in pill form). For the capsules, you can def open them up and remove some of the meds, and put the capsule back together. Just check with your vet before you do anything. I personally like to see anxious cats relaxed, but not super high, so I adjust the dosing until I hit the perfect balance. You want Jasmine to be her, just a better, calmer version of herself 😍. I hope this helps. I would def run her behavior by your vet and see if they think a smaller dose males sense.
Hi, thank you for your article, it was very useful. I was searching for more information about how long you can give gabapentin to a cat.
My 4 yrs old cat has been suffering months ago from IBS, esophagitis, a lot of diarrhea, food intolerance..
His symptoms appeared after we adopted another kitten, also a male. Both were tested and they were negative to transmitted diseases… so … the vet think the symptoms could be enlarged by stress of competing with the new kitten for food, affection, territory etc.
It was very difficult to stabilize him, now he is eating hypoallergenic food and takes twice a day 50 mg of gabapentin.
He is on gabapentin for almost 3 months and I really do not know for how long it can be given without causing side effects on kidneys or other organs.. Except your article there is nothing on the internet about the use in cats with anxiety for the long term. If you have some references they will be very usefull. Thank you.
Hi Ioana. Thank you for your comment. I have such a hard time researching these topics bc you’re right – not enough is researched or written about them. You can check with your vet, but it’s my understanding that there aren’t any long term side effects. However, if your cat is diagnosed with something else, like kidney or liver disease, the dosage may need to be change or the cat may need to be weaned off of it. It’s my understanding that it’s a very safe drug. While humans aren’t the same, my grandmother was on it for over a decade to help with a condition she had with a nerve in her jaw that caused tremendous pain. Here is one article from a pharmacy that discusses side effects in pets, but there isn’t really anything remarkable: https://www.wedgewoodpharmacy.com/learning-center/professional-monographs/gabapentin-for-veterinary-use.html
I hope this information is useful. You are definitely doing the right thing to help him feel better. 50mg is a low dose, and if it helps him be comfortable and your vet is okay keeping him on it, I would too. It’s a remarkable drug. I would follow the advice of your vet and if you are questioning them, maybe see a 2nd vet. Do whatever you need to to get the answers you need and feel okay around medicating your kitty.
Thank you so much for this article. We recently “rescued” a somewhat friendly stray cat and brought him inside after having him neutered. He goes back to the vet in a couple of weeks to have some painful, broken teeth removed. I put “rescued” in quotes because he is extremely shy and fearful inside and I’m questioning that we’re doing the right thing. We have two other cats and the new cat is sequestered in a room so as to not overwhelm him. He was so stressed the first couple of nights that he was literally panting. The vet prescribed gabapentin for all three cats to get us through this period (the other two know something’s up and are pretty anxious kitties themselves). I’m hoping this will bring everything down a notch or two for everybody. Can I ask what dose your kitties get? I know it’s all individual but am trying to find a balance between drooling sedation, which the initial dose produced, and not being calming enough.
Hi Meredith. I’m so glad you enjoy the article. Thank you for helping that poor kitty. He may improve after his dental … I’m sure he’s in pain. So for Lucy, my worst, she gets 100mg 2x a day. It doesn’t dope her up but helps her go from a 10 to a 6. If 100 is too strong, I would try 50 mg. Lucy has major issues and 50 doesn’t really do much for her. I have fostered smaller cats and 50 was perfect for them. I hope this helps. Please reach out any time. And as always, make sure you keep your vet in the loop. I can share my experiences but am not a vet, so just be sure your vet is aware of your plan and is okay with it. Thank you again for helping this precious cat. If you want some suggestions to help him become less fearful, I wrote an article How to Work with Shy and Scared Cats: https://lizskittybootcamp.com/2020/05/18/how-to-work-with-shy-and-scared-cats/
It’s takes you through a step by step process on how to help them, along with videos from two of my hardest foster cases. It may be stuff you already tried, but I wanted to share anyway.
Good luck and please keep me posted. I’d love an update, esp after he gets those teeth removed.
Thank you so much for your response! I’ve been reading your site since asking my question and found your articles on lucy and the cat exercise wheel fascinating– thank you for helping these poor kitties! I will try lessening the dose and he’s going back in for his recheck after neutering soon so can talk to the vet about our concerns.
Sounds like a great plan. These cats can be really complicated and meds are a nice way to lessen their anxiety so we can work with them. It’s my passion to help cats who are almost out of options because of behavior. So many are misunderstood. Feel free to also connect with me on IG @lizskittybootcamp or FB on my page https://Facebook.com/lizskittybootcamp too. I sometimes share tips and videos on there that might be helpful for you.
