Obsessive Compulsive Cat Has Trouble Getting His Pills

Cat with OCD

Photo by Jo Singer

Cat guardians whose kitties begin acting strangely often get frustrated and upset with their cat’s bizarre behavior. Being unable to communicate with them verbally makes it even more difficult to pin-point the problem.

Many years ago, Sir Hubble Pinkerton, our loving, even-tempered Oriental Shorthair kitty’s behavior started changing dramatically. We knew he was upset when he began pacing aimlessly around the house for hours, yowling incessantly and starting to ritualistically trot around our garden tub three times precisely before using the litter box in the bathroom.

He also started to compulsively lick himself, tearing out huge chunks of hair. He often left bloody sores on his sensitive skin. He began spraying which complicated these symptoms. It was high time to call our veterinarian.

After taking an extensive history and giving him a thorough examination, she diagnosed Sir Hubble with Obsessive, Compulsive Disorder (OCD). The next step was finding the right behavior-modifying medication with which to treat him appropriately.

I was at my wit’s end when Prozac and Buspar only exacerbated his symptoms. And while Sir Hubble is not depressed, as a last ditch effort our holistic veterinarian prescribed Amitriptyline, a tricyclic antidepressant to help relieve his obsessive behavior. The medication worked like a charm. Within two weeks his symptoms had diminished. Sir Hubble stopped mutilating himself, his episodes of spraying abated, and the litter box no longer a scary monster.

Amitriptyline is a generic drug. At $8.00 for 60 pills; the drug’s cost is extremely reasonable. And for years we have been getting it from our local pharmacy. However, last week when I realized we were down to 8 pills and no further refills available, I asked my vet to call the pharmacy.

The next day I contacted the pharmacy to make sure the prescription was ready. But you can bet your bottom dollar that I was fighting mad when she told me no request had been made. I called the clinic and the vet tech told me she would immediately call them once again.

When I rang up the pharmacy, the assistant suggested I call back in the late afternoon to make certain it was ready for pick-up. But when I called she told me the medication was already out for delivery. Out for delivery? Since I hadn’t asked for delivery I was mystified. She explained that the pharmacist was so apologetic about the delay in refilling the prescription, as a courtesy he was having it delivered at no charge.

Hours later the deliveryman arrived. He said I had to pay for it since the account was in “suspense”. In “suspense”? Additionally, they were charging me a whopping $15.98 plus $3.00 for delivery. Now I was fighting mad. The deliveryman told me to call the pharmacy to work this out but fortunately gave me the pills.

But I went ballistic when the assistant told me that Sir Hubble Pinkerton had no account, which is why it was in “suspense”. Stunned, I informed her that Sir Hubble has no money, that he cannot work. She asked me if he was disabled. Choking on my words, I informed her that Sir Hubble is a CAT!

And since the pharmacist was not in, I won’t know the outcome until sometime this week. But I sure ain’t gonna pay no $15.98 for the meds, nor for the delivery. Perhaps I should borrow some of Sir Hubble’s pills to chill out before I call the pharmacy again.

What do you think? Tell us in a comment.


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Obsessive Compulsive Cat Has Trouble Getting His Pills — 48 Comments

  1. I thought this was a great story because I didn’t see the fun bit at the end coming.

    It is a nice mixture of a serious cat health problem and a bit of fun, which is the best way to inform people. Thanks Jo. I enjoyed it.

    Your story does raise a lot of interesting questions and other topics too.

    For example, is an anti-anxiety drug (amytriptaline) the best solution for feline OCD? It works which I am pleased to see and that makes it a good solution if others have failed.

    Do you know the underlying cause of his OCD? As far as I know, one cause of feline OCD is stress. Stress can be caused by all kinds of things that might not be apparent. Jo, can I ask what what your vet said about causes?

    Oriental Shorthairs are Siamese cats really and my research (some time ago admittedly) indicated that they do have a bit of a history of tending to have medical issues slightly more often than other cats.

    This is one example:


    Amytriptaline is used a lot to treat people with depression who have sleeping disorders. It is a very common mood enhancer-type drug.

  2. Wow! That’s the medicine I’ve been on to prevent migraines. 21 years now and maybe half a dozen migraines when before it I was in the ER at least once a month.

