To evaluate the impact of daily gabapentin on behavior modification progression and signs of stress in fearful shelter cats from hoarding environments.
37 cats (32 met inclusion criteria).
Healthy fearful cats were entered into group (1) gabapentin or (2) placebo upon intake. Both groups received daily behavior modification. Cats received 10 mg/kg of liquid gabapentin or placebo every 12 hours. Daily measures of cat stress score, latency to emerge from hiding, general in-shelter behavior, and urine suppression were collected. Results were analyzed on an intention-to-treat and per-protocol basis (including only cats that received > 75% of their doses). Post-adoption surveys assessed cat social behavior.
Of 32 fearful cats, 28 (87.5%) graduated from the behavior modification program in a median of 11 days (range, 4 to 51 days). Per-protocol analysis showed that gabapentin predicted quicker behavior modification progression and lower cat stress score, latency to emerge, and urine suppression compared to placebo. Median time to graduation was reduced by half with gabapentin. Intention-to-treat analysis showed that gabapentin predicted a lower cat stress score and latency to emerge. No differences were observed between groups for general in-shelter behavior. Among limited survey respondents (n = 7), despite showing unsocial behavior in the first week and among unfamiliar people, cats showed social behavior 1 year post-adoption.
Daily gabapentin was beneficial in behavior modification progress and reduced signs of stress in shelter cats. Fearful cats from hoarding environments can be successfully treated with behavior modification ± daily gabapentin within an animal shelter.
ANIMALS 20 healthy pet cats with a history of fractious behavior or signs of stress during veterinary examination.
PROCEDURES Cats were scheduled for 2 veterinary visits 1 week apart and randomly assigned to receive a capsule containing 100 mg of gabapentin (13.0 to 29.4 mg/kg [5.9 to 13.4 mg/lb]) or placebo (lactose powder) prior to the first visit and the opposite treatment prior to the second visit. Owners were instructed to administer the assigned capsule orally 90 minutes prior to placing the cat into a carrier and transporting it to the veterinary hospital. Standardized physical examinations and blood pressure readings were performed. Owners assigned a cat stress score during transportation and examination, and the veterinarian assigned a compliance score at the visit. Scores were compared between treatments, controlling for various factors.
RESULTS Owner-assessed cat stress scores during transportation and veterinary examination and veterinarian-assessed compliance scores were significantly lower when cats received gabapentin than when they received the placebo. Sedation was a common effect of gabapentin administration, and ataxia, hypersalivation, and vomiting were also reported. All effects resolved within 8 hours after gabapentin administration.
CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE Owners' perception of stress in their cats is a primary reason for failing to seek veterinary care. Results of this study suggested that gabapentin is a safe and effective treatment for cats to help reduce stress and aggression and increase compliance for transportation and veterinary examination.