I wanted to share an update on this guy–he is doing SO much better. Every day he exhibits more housecat like behaviors–hiding in boxes, playing with toys, snuggling with humans. Especially now that our area is blanketed in snow, he seems delighted to have found a warm place of his own. He’s also getting along ok with our other two cats. They are all wary of each other, but so far no overt aggression or outbursts. (We still keep them separated when we’re not around.)
Our senior cat has been on a steady dose of gabapentin to help with arthritis pain and to help with possible neuropathic pain from having been declawed before we got him. He had litterbox “issues” for years and I believe I might(?) have read on your site that this could be connected to pain in the front paws. The gabapentin has really helped boost his appetite and mood. However, I notice that sometimes he has tic-like movements–his ears will twitch forward–that he didn’t before. He’s on a pretty low dose of gabapentin. Have you noticed tics in your kitties? I haven’t brought it up with the vet, mainly because he’s had a number of more pressing health issues lately. Just curious if you’ve experienced this.
I’m glad things are going well overall. Yes, any sort of pain can cause cats to have litter box issues, and declawed cats are 7-10x more likely to have litter box issues compares to nondeclawed cats. It’s believed it’s bc they have to modify their gait and they’re walking basically on their knuckle.
I have never noticed the ear tick. I would definitely mention it to the the vet when you have a chance. If possible, try to record it so the vet can see the exact motion.
Thanks, Liz–I’ll email our vet and let her know!
I would like to know if gabipentin will also help with excessive meowing. I have an 8 year old male who just won’t shut up. Right now I am working with him with rewarding him if he is quiet for short amounts of time and extending it slowly. Sometimes that works, other times he will get is treat and then go yowl in the other room for 10 minutes. His vet says that nothing is wrong with him. He has been on anatrypiptyline and that just sedated him so much all he did was stay under the bed. He would also get mildly aggressive toward my 10 year old female cat, for example if I didn’t get up in the morning at the time he wanted his treats and his breakfast, the he would go find her and bite her in the ass or sometimes on the neck because he knew that I would get up and yell at him. Now I will get up but I will make him wait for his breakfast and he doesn’t get any treats if he starts his crap with her. Both cats are considered my emotional support cats, but 3 different times I have almost have had to relinquish him, and I don’t really want to. So now when I go to bed sometimes he will bother my female cat, tonight I had my music on so I didn’t hear what he did, if he did anything. So now I have written my vet and asked her to consider gabipentin with my male cat. I just don’t know if I should give it to him all day or just at night. I am sure that I will find out when I talk to her tomorrow. I am also going to bring him in for blood tests if I have to just to make 100% sure that nothing is wrong with him. That just gets really expensive. So I am hoping that you can answer all my questions. I know that I have written a book but I am sick of having to deal with this, and it has been going on for a long time. Any and all advice would be welcome
Hi Jane. Thank you for commenting. I’m so sorry that you are dealing with this situation … It sounds very stressful. Some cats are more vocal than others, and some breeds tend to be more talkative too. It sounds like a lot of what he does is for attention. I don’t think he’s trying to be cruel to your other cat, but like you said, he knows he’ll get your attention if he does it. To answer your question, gabapentin could help him relax, so if the meowing is due to anxiety, it’s certain worth a shot (as long as your vet says it’s okay). If the morning is an issue, I’d probably give it to him before bed. Your vet can recommend the proper dose based on his weight, and if he seems a little doped, you can always decrease the dosage. Also, I would make sure you’re giving him some one on one attention. If he likes to play, do that, or if he likes to be pet/brushed, do that. Typically when they’re acting up, I recommend at least 30 min a day. And again as I keep saying, def follow your vet’s advice regarding any medications. I can speak from experience and offer suggestions and ideas but I’m not a vet. If your vet doesn’t recommend meds, you can always try a calming collar or pheromone spray. There’s also a supplement called Solliquin I’ve had some success with. It’s made by Nutramax Laboratories. So, if medicine doesn’t work, there are other options.
So glad I found this article and wish I’d done so uh, four years ago! My kitty started meowing almost non-stop but intermittently. Took her to the vet. No help just a huge bill. Got in a behaviorist who said she was mirroring my stresses which makes perfect sense. She kept it up, however. CBD oil useless and costly. Changed her diet. When my other cat died last month, poor anxious kitty just went into overdrive on the meowing. New vet prescribed gabapentin and voila! I can sleep again. Soon maybe even w/out the white noise machine. Your article helped flesh everything out. Thank you!
Hi Claire. Thank you so much for reading it, and I’m grateful it gave you some context. Also, I’m very sorry for your loss. I hope you are hanging in there. Sending you a virtual hug.
