Reviewed and Updated: James Davis, PharmD - November 8th 2022
If you are considering medication for your cat's aggression, they are most likely out of control. You have probably tried everything from behavior training to pheromones. You would do anything to bring back balance to your home and do not even want to consider giving up your furry friend.
But is medication the answer?
This blog answers questions on medicating aggressive cats. It answers the crucial questions: what medication does, how medications are used for aggression in cats, and their side effects.
Table Of Contents
- Benzodiazepines for Cats
- Benzodiazepine Side Effects in Cats
- Benzodiazepine Toxicity in Cats
- Lethal Dose of Benzodiazepine
- Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOI) for Cats
- Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors Side Effects in Cats
- Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors Toxicity
- Lethal Dose of MAOI
- Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs) for Cats
- Tricyclic Antidepressants Side Effects in Cats
- Tricyclic Antidepressants Toxicity
- Lethal Dose of TCAs
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) for Cats
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors Side Effects for Cats
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors Toxicity
- Lethal Dose of SSRIs
- Natural Aggression Remedies Cats
Benzodiazepines for Cats
Benzodiazepine Side Effects in Cats
Below is an in-depth table of Benzodiazepines, dosages, and side effects.
|Medicine||Dosage||Common Side Effects||Severe Side Effects|
|Alprazolam (Xanax)||0.125-0.25 mg per cat, every 8 to 24 hours||Clumsiness, Diarrhea, Gas, Increased Appetite, Sedation, Vomiting||Breathing Problems, Facial Swelling, Hives, Seizure, Sudden Diarrhea|
|Clonazepam (Klonopin, Rivotril)||0.05–0.2 mg/kg, one to three times/day||Drooling, Incoordination, Excitement, Sleepiness||Sudden Liver Damage (may appear as diarrhea, yellowing of the skin, eyes, or gums, lack of appetite)|
|Diazepam (Valium, Ducene, Antenex)||0.2–1 mg/kg, three times a day or as needed||Aggression, Agitation, Drooling, Increased Appetite, Incoordination, Weakness, Sleepiness||hepatic necrosis, Lack of Appetite, Severe Lethargy, Steady Vomiting, Yellowing of the Skin Gums, and Eyes|
|Lorazepam (Ativan)||0.025–0.08 mg/kg, one to two times/day||Aggressive Behavior, Anxiety, Drooling, Increased Appetite, Increased Activity, Sleepiness||Depression, Lack of Appetite, Yellowing of the Skin, Gums, or Eyes|
Benzodiazepine Toxicity in Cats
These are the overdose signs to watch for if your cat overdoses on benzodiazepines:
- Lack of coordination (ataxia)
- Severe sedation
- Muscle tremors
Lethal Dose of Benzodiazepine
Cats that consume a lethal dose of benzodiazepines may suffer from airway collapse and need intubation. If you suspect your cat has taken benzodiazepines they have not been prescribed, or if they've taken more than they should, call your veterinarian or take them to your vet immediately.
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOI) for Cats
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors Side Effects in Cats
Common side effects of MAOIs are associated with stomach issues like diarrhea, lack of appetite, sedation, and vomiting.
Severe side effects of MAOis in cats are deafness and high serotonin levels if taken in combination with certain foods and medications - see the list linked above.
Here is a deeper dive into the MAOi selegiline, including dosage and side effects.
|Medicine||Dosage||Common Side Effects||Sever Side Effects|
|Selegiline (Anipryl, Eldepryl, l-deprenyl, Selgian, Zelapar)||0.5–1 mg/kg/day (in morning)||Aggression, Confusion, Diarrhea, Drooling, Itching, Tiredness||Deafness, Panting|
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOI) Toxicity
The overdose signs from MAOIs include:
You must be aware of interactions between foods and drugs with MAOIs.
A common dangerous combination is combining an MAOIs like selegiline with an SSRI like Prozac. This combination can cause serotonin levels to become too high, which can be deadly.
You should always tell your veterinarian all the medications your cat is taking, especially if they see more than one veterinarian or you change veterinarians.
Lethal Dose of MAOi
The lethal dose of MAOis for dogs and cats is not published, but the toxic human amount is reported to be 4-6 mg/kg. Always follow the directions of your veterinarian when dosing your cat with MAOis.
Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs) for Cats
Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) are used to treat compulsive behavior problems in cats. These can include excessive grooming, reacting negatively to other cats in the household, and anxiety problems.
TCAs work by increasing the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin: both are involved in regulating emotional reactions.
