Cat valium - Photo by Fox Fotography (Flickr)
Is your cat a "valium cat"? I ask because I have just seen a video of Russell Brand being interviewed on American TV. He is a British comedian who seems to be trying to break into the American market, the most lucrative market for actors and performers. He has just starred in a remake of Arthur that originally starred the late and great Dudley Moore.
I used to detest Russell Brand but now I like him - a bit, because he keeps three cats. He likes to buy extravagant gifts for his cats. The audience loved that. People seem to warm to people who like cats. Of course they are right!
He lives in Los Angeles or has bought or rents a home in that sprawling car dominated city. He brought his cats into the country. British cats are relatively easy to transport to other countries because there is no rabies in the UK. Rabies is the biggest obstacle to international cat travel it seems to me. Getting them back to the UK will be harder.
Anyway, he says that one of his cats, the oldest, has been prescribed "cat valium" (diazepam) by a local Los Angeles vet. Morrissey has become a valium cat. Russell thinks that it is not as strong as human valium. He thinks that the whole idea of a cat psychiatrist dispensing cat valium to his cat is bizarre - why is he allowing it to happen then? He never imagined, he says, that he would have a cat psychiatrist in his house. He more or less says that this is an American life style thing. He hints that back in Essex, England this would never have happened.
He describes how the animal psychiatrist waved a crystal over his cat's head. I presume that this was part of the diagnostic process. It seems that Russell Brand had called in a cat psychiatrist or one was recommended by the local veterinarian. This does sound very much like the Los Angeles that I envisage or that we are told about in the media. I am sure we are misled quite a lot, however.
Although Russell has allowed himself to become carried away by getting an animal behaviorist involved, he sensibly says that he thinks that Morrissey is "angry that he had to move". In other words Morrissey is probably upset and frightened because of all the changes that have taken place. This appears to be the correct diagnosis and it is one that does not require drugs to deal with it if at all possible.
You can see where the problem lies. His cats are in a strange place and Russell is out of the house all the time trying to further his career. He likes cats, good for him, but he is not the ideal cat caretaker because of work pressures.
Our cats like us around. They like routine and certainties. It might have been better to have looked at providing that, a more natural and less invasive action, rather than a tranquilliser. No criticism intended but is the prescribing of cat valium more likely to happen in America than the UK? That is what Russell is implying. What do you think?
On a medical note, valium is a tranquilliser. Tranquillisers can be useful for relieving cat anxiety due to moving home. I would never consider giving my cat valium just because he was anxious after moving. It is far more sensible to do the common sense things such as being with your cat as much as possible and providing comforting situations such as a place to hide and nice food and gentle words etc. Elisa cares for a large number of cats that have moved and she copes fine without giving them valium. She would never consider giving them valium.
A cat on valium might suffer side effects such as stopping using the litter box or scratching and biting "at the slightest provocation"1.
Cat valium is preferred over other tranquillers by American vets for behaviour problems such as inappropriate elimination (was that the problem with Morrissey, I wonder?). However in the case of inappropriate elimination, once the medication is stopped the problem resumes. And as you can't leave a cat on valium for a long time it seems totally unsuitable to treat inappropriate elimination. It's success rate is about 55-75%. Valium can cause serious liver problems in a cat1.
On balance it appears that there are far better ways to deal with cat behaviour problems, all of which should be as natural as possible. Valium is a convenient and lazy way to deal with the problem in my opinion. Do you know of a valium cat?
1. Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook, Fully Revised and Updated - pages 551-552
See the video