[…] Do you have an anxious and aggressive cat? The drug gabapentin can help your kitty relax, stay calm, and let their personality shine through. Read why this drug is a miracle for cats in this post. […]
Hello, I have read your article and the following comments with much interest. I took in a stray this summer, Maybelle, about 1-1/2 years old. I brought her into the house in August of this year. I have an elderly cat, Butterscotch who is used to being an only cat. I kept them completely separated for a couple weeks and then began to introduce them slowly. Maybelle is not what I would call anxious – she never hisses or bites and is quite affectionate but she is extremely vivacious, curious and loaded with bouncing off the wall energy, and, she is absolutely obsessed with Butterscotch who wants nothing to do with her. Maybelle is young, she wants to play, she charges Butterscotch but never really attacks her. Butterscotch will growl or hiss and Maybelle runs off but she comes back for more no matter how much we discourage it. She likes to follow Butterscotch and especially likes to corner her when she goes to use the litter box and I am concerned that Butterscotch is holding her urine our of fear of an encounter. My Vet put Maybelle on Zylkene which is a mild anti-anxiety medication and although I have noticed some slight tolerance of Maybelle on behalf of Butterscotch, I can’t say I am seeing any difference in Maybelle. My Vet has suggested we supplement the Zylkene we are giving Maybelle with either Prozac or Gabapentin. His opinion is if the Zylkene alone was working it would have helped by now. I am on the fence and wonder if I should just give the two cats more time together and see if any behavioral improvement is forthcoming, thinking perhaps they are still just getting used to being in the same house together since it’s only been about 3 months now. I know you are not a Vet and can’t really chime in with medical advice but I would be very curious what your thoughts are given that my situation seems to be different than yours in that Maybelle really isn’t acting shy, frightened or mean – the only way I can describe it is that she has a very intense, obsessive, get in your face curiosity about Butterscotch who does not care to be her friend and she doesn’t seem get that message so she is very persistent. Your thoughts? Thank you so much for your article and your time.
Hi GG. What you’re describing sounds like typical behavior for an energetic cat. Although on the surface it doesn’t sound like an issue, blocking Butterscotch’s access to the litter box IS a problem. You could certainly try Gabapentin and see what happens. Side effects are very minimal, so as long as your vet is okay with it, it’s worth a shot. I also don’t know Butterscotch’s situation, but there is always the option to medicate him instead and hope that it relaxes him. Again, I don’t know all the details so hard to say, but Gabapentin is worth trying, in my opinion. Also, I would make sure you have 2-3 litter boxes so Butterscotch has options where he won’t be cornered.
I’m so happy I found this article. My sweet girl Franny has Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome (FHS). Until recently, her really bad episodes were fairly few and far between, and more mild. Now they are coming more frequently, lasting longer, and with more severe symptoms. I read about Gabapentin in a Facebook group for FHS cat parents and had the reaction you described… a little judgy, and I was afraid the medicine would change her personality too much. I got some from the vet last week, not for regular dosage but to treat her episodes. But she’s had a really bad week (I don’t think the dosage was high enough – 25 mg), which changes her personality also. So I’ve been researching every available option… a different diet, pheromone diffusers, an antioxidant enzyme formula… to try to treat her without medication, but you’ve helped convince me that Gabapentin is a safe, and kind option. I just want my sweet and silly girl back. Thank you for convincing me!
I’m so sorry to hear about Franny’s episodes. As long as your vet is okay trying gabapentin, it’s definitely worth it bc the side effects are so mild. More studies need to be done on long-term side effects, but so far, nothing significant has been found.
I’d also like to recommend acupuncture. My cat Lucy improves significantly with a combo of gaba and acupuncture. You could look into that too.
I’m glad my article at least helped you feel more comfortable trying gabapentin. You are trying to do what’s best for your cat, and just like people, sometimes medication helps them manage chronic issues. Good luck and thank you for commenting.