    We had to sedate Sheela after she came back to us after being terrorized by dogs and toddlers. It was one of those “pam” drugs. Almost $2 a pill. You got lucky with a cheap drug 🙂

  3. lol – that’s a funny story with a serious side too. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry 🙂

    Poor Sir Hubble. I was worried I would have to give Gigi something to make her feel better like prozac – but she isn’t OCD – she is just plain old depressed I believe. I’m working on that though and it’s very slowly getting better – we play together in the evenings and I follow her routine pretty much after I get home so she has a bit of a nice time playing each evening and weekends. But if she doesn’t get back to normal I guess I will have to consider medication. If it works then it will likely be worthwhile – unless we can fix it without that!

    • I guess there is a place for medication. Definitely. As you suggest it is a last resort.

      There is a lot of talk in the UK about doctors prescribing ant-depressants to people when it is accepted that going for a 30 minute brisk walk is often as effective. Cognitive behavioral therapy (talking etc.) is another more natural remedy for human depression.

      Pills can be life savers but caution needs to be the bye-word.

      • Yes – well you said it in a nutshell: you see Gigi can’t go for a half hour walk in the simple obvious sense. I am at work alot of time.

        ….so I am on the case when I am home in the evenings. I’ve stopped using the internet when I am at home so as to have that time with the cats, especially Gigi. It is genuinely helping. I can see she is having a bit of fun and that they like me to join in. I have been playing their games of hide and pounce and chase lately but also sometimes I just sit with them while they are playing and it encourages them. We have fun – I should video it 🙂

  4. Jo I think the vet felt bad and shipped to you for free but didn’t realize you would have to pay – so I wouldn’t get angry at them for that unless you are sure they knew you would have to pay. Sounds like they were trying to help and it went wrong.

  5. What a stressful day for you Jo, I hope you’ve for Sir Hubble’s account sorted out now and at a reasonable cost. I once took amitriptyline for migraine, like Elisa, but it just knocked me senseless, I hope Sir H can come off it eventually. He is a gorgeous cat.

  6. We really don’t know what caused Sir Hubble’s OCD. While stress is one of the major causes of this condition, Michael is correct. It seems that Siamese are one of the breeds that are more prone to OCD.

    But I will bet that stress was the cause- since his odd behavior started when an intact male cat started to “visit” by a window- leaving calling cards outside the window, making Sir Hubble very upset and anxious. But we will never truly know for sure.

    • I think he is just a sensitive cat and is perhaps stressed more easily than some other cats. I agree that the modern refined Siamese is possibly more prone this sort of health problem than other breeds. He is a beautiful cat.

  7. That is hysterical!! Of course you do not have to pay for the “delivery”. It sounds like everyone involved made some kind of mistake. It is like the guy in DC who was given a ticket for not having some kind of license tag on his windshield. The ticket was placed next to the license tag on his windshield. He took a picture of it and, eventually, the DC MVD agreed that he did not have to pay the fine…


  8. Wow! What a terrible mix up. Having gone through a similar situation with one of our cats, you become frustrated, irritated and down right mad. My situation was not through a pharmacy but with the vet office. Calling the vet and ordering the cat’s meds was routine. I learned that if the vet is out of town and someone is filling in for her, you will suffer the same fate as Sir Hubble. Ugh. great article. thanks so much. PS: Now if I have a cat on meds I call the office and get the vet’s schedule. LOL

  9. Oh dear, I hope you got it all sorted out in the end Jo. I’m glad the amitriptyline helped Hubble and he has no side effects from taking it, it’s a scary drug which can affect people and animals in different ways.
    I had it for depression after our mother died, it did no good, then I had seroxat, one tablet almost finished me off as I turned out that I was allergic to it.
    I worry about cats taking drugs because they can’t tell us how they feel, have they a headache? Do they feel strange? It’s a minefield!

  10. This past year has been horrible for my house. In March I lost a dog to cancer and in September I had to put down my 16 year old Shep. mix. This left me with a 8 year old Rottie who missed them so much because he always had companions, started compulsive licking himself. It even progressed to where he was licking me all the time. Time for the vet!! He was proscribed Prozac which cost me $81.00 the first time. Then I was introduced to Walgreens pet medication system. It cost me $35.00 to join but Lugers second prescription only cost me 15.00. What a difference. OH and yes they worked for a while. But I found a forever solution by adopting a rescue dog. She has brought him back to his old self.No licking at all. Yes I still have some medication if I need it in emergency. I might add that it is taking the cats some time to adjust to our addition.