Tricyclic Antidepressants Side Effects in Cats
Tricyclic Antidepressants for cats' side effects include:
- Blurred vision
- Dry mouth
- Elevated liver enzymes
- Low blood pressure
- Weight gain or weight loss
Severe side effects include:
- Abnormal bleeding
- Irregular heartbeat (fast)
Below are some TCAs, dosages, and common and severe side effects.
|Medicines||Dosage||Common Side Effects||Severe Side Effects|
|Amitriptylinoxide (Amioxid, Ambivalon, Equilibrin)||0.5–2 mg/kg/day||Constipation, Drowsiness, Dry Mouth, Sedation, Urinary Retention||Decreased Blood Cell Counts, Diarrhea, Vomiting|
|Clomipramine (Anafranil/Clomicalm)||0.25–1 mg/kg/day||Confusion, Diarrhea, Increased Thirst Vomiting||Convulsions, Elevated Liver Enzymes, Increased Heart Rate|
|Doxepin (Silenor)||0.5–1 mg/kg, one to two times/day||Constipation Decreased Appetite, Diarrhea, Dry Mouth, Straining to Urinate, Vomiting||Abnormal Bleeding, Abnormal Heartbeat, Collapse, Coma, Fever, Seizures|
|Imipramine (Tofranil)||0.5–1 mg/kg, one to two times/day||Constipation, Diarrhea, Dry Mouth, Sleepiness||Bleeding, Collapse, Fast Heartbeat, Fever, Shaking, Seizures|
Tricyclic Antidepressants Toxicity
Many pets have accidentally ingested TCAs. In four years, in the early '90s, over 450 cases of this happening were reported to the IAPIC.
At least 7% of the animals that displayed toxicosis eventually died. Overdoses of TCAs negatively affect the cardiovascular, parasympathetic, and central nervous systems.
Lethal Dose of TCAs
Animals that eat a lot of this drug (more than 15 mg/kg) may die within 1 or 2 hours if they do not get the proper treatment. If you suspect your cat has gotten into your prescription medications, or if they get more of their medications than the vet prescribed, call your vet or take them to be seen immediately.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) for Cats
SSRIs are drugs that are used to treat depression in people and pets. They work by increasing the level of serotonin in the brain. Side effects are generally mild.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors Side Effects for Cats
SSRI side effects in cats may show in changes in behavior, such as:
- Lack of appetite
- Changes in sleep
Severe side effects of SSRIs are:
- Serotonin syndrome
- Excessive vomiting
Below is a deeper view of a few different types of SSRI medicines.
|Medicines||Dosage||Common Side Effects||Severe Side Effects|
|Prozac (Fluoxetine)||0.5–1.5 mg/kg/day||Diarrhea, Hypersalivation, Incoordination, Panting, Shaking, Vomiting||Aggression, Behavior Changes, Excessive Vomiting, Seizures|
|Paroxetine (Paxil, Brisdelle)||0.25–1 mg/kg/day||Constipation, Diarrhea, Difficulty Urinating, Muscle Twitches, Panting||Aggressive Behavior, Over Excitement, Persistent Lack of Appetite|
|Sertraline (Zoloft)||0.5–1.5 mg/kg/day||Agitation, Diarrhea, Dry Skin, Itchiness, Vomiting||Abnormal Blood Pressure, Aggression, Coma, High Body Temperature, Seizures|
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors Toxicity
Some common symptoms of SSRI toxicity are:
- Intestinal problems (like diarrhea)
- Excessive drooling
- Abnormally high body temperature
Lethal Dose of SSRIs
If your cat takes a lethal dose of SSRIs, the effects include:
- High blood pressure
- Serotonin syndrome
The lethal dose of Fluoxetine is 50mg/kg.
Natural Aggression Remedies Cats
You are probably looking at all the side effects and wondering if there are natural alternatives. Fortunately, there are options you can choose that have fewer and milder side effects.
- Herbs – There are many different types of herbs. Some common forms are tinctures, dried flowers or leaves, essential oils, and teas. However, it is important to note that you should never use essential oils on cats because they can harm their liver. Some cat calming herbs are Catnip, Chamomile, Hops, and Valerian.
- Behavior Modification – Through observation, patience, and practice, you now have a good idea of what is causing your cat's aggression. If your cat plays aggressively, you can redirect their attention to stuffed animals or toys. If your cats are not getting along, you can separate them. If fear aggression kicks in when noises or actions around the house startle or scare a cat, you can try to stop or lessen the impact those activities have on the cat.
- CBD for Cats - CBD may be helpful for cats because it can calm them down, relieve stress and anxiety, and reduce pain and inflammation. Veterinarians and pet owners often consider CBD for cats because of its relative harmlessness. CBD may be the solution your cat needs to chill out.