Thank you, Liz. I’ve considered acupuncture, but don’t want to add the stress of car rides and visits to a strange place. Also, the only local clinic that offers it is not taking new patients now, due to COVID. I did buy a book to learn how to give her massage and use some acupressure at home. Also added pheromone diffusers, flower essence, and calming chews. Also trying to transition her to grain-free food in hopes of reducing inflammation. Leaving now to pick up her Gabapentin to start a daily regimen! :0)
[…] Lucy’s won’t change. Maturity occurs around 2-3 years, so the brain is what it is. I do still work with her, using positive reinforcement to help combat her nearly constant anxiety, and Lucy needs medicine to help with her anxiety and pain. Her progress has been possible because of medication, specifically Gabapentin for pain and anxiety. […]
[…] medicine and non-traditional options to help your cat. To learn more, read my articles on Gabapentin and […]
[…] Kitty anxious at the vet? Consider asking your vet to prescribe Gabapentin for next time. Here’… […]
Hi Liz, thank you so much for your article. I have a lovely but inmensely curious 3 year old cat who is literally obsessed about going out. I know about and prefer the safety of keeping cats inside, but Pulpo is just obsessed about leaving and exploring all around. I have other 2 female cats who are calm and happy inside. But Pulpo, if not let outside when he wants he starts peeing all around on the carpet. It has been so hard, we have tried with feromones, with vitamin b treats, cbd, toys, catifying the house, he had blood tests to check on his thyroid levels, he got his penis spikes checked to confirm he was properly neutered. It has been quite a ride and we have done all we can to keep him safe and happy. He just wants to be an outside cat, and that went on for a few weeks until today he had a fight through a glass with my neighbor’s cat. It was so unpleasant and the neighbor is of course mad at me for letting him roam around. I am really so overwhelmed and sad with this situation. We really have tried everything, and I wonder if there is any piece of advice you could give me. We really love him so much but we are also desperate by his behaviour. Thank you 🙁
It sounds like it’s been so challenging, and I’m sorry for what you’ve experienced. He definitely sounds like a young, excited 3-year-old boy. As long as you accept the risks, I don’t see an issue with letting him be outside or indoor/outdoor. I understand your neighbor was upset, and if you think that could be an ongoing issue, there are certain deterrents that can be put outside or near her house to keep cats and other animals away (I doubt he’s the only cat outside where you live). Another option is to take him out supervised in stints, like on a leash, so he can be outside but isn’t left to his own devices. I take one of my cats, Lucy, to the park for walks and she loves it. She also has her own cat wheel in her room that she walks and runs on throughout the day. (I wrote an article on cat wheels – feel free to check it out). The last, and most extreme option, is to find place where he can work, like a farm, where he can just live outside all the time. Rescues and shelters often have working cat programs and they may be able to help you.
If you want to keep him inside, I do think he will struggle (given how unhappy he sounds being confined). Gabapentin could certainly be an option, along with SSRIs (Prozac is the most common one they prescribe), and even acupuncture. He will probably need at least 1 hour of solid playtime a day. Sometimes they need even more if they have that much energy. I know you’ve been playing with him and catifying the house, but the cat wheel I mentioned above could help b/c it’s something he could sprint on whenever he feels the need. There is a training period, but as long as he will eat treats and/or go after a toy, he should pick it up quickly.
Lastly, you could consult a behaviorist who can assess him more thoroughly and make recommendations. They might have additional suggestions.
I hope some of this is helpful. It sounds like you love him very much and want him to enjoy is life. Thank you for reaching out to me, and I’m sorry there’s no easy answer.
Perfect solution is to make a catio for him! It’s honestly the best thing we have ever done, the best of both worlds for the cats.
We have made two. One is 3″ deep by 10″ wide 8″ tall, fits over a door that exits a bedroom at our daughters house. The next was one we got very carried away with lol, it’s 26x16x12 tall and has a climbing tower and decks. We can go inside and that’s really nice, cats love us to visit with them. You can make an enclosed pathway so they can go back and forth from your home as they wish.
They learn they are safe. There are many ideas online. Just don’t use chicken wire, it can hurt the cats toes if they climb. We used black deer fencing. It’s more see through, and super strong, coated and will last 20 years. Also if you use treated wood, cover it with other wood, treated wood has chemicles.
There are so many designs and ways and sizes, you can make one very simple. Just go as big as you can from the start, I had made two others with 2 connected sets of 3ft high metal pet enclosures and a wire top, they loved it. You can use a dog run. Just dont use a tarp top, they can squeeze out, and make sure there are no gaps that a cat could squeeze a head through. Some don’t use covers at but cats can climb and leap, and predators can get in.
They are very fun to make, hint, make a big door! Be creative, we have ramps and sitting places. Rocks and stumps to sit on, a very large flat rock that the sun warms and the cats love to roll around on. Big tree branches to walk and scratch on, beds, chairs, a cat house in which to hide if they do get scared. We still have to make a walkway to the house.
Your cats will love it, they can go out when they want and you always know where they are. We put ours close to the house, nice to see them from the windows. You’ll have no more worries 🙂
Great idea, Robbi!!! I love it.
The cat wheel took a few weeks to train each cat. The only cat that didn’t take to it was my oldest at the time. Once they realized they’d get treats when using it, they started using it more often.
Re: gabapentin, talk to your vet about the best dosage but so far there doesn’t seem to be anything concerning long-term. I think it’s a great drug that can help, and I agree, it’s one of the drugs we can feel better about using bc the side effects are so minimal.
