If the toileting issue is associated with intercat aggression and the victim needs to become more assertive, buspirone (0.5
to 1 mg/kg orally once daily for 60 days minimum) can be an effective treatment. But note it may act in part by rendering
the afflicted cat sufficiently confident to engage in social interactions that could result in an actual physical fight, which
clients should monitor for and address, if seen.
Before using any medication, conduct a laboratory evaluation (e.g., CBC, serum chemistry profile) and at least a lead II electrocardiogram,
especially if considering TCA or SSRI use. Most of these medications are metabolized through renal and hepatic pathways, and
clearance may be altered if renal or hepatic disease is a concern. Additionally, these medications will interact with other
drugs that share the same cytochrome P450 system enzyme pathways, so obtaining a good medical history is important.
Pheromonal analogue products have been suggested to calm animals, but they, or their vehicles or dispensers, may make some
animals more reactive. Their efficacy is in doubt, as most studies have been poorly designed and show, at best, a weak contributory
effect. No controlled study on the use of pheromonal analogues has demonstrated efficacy to the extent seen when the underlying
anxiety is treated with medication.
Advice for clients
Clients should be reminded of several other issues regarding this topic. For example, if more animals are added to the household,
clients should expect social upheaval and ensuing changes in litter box behaviors. Litter box hygiene must be meticulous and
lifelong. Finally, outdoor or visitor cats should be kept to a minimum or excluded.
If all else fails, the client should consider allowing the cat to be an indoor-outdoor cat. Several creative and safe cat
enclosures and fences are available. Even if cats have little risk from vehicles and predators, enclosures and fences can
help them be good neighbors by preventing them from sharing their elimination products and patterns with the entire neighborhood.
In these ways, we can address specific feline welfare concerns that may have unappreciated but far-reaching consequences for
Check in next month for a related article on specific steps clients can take to end behavioral elimination problems.
Dr. Overall, faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania, is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behavior
(ACVB) and is board-certified by the Animal Behavior Society (ABS) as an Applied Animal Behaviorist.