National Pet Anxiety Month: Fear Free, and Pre-Visit Medication for Cats!

March 1, 2023

March is National Pet Anxiety Month! If you’ve been to either of our AMCMA clinics, you’ve probably heard about our Fear Free Certification. This certification means that we do everything we can to make your pet’s vet visit as anxiety-free as possible, including the use of calming pheromones, relaxing music, plenty of tasty treats, and our caring staff who are trained to use gentle control techniques, innovative tools, and medication when necessary to ensure your pet’s emotional health isn’t sacrificed for the sake of medical care. To learn more about what it means to be a Fear Free Certified clinic, you can click here:

One concern that is often brought up to us by our clients is that they are hesitant to bring their cat in for a veterinary visit because of the stress that occurs when using carrying crates and transporting them to an unfamiliar environment. We believe this is the reason that cats do not receive the same amount of veterinary care that dogs do. However, there are several ways that you can make vet visits easier on your cat, including the use of pre-visit medication.

Gabapentin is a common medication used to control nerve pain and tamp down anxiety, both in cats and in people. In a study conducted by veterinarians in France and published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, dozens of cats who were known to exhibit fear-based aggression at the doctor’s office (growling, hissing, swatting, scratching, biting) were observed during two separate veterinary visits. Two hours before one of those visits, they were administered either 100 or 200 milligrams of gabapentin by their owners depending on their weight (with cats weighing at least 15.4 pounds getting the higher dose). Before the other visit, they were given a placebo. Neither the owners nor the veterinarians knew which cat was being given which treatment. But the results were remarkably consistent.

When the cats received gabapentin, their owners awarded them lower overall scores for stress during trips to the vet and also during exams. As all of these cats previously needed special handling with puncture-resistant gloves, towel wrapping, restraint cages, or even anesthesia, it was a remarkable outcome. For cats examined without gabapentin, on the other hand, the median scores were much lower, and examination was possible only when they had been medicated.

A common side effect of the medication was drowsiness, particularly for smaller cats. Some cats also exhibited impaired coordination, excess salivation, and vomiting, but all side effects had resolved within 10 hours. They were of little enough concern that the researchers were quite pleased overall about the stress reduction during the car rides to the doctor’s office and the decrease in aggression coupled with the increase in cooperation during the veterinary examinations. They proposed that the side effects were acceptable, given that veterinary visits generally only occur once or twice a year.

Next time you call AMCMA to schedule an appointment for your cat, ask us about pre-visit medication- it could make all the difference!

Call us today at (314) 951-1534!