By: Sara Eaker
Is your cat suddenly attacking visitors or licking himself uncontrollably? Your kitty may be suffering from anxiety or depression. Some cats may develop behavior problems that many pet parents are unable to help or resolve. The following signs are a few examples that can help guide you to get help for your pet friend:
- If your cat has stopped using the litter box for any reason other than an actual physical injury or somethign that might prevent them from getting into the litter box
- If your cat is overly timid or fearful
- If your cat is marking with urine outside of the litterbox
- Any behaviors that you consider to be outside of the norm, harmful, or causes problems
- Compuslive disorders like excess licking or scratching, especially when your cat is pulling out their own fur
- If your cat seems angry or overly aggressive
Many pet owners may be reluctant to place their pet on medication. However, medication may be the only solution to make your cat feel better and enhance positive behavior modification. According to Pets.WebMd, there are four types of behavioral medicines used to treat behavior problems in cats. These medicines are; benzodiazepines, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), tricyclic antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) including Prozac. With the combination of medication and behavior modification, successful treatment is possible.
Before you consider medication, the most effective and first step in treating the issue is behavior modification. Consult with your veterinarian or pet behaviorist and draw up a behavior modification plan designed by knowledgeable, qualified professionals. This plan may include things like:
- Working with experts to help change your cats perception of a problem or situation
- Establishing new consequences for behavior
- Create acceptable outlets for your cats natural behavior
- Give your cat something else to do to replace the problem behavior
Unfortunately, behavior modification does not always work. For example, your household may have multiple cats. Yet, cats are solitary hunters, and although they sometimes get along, it is normal for them to avoid each other. Because living together isn’t natural for them, it’s sometimes necessary to help cats in a single household learn to accept each other. Experts suggests accomplishing this through a behavior modification procedure called, “desensitization and counter conditioning (DSCC).” This won’t work with all cats and that’s when medication can help so that you can work on the behavior modification and counter conditioning.
When behavioral modification alone is not resolving your pet’s behavior problems, medication serves to reduce the emotional part of a situation, but it doesn’t resolve the behavioral component. For instance, medication may help your cat be less reactive to another cat in your household, but it may not be effective enough to help her learn to use the litter box again if she has stopped using it and started using your bed or a rug instead.
“Our friend had a cat that had a problem with peeing on the stove. Prozac has calmed her right down (the cat, not the friend). They tried taking her off Prozac a couple of times, but it led to stove peeing, so it looks like she’s (on the medication) for life. They (the owners) are not totally happy about this, but count it a small price to pay for a) having a happy cat and b) being able to use the stove without filling the house with ungodly stench.”
According to the ASPCA, if your cat suffers from fear, anxiety, compulsive or violent behavior and you’re considering medications, you should first consult a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or ACAAB) or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB). These kinds of experts have a lot of experience with these issues and can give you advice and help you come up with a treatment plan and adjust the plan based on results.
Click HERE to locate an expert in your area.