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Gabapentin: The Ultimate Kitty Chill Pill

By: Sarah Hilario, DVM

Many cat owners dread taking their feline friends to the veterinary clinic.  The appointment may involve a struggle with the cat carrier, followed by a stressful car ride, then possibly time spent in a noisy waiting room, and finally onto an exam table.  It is no wonder cats and cat owners alike do not look forward to this voyage.  Gabapentin is an easy to administer medication that has been found to relax and calm cats for a pleasant and stress-free trip to the vet office. 

Gabapentin was originally used to treat seizures in humans.  Since then it has been used in pets for a variety of ailments including seizure disorders, neuropathic pain, chronic pain especially from arthritis, and most recently as an anti-anxiety medication in stressed kitties.  The actual chemistry of how gabapentin works in the body is still unknown.  It comes as a capsule that can be sprinkled in canned food two to three hours before the car ride.  It can also be compounded into a liquid for those cats that do not enjoy wet food.  Drowsiness is the main side effect but typically wears off within 12 hours.  Gabapentin is removed from the body through the kidneys so caution must be taken in cats with significant kidney disease.  

  In the past, fearful cats that became aggressive during a vet visit required full anesthesia to examine them, draw blood, trim nails, or give vaccinations.   But using anesthesia costs more, takes more time, and carries some measure of risk.  Gabapentin is an excellent alternative for decreasing fear and anxiety and keeping everyone safe during the visit.  It can also be used during travel, for a grooming visit, or even during a busy time in the home such as a house remodel or holiday party.   Remember that a veterinary client patient relationship is necessary before your veterinarian can prescribe gabapentin.  A yearly visit is required to ensure the safety and health of your pet.  The use of gabapentin is a valuable tool for a fear free vet visit.