[…] Does gabapentin really work as an anti-anxiety med for cats that have to move? Read my last post. […]
Hi Liz, we have two 10 year old cats (Ranger and Bandit) who have always been a little anxious/stressed. We have a large house and enclosed cat run are which they can access through two cat doors at different points from the house. They get along fine with us, not so much with each other, they each have their favourite spots and they never actually fight.
One week ago we did the slightly crazy thing and got a puppy. Maxi is nearly 9 weeks old now and has only been with us for less than a week. My problem is that both cats have gone into hiding completely. They come out for food, but are very wary. Ranger is ok sitting on a ledge watching for a short time, but Bandit runs away with her belly low to the ground.
My vet prescribed 100mg gabapentin twice a day for both of them. I am so upset at the thought of the “drunkenness and ataxia “ they might experience. When you said the side effects are short lived, does this mean they will eventually stop? Or will they experience them each time I dose them?
Thanks so much, from a worried cat lover.
Hi Nella. If your cat has those symptoms, it typically only lasts a few hours. In my experience, the first time they ever have it, they seem most affected, but I’ve honestly only see “drunkenness” one time and that was in a skinny super senior. Still it’s short lived and doesn’t hurt them. The goal is to lower their anxiety level and relax them. It sounds like your cats are very fearful, and I think gabapentin is a good drug to try first. If you give it to them and you don’t like how they act, you don’t have to give it to them again. But it really is a drug with mild side effects and definitely one that is a great one to start with. My cats who takes it (1 foster and 1 resident) are just more relaxed. No other side effects. I hope this is helpful. It’s really a great drug to try bc the side effects, if there are any, are mild and wear off fairly quickly.
[…] AnimalBiome also encouraged me to schedule a call to review the results. The consultant, Heaather, outlined the concerning parts of Lucy’s results, including lack of diversity and even a bacteria they had never seen before … only Lucy. […]
Thank you so much for this article! I have an aggressive rescue cat who is known to attack and bite and draw blood out of nowhere. Sent my father in law to the Dr for antibiotics! He had also been declawed previously before we rescued him so his vet thinks that may have something to do with his aggression. We give him gabapentin before vet visits but she’s suggesting it for daily use to help his aggression. I was searching articles about this subject and found yours. We were worried about long term use but this article helps ease my mind. Thank you!
Hi Lori. You’re welcome! To this point, there aren’t any known serious side effects to long-term use. I also like to remind people the the stress that comes with anxiety is very hard on the cat, and many of these cats suffer from GI issues. Minimizing stress helps them in so many ways. As long as your vet is on board, it’s such a fantastic drug to use for aggression. Good luck!
Great information, so many cats suffer from anxiety and my cat is one. He was also diagnosed with Hyperethemia, always feels like his skin is burning or itching him. Poor kitty. I started my cat on Gabapentin but I can NOT, absolutely not get this cat to eat it. I have tried it in his wet food, I boiled chicken for him and put the capsule in the juice, I cooked large shrimp and put Gabaptentin in that. He is not having it, I sprinkled Forte Flora on top, nothing. I don’t know what else to do. I opened a capsule and tasted it…it’s horrible bitter, nasty. I just don’t know what would cut that flavor. I hate to force it in his mouth with syringe. Ugh. Any ideas?
Hello! I highly recommend investing in a pill shooter. That’s how I administer. If that doesn’t work, you could ask your vet to put you in contact with a compound pharmacy. They can compound meds to make it taste like something else.
Thank you so very much for writing this. My vet has prescribed a low dose of gabapentin for my cat who became aggressive when we got a new kitten a few months ago.. Despite introducing slowly, using pheromones and probiotics, she is clearly stressed. That stress comes out as aggression towards everyone. We are hoping that gabapentin helps our girl be herself again.
I’m sorry your kitty is so stressed. Definitely work with your vet to up the dose if it doesn’t seem like it’s helping. Another thing I try to do is keep things routine and predictable with stressed kitties. It helps them feel safe. Another recommendation I often give is counterconditioning, where you work over time to replace the bad reaction with something good through rewards. It takes time but can be effective. I haven’t written an article on it, but if you Google “counterconditioning cats” you should find articles on how to do it. Good luck! Also, I have a foster right now who I named Elise:-) She is 16 and waiting for her forever home. Made me smile when I saw your name. If you want to see her, you can look at my IG @lizskittybootcamp . She only had one tooth but is healthy and such a doll. Just wants to snuggle and knead and purr.
Hi, I have a 2 year old cat who won’t let me near him to pet or touch, much less get into a carrier/crate or properly groom him or pill him. I’ve had him for a year and I don’t know what his life was like beforehand to know if he was actually abused or just not socialized very well because he’s not scared by loud noises or anything except people. He’s very well behaved otherwise and not aggressive at all. We’re making very slow improvements and I’m now able to walk close by him occasionally without him skittering off in panic.