  11. I love your article, Jo. It is all so frustrating for you, and I empathize. But, as someone like me standing on the sidelines, it’s a real comedy of blunders. Hilarious!

    Of course, medication isn’t a first line treatment for cats. But, you really didn’t have a choice. I would have gone the same route if I had a cat with such a drastic behavioral change along with harming himself. You had to have been scared. I’m sure I would have been.
    I’m happy that you found a med that works.

    And my opinion is that your refill and delivery, both, should be free of charge at this point.

  12. Dee- I am working on that idea. I find it fascinating how different cats react to medication. A couple of months ago I was in too much of a hurry to get ready to go out. I always give Sir Hubble his meds at breakfast time. For some strange reason, by accident I gave his pill to Dr. Hush Puppy. I immediately called the vet- and she assured me that one dose wouldn’t do much to upset him.

    She was right! He didn’t get upset. 5 mg of amytriptaline caused him to sleep the entire day- so much for it taking time to work- in his case it was instantaneous. Thankfully there were no bad side-effects and he was bright-eyed and bushy tailed the next morning.. quite a difference from his brother’s reaction to the meds.

  13. Sounds like by the end of the day, you needed something to calm you down more than Hubble did!

    Have you noticed the disparity in price of the same drug when dx for human vs. Animal? I’ve been floored at the higher costs of feline prednisone and antibiotics when it’s identical. Greer!

    • That is very true here in the States.
      Believe it or not, there are some GP’s that will write scripts for us (antibiotics like Cipro or Prednisone)knowing we are using them for our pets.
      I don’t recommend going that route unless you are very good at conversion. But, it saves a lot of money.

      • Wow. That sounds strange. So are veterinarians ripping off clients or is it the drug companies who are ripping off pet owners? I suppose it is the drug companies.

        • You may be sorry that you got me started on drug companies…
          A drug, like Elavil, stayed brand named and priced as long as the drug company came up with a new use for it. As long as they create a new use, no generic can be sold. It took years for the generic to come out.
          It happens all the time.
          Enbrel and Lyrica manufacturers are doing it right now.

      • To further explain, a 2 week supply of Cipro for myself would be free because of my insurance. The 2 week supply for a cat in their dosage would be around $50.00. MY 2 week supply, converted to a cat dosage, would last for months.

  14. Sir Hubble Pinkerton’s behavioral changes echo those of our beloved Queen Simba of times past; she, too, had a lot of meezer genes, and she had been rescued off the means streets after what I can only imagine was a protracted time of very hard living. In her later years, she self-mutilated and yowled a lot. I always chalked it up to hardship and uncertainty as to the future.

    Regarding the medicational debacle, I can only say that the story is all too familiar these days; and while I and many others with good qualifications can’t get work, total incompetents seem to not only get it, but keep it. These days, I always say I can run my own life very well; it’s only when there are matters involving other people that things get SNAFU’d.

    • SNAFU’D — Situation Normal: All (Fucked/Fouled/Francis) Up — I didn’t know what it stood but knew what it meant.

      You’re in the US, aren’t you? I don’t think it can be as bad as the UK. There is a lot of what I call dysfunctionality in the civil service that makes running the country near impossible.

      I don’t like it that modern Siamese cats and derivatives, of which there are many can tend to be “fragile” mentally and physically. That seems to be the case. The Siamese is a fine cat breed but it has been bred to a bit to much. That is my opinion.

      • Yes, some of the purebreds tend to be very neurotic from what I hear. I always rescue, generally from the streets, so no purebreds here except for our mostly recently adopted, who came to us from an elderly couple who had health issues and could no longer care for him as he should be cared for. That’s our Mainey man.
        Yeah, we’re in CATifornia >^^< and I like to say that, from my studies of world history, this place is looking and acting a lot like the old Soviet Union in terms of the bureaucracy and ability of people within it to take something quite logical and simple and *(#= it up beyond all recognition.

        • 🙂 No the Brits are the experts at that. At least you have sun to help you through it. Although some time ago it was stated that Calif was bankrupt and the government was selling off government owned assets (what we call public assets) to raise money. Note: Britain is a gnat’s whisker from bankruptcy.

          • The 1% has just about bled the rest of us dry. In one state here, they’re cutting off unemployment benefits and people are wondering how they are going to buy FOOD to SURVIVE. Meanwhile, we have the “celebs” spending money and cra%%ing on the rest of us, along with the politicians and CEOs. And most of the public here seems to be in 100% denial that anything is wrong, because they keep racking up debt buying what’s shoved down their throats by the media, while the rest of us get pushed to the wall and left to pick up THEIR debt. Lovely! Anyway, this is about cats, actually, isn’t it? And CATS are wonderful. Every single one of them.

  15. Amytriptyline (Elavil) is a very old psychotropic but has many good uses. That Dr. H simply became sedated but Sir H was relieved of his symptoms tells me that Sir H is on the right med. Even though your vet was in this mix of errors, he diagnosed and prescribed correctly. Well, I guess we don’t need cat psychiatrists after all.
    As soon as I choose a new vet, I will probably take Damon to be “analyzed”. I don’t know if his mania and hoarding is OCD or if he’s just simply a hyperactive thief. I’ve never had a cat like him.
    Please keep us updated because, at least with humans, meds have to be changed because the ones they’re on stop working for them or they stop needing them at all.
    This is very interesting to me.

    • Good point Dee. Would you know if there is there a time limit for how long a cat can take Amitriptyline? Some of these drugs are addictive and have to be time limited.

      • Psychotropics aren’t really addictive. They aren’t time limited. Many times, the symptom sort of “break through” after a period of time and the med stops being as effective and a change needs to happen.

        • Thanks Dee. You’re very good at this. Possible side effects: dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation, weight gain, or trouble urinating may occur

          • While many of these psychotrophic drugs aren’t addicting, cats (and humans- I suspect) must be weaned off them slowly.

            While I was pouring my morning coffee several months ago, I noticed that Sir Hubble’s nose and mouth area were a brilliant red. Scared to death, I immediately went to check him out and he was having a bi-lateral nose-bleed. It was terrifying to me. I called the clinic immediately and my vet’s associate called me back in a few minutes. She came by to check him out, his blood pressure was elevated- etc.

            She suggested that we stop the amytryptiline since she was giving him certain medications – to control his BP- and to get more blood to the kidneys-(Sir H has borderline kidney disease).

            So Sir H was off amytript for about a week, and while he wasn’t self- mutilating- he became extremely aggressive- beating on his brother at any opportunity. When my regular vet returned from vacation she told me to start the amytript right away. Within 48 hours Sir H had mellowed out and was curling up happily with his bro once again.

  16. That ranks right up there with my dog getting a pre approved credit card in the mail years ago. Good grief!! I’m glad Hubble got his pills, but what grief! But don’t take the Amytriptyline. Take xanax. I works faster.

  17. Our Sealy occasionally has to take a pill for his stomacitis. He acts totally weird about an hour after he takes it. He’ll sit on the back of the couch and just start meowing really loud at us. Kind of like a yappy drunk. Thank goodness he doesn’t have to take them often. Brinkley has to take them on occasion and he doesn’t react that way.

      • We only know the pill stops stomach acid from coming back up. Sealy also has to eat only the Whiskas Purrfectly Chicken or baked fresh chicken or he gets sick.

        He “talks” as much as Shirley while under the influence and it usually goes on for a couple of hours. Thank goodness he doesn’t need the pill on a regular basis. I do wonder whether he’s reacting to something physical or whether he gets “high” from the medication.

  18. Update: We no longer will be using this pharmacy. They are totally screwed up. Talked with the billing person- she told me the reason the meds were so expensive was that the technician spent 45 minutes cutting them up into quarters.

    I told the billing person that the pills arrived INTACT and that I cut them in half. He only gets 5 milligrams. After arguing with me for 5 minutes that I didn’t know what I was talking about- she reluctantly talked with the tech, keeping me on hold for a long time. Finally she returned to the call and apologized- saying there were two cat rxs in yesterday and they got mine mixed up with the other cat’s.

    I told her the pills arrive INTACT on Friday night. She said that the cost of the medication had gone up. I told her that all the chain pharmacies are selling it for $4.00 for 30- I get 60 at a time. She nicely said that I could have the rx transferred to another pharmacy.

    That’s the end of my association with this pharmacy. After being a customer of theirs for almost 10 years – this is NOT the way to treat anyone- and who knows what other mistakes they would make with an rx for my cats.

    Grrrrrrrrr .. but the delivery charge was removed.

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