However I recently tried him on gabapentin before a planned vet visit and he was very calm until he realized I was trying to get him in his carrier and then went into absolute feral mode. Do you think he’s a candidate for daily gaba or should I explore a different daily anti anxiety?
Thank you in advance!
Hello. I’m not a vet, so I would talk to your vet, but as long as he doesn’t have late stage kidney disease, I would think he’s a candidate. Your vet can advise you on proper dosage
I love this article! My kitty Mishka is 7 we adopted her when she was 4. She was abused priorly and so so scared and anxious. We’ve tried a lot of things diffusers, cbd oil, nature’s rescue remedy, etc. This last week we had to take her to the ER vet hospital in NJ near us, and she has pancreatitis they put her on gabapentin more for the pain and she’s so calm, a bit too sleepy but that’ s understandable as she is getting 100 mgms a day and she’s only 7.5 lbs along with other medications for her pancreatitis. I would love to get her on a maintenance dose, but she is having really liquid to soft diathermia and not sure what it is from this is even with Metronidazole, taking a stool sample to the vet today and they are giving us something extra for this. But she is so calm now and seems happier despite even having the pancreatitis , she does not look fearful anymore she used to get so anxious she would spin in circles and try to bite her own tail and growl.
I’m sorry about the pancreatitis but I’m so glad the gabapentin is helping. You could for sure put Mishka on a maintenance dose as long as your vet is okay with it. Given her size, if expect a dose of 50mg might work. The diarrhea could be from antibiotics if they gave her any or just stress from being at the hospital or possibly if they gave her diff food. Anxious cats often have GI issues (like people), so you may want to ask your vet about that too, though based on the timing it might be related to the pancreatitis. The circle spinning and tail biting sounds like hyperesthesia, and the treatment for that is usually gabapentin or Prozac or both, so it makes sense the gabapentin would help. Keep me posted on everything. Glad you enjoyed the article.
Thank you so so much for the information on Gabapentin… I will talk to our vet and ask for the starting dosage for out Delfina whom I believe might need on a regular basis. It is truly a relief to learn there might be a way for her to be more relaxed and enjoy more of what she loves and until now can only enjoy at certain times due to her extreme anxiety. My baby is such a sweetheart, but her anxiety is overwhelming and it is not roght she can only feel safe and relaxed with me, when there are so many that love her and want to show her that… And I know she would love that as well.
This is great news. Once again Thank you 💙
You’re welcome! Poor Delfina. I hope the medicine goes her some relief. Keep me posted.
Hi! Thanks for writing this and describing how the cats react to Gabapentin! We got a prescription from the vet for our cat’s next return visit. I’m planning to give it to her when we move next week and she’ll have to take the 20 min car ride with us. I’m curious about something though and would love to hear what you think. I’ve been thinking about taking her to a groomer for a bath and a sanitary trim. She recently had fleas even though she’s an indoor cat. She’s also a tripod and had to have her right hind leg amputated before we adopted her. So when she comes out of the litter box, her bum fur would usually be wet or sometimes even have some bits hanging. Probably due to her missing leg, she can’t squat as well as if she had complete limbs. Anyway, should I group these two events together with one Gabapentin dose – moving and grooming? Or would that be too stressful, even with Gabapentin? Do they develop trauma from those kinds of anxiety-causing events even when medicated? Thank you so much!
Hi Ara. I think gabapentin works great for both events, but I would not do them on the same day. Although the gab will help her, I just think two stressful events like that will be a bit difficult. I would ask the vet for a few doses and do the grooming and vet appt on different days. Hope that helps.
I gave my cat ONE dose of gabapentin for a long 14 hour car ride. It’s 4 days later and it seems like it’s changed his personality completely. He had been in a home with constant abuse going on between the husband and wife. Two of the cats got out of the house and became neighborhood strays. We eventually took them in. Little Gray had been terrified of anything and everything coming and going. After 2 years with us, he finally started coming out of his shell and trusting us a little. He would hide under the bed all day, but he would “sneak” into bed with us. All that changed about 4 days ago. We gave the gabapentin for the card ride, and now it’s like he’s not afraid of anything anymore. He’s laying on the couch with us, climbing in bed with us, and begging to be petted. I’m beyond thrilled. I’m wondering how this happened with just one dose. As I was researching it, I came upon your article. I’d be very interested to know if you’ve heard of this happening before. I guess time will tell if it’s a permanent change or just temporary.
I haven’t heard of such a drastic change from one dose before, but I can offer a possible guess. Sometimes they are close to trusting us more, and the gabapentin can relax them enough to fill trust. It’s possible Little Gray just needed a push, which the gabapentin gave him, to allow himself to trust. Once he realized there isn’t any danger, his brain learned that fact, so he now trusts. That’s my best guess. Congratulations on this breakthrough ❤️
Hi!! I am having a very similar situation as Jennifer, I adopted a cat that lived in difficult /traumatic conditions (a year ago). and she has made a lot of progress, but still she cant get over her fear. It makes me so sad to see her shaking every time I try to pet her, and so terrified when we walk around de house. as Jennifer describes, I feel that my “Bella” just needs a little push. my question is, can I use gabapentin for a month or so?, and if yes, how do I suspend it? I truly appreciate your advice. as some ones said on the comments there is not a lot of information about the long term use of this drug.
Talk with your vet, but giving your cat gabapentin for a month should be ok. After that month, I would recommend decreasing the amount over a week or so. You don’t have to taper if you don’t want to, but it’s not a bad idea to do so. I’m sorry for what Bella is experiencing but am so glad she has you. It can take months or even years to undo damage from neglect or abuse. I find gabapentin can definitely give them a little push. Good luck.
Great info. Just wanted to add, my elderly cat did have a reaction to gabaP in the first 8 days of treatment where his hind legs were like jello – very uncoordinated and weak. The vet said this would go away in a week and she was right. During that time I put his food, water and litter box in a room with the cat so he had easy access and was not wandering near stairs. After the first week this medication has been amazing for his arthritis / limping. I give him pumpkin purée to deal with any constipation.
I’m so glad it helps your cat. It is fantastic for pain management.
Thanks for this article. I really appreciate how much time and care you put into writing it! I don’t know if I am relieved or more conflicted though lol! My vet also just prescribed gabapentin for my kitty for an upcoming dental cleaning. I stumbled across this article when I was researching the short and long term effects of it on cats, because honestly, I am terrified to give it to him. He’s extremely sensitive to most medications and every time I try something new, he gets extremely sick from it. Usually we skip the pre-induction drugs at the vet for dental cleanings (the ketamine etc) and just go straight to the isoflurane gas because the sedatives make him sick for weeks, but there’s a new vet that’s insisting on giving him pre-induction meds because there’s too many risks associated with only using just the gas (which I fully understand and I only want to do what’s best and safest for my cat of course). The old vet never cared one way or the other, but he was pretty old school. This new one I think is more up to date on veterinary medicine…. She says the gabapentin will help him get through the pre-induction sedation better but I am still not totally convinced because of his past experience with sedatives. He’s just such a sensitive guy…. On top of that, she wants me to give him the gabapentin for 3 days leading up to the visit, and then one on the morning of. But my cat isn’t actually that anxious. He gets a little bit nervous on car rides (like most cats) but not overly so. He’s actually a cool, confident, and friendly guy. It’s making me scared and uncomfortable thinking of drugging him for several days prior to the visit when he already doesn’t do well on meds, and he isn’t even an anxious cat. I already told my vet all of this but she’s insisting on the gabapentin. I feel like there’s no arguing with her. And I know as an owner he’s my cat and it’s ultimately my choice but he also suffers from bad teeth so not getting a dental is also not an option… (oh also before anyone goes and recommends a second opinion or a different vet, I live in a really rural area and she’s the only vet within 140 miles of me). Anyway…. I don’t know… your article makes it sound safe and like it helps, which brings some peace of mind. And from the other research I’ve done, it seems like this is becoming pretty main stream in the veterinary world as well, and most (if not all) veterinarians consider it safe practice. But I just don’t know if it’s right for my cat. I don’t want him to be stressed before his dental, especially if that means he will have more of a negative reaction to the ketamine. But are more drugs really the answer in a cat that already doesn’t do well with drugs and that isn’t even anxious to begin with? (That’s rhetorical) Anyway…. lots to think about. Gabapentin still scares the heck out of me… at least for my cat.
Thanks for reaching out. It is very common to give a cat gabapentin before a surgery. It really just helps relax them a bit. It is more used to decrease pain and help with anxiety but it isn’t at the level of a sefaative they use to put them to sleep. Just know there are no long term side effects. If it’s too strong of a dose it’s out of their system in 12 hrs, and they should be normal. However, I always tell people that they shouldn’t do anything they are uncomfortable with. If you don’t feel comfortable, then don’t do it. It is by no means a hardcore drug, and your vet is recommending it just to help, but if you are strongly against it, then don’t use it.
After reading this article and skimming through all the comments, I wanted to throw my issue into the pool — my male kitten is barely 6mo old and has started having episodes of FIC (feline idiopathic cystitis), which means howling in the litter box, having trouble peeing or peeing in weird places. As far as anyone can tell me, his body reacts to stress hormones by inflaming his bladder, forming crystals which are painful for a male cat’s narrow urethra. He came from a loving breeder home and his personality so far is a little skittish, but he doesn’t seem like an excessively stressed cat (we don’t have kids or any other pets at home). He DOES seem to need constant enrichment/play. Vet prescribed low-dose gaba twice a day and it works really well, but as soon as I try weaning him off it by replacing it with CBD, his symptoms return. I feel really icky about keeping such a young cat on daily medication without knowing the long-term effects. Your article was a little reassuring though. I can only hope he grows out of the FIC and we don’t have to keep him on gaba for life…
Thanks for your comment. Although he doesn’t seem stressed, FIC is associated with stress. Given he’s so young and came from a breeder (meaning less genetic diversity) I would say a possible hypothesis is that it’s genetic. There are so many things that can cause the brain/body to react more drastically to stress. Of all the medication out there, gaba is a very mild one and there are to date no bad long-term side effects. It’s most important that you keep him calm and comfortable to keep the FIC under control. I personally wouldn’t hesitate to give it to him if it works. There isn’t a lot of proof that CBD does much for cats, so I’m not surprised it didn’t work for him. Good luck and know you’re definitely doing right by him!
I am so glad i found you. I took a stray cat in 6 years ago. God knows where she came from poor thing. I call her Rosie, she is a little beauty and so gentle. She has been an over groomer for more years than i can remember. and she has at least 2 water infections a year. I have tried everything. Recently i had to take Rosie to the vet as she is over grooming so much she is going bald. The vet has give me some Gabapentin to try and although it is only a few days she does seem a lot more relaxed. She is 13 and i am hoping that her later years can be more relaxed for her. (Have read so much positive reports about Gabapentin, so hoping this will help)
Hi Julie! So kind of you to help her. It’s a fantastic drug and should for sure help her relax and feel calmer. Keep up the great work!💪
Hi! I am, like others here, glad to have found this and the comments from others! My 4 year old has FIC and gabapentin has been the saving grace. I give him 50mg twice a day and he’s much happier. I don’t have anything that should stress him out at home but he is an anxious cat. When i adopted him he was in the quiet room
So i should have known! He is a sweet boy but has aggressive tendencies and has pain when urinating. The gabapentin helps him relax overall and can urinate comfortably. He still wants to play and still has his personality. I too felt bad about dosing him but now understand it helps him feel normal.
Thanks for sharing, Maggie. It really is a fabulous drug that helps destress a lot of kitties (and, in turn, their owners😉). So happy hour boy is doing better. Some cats have anxiety due to genetics … Maybe he’s one of those.
[…] cat. Talk directly with a compound pharmacy to see what options they have. I currently have 100 mg gabapentin compounded into chicken-flavored chews. One of my friends is a vet, and she’s had luck with […]
My cat just started gabapentin for aggressive behavior. How long was it before you noticed a change in behavior?
Hi Amy. It starts working within 2-3 hours. If you don’t notice any difference, you can talk to your vet to see if it makes sense to increase the dosage.
[…] medication to help them relax and sleep through the night. Especially for seniors, a low dose of gabapentin can be beneficial. Administer 2-2.5 hours before bed, and you should both have a more solid night […]
Hi ! I have an 11 month old cat that my vet can’t even figure out- maybe you can help!
So when I got him he was filled with worms. And had so much diarrhoea so we treated him for the worms in the diarrhoea would not go away.. he was in put on a medication for that and a special food . He became terrified of going to the bathroom. ( pooping) so every time now he has to go to the bathroom he wails and wails for hours beforehand. He also started having episodes of a feline hyperestesia syndrome.
So he is now on gabapentin and the food for his stomach for the diarrhea. We are thinking he has gastrointestinal issues.
So my question is all night long he paces and runs room to room won’t let anyone touch him, and he cries so bad . He sleeps during the day cries all night and is okay in the morning but back to crying and acting funny at about 4 PM . And he jumps to loud noises ? Nobody can figure it out as to why he’s doing this . Could this be anxiety or depression Or maybe he’s in pain?? we can’t figure it out. He also wags his tail back-and-forth so hard all day long?? Maybe more gabapentin? He’s only on 50mg. If he has anxiety would a higher dose work ?
What a complicated boy! It’s hard to say what’s going on without seeing it but certainly possible that being sick so badly when he was young changed some pathways in his brain and he’s hyper sensitive. Ask your vet, but should be able to give him a higher dose of the gabapentin. I would also recommend asking the vet about adding an SSRI like Prozac. This doesn’t just sound like behavior to me, and it’s likely more physiological
[…] Paxil, but Lucy didn’t respond well to them – they made her worse. We settled on giving her gabapentin 2x daily (and have since gotten down to 1x), and I focused on creating an environment that would […]