Amitriptyline For Felines

Amitriptyline For Felines

by Michael
(London, UK)

Amitriptyline is a tricyclic antidepressant (a TCA). It is taken by people for a variety of reasons one of which is to alleviate depression, another is to combat insomnia. I know a person who takes it for insomnia. If you want to see the long list of illnesses for which it can be prescribed see this page on Wikipedia.

So what it amitriptyline used for in cats? Linda Case in her book, The Cat, Its Behavior, Nutrition & Health says it is occasionally prescribed for some forms of urinary disease in cats (page 171).

Trevor Turner and Jean Turner in their book, Veterinary Notes for Cat Owners say that amitriptyline is a sedative that may be given (as can diazepam – Valium) for “immediate treatment to control severe episodes of self-mutilation and on a lower dose during lifestyle modification lasting several weeks.”

Drs Carlson and Giffin in their book, Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook, say that tranquillisers are useful for calming and injured or frightened cat and for relieving anxiety attacks for whatever reason (page 368).

They describe this drug as a behavior drug (although they do not refer to this particular drug but mention Valium). Such drugs should be prescribed by a vet and and as a last resort having investigated the underlying cause of any behavior disorders. Behavior that we don’t like is clearly not a behavior disorder.

Side effects of tranquillisers are:

–cat might stop using the litter box.

–cat might bite and scratch at low levels of provocation.

In the USA, as I understand it, certain legislation such as the Animal Drug Availability Act of 1996 specifies that physical and laboratory examinations must be performed before administering the drug.

The website:, says that amytriptyline “can relieve the anxieties associated with specific stimuli, such as litters or litter boxes.”

Aversion to litter boxes should be fully investigated before drugging the cat.

For my part, I have never heard of a cat being drugged to deal with “behavioral problems”. There must be occasions when it is reasonable to do so. However, these must be rare as I am sure that 99% of behavior problems can be dealt with by us in better ways, ways that are less detrimental to the cat.


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Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

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Amitriptyline For Felines

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Jul 07, 2010 I’m with Ruth
by: Joyce Sammons

I’m with Ruth about not forcing drugs on our cats. I’ve been told cats are much more sensitive to everything than dogs. I’ve been fortunate not to have had a stressed out cat in 20 years.

Jul 07, 2010 Two great comments
by: Michael

Thanks Ruth and Joyce for two really useful comments. They really add to my short post and I find that so helpful.

Michael Avatar

Jul 06, 2010 I’m on it
by: Joyce Sammons

I’ve been on it since 1993 for migraine prevention. Before this drug was prescribed I faced the ER every week with blinding headaches and nausea. I came off of it for 2 weeks back in 2005 and ended up in the hospital with the worst headache imaginable. It’s an old drug so no surprise recalls like with the new ones. My mother was unable to work past the age of 40 due to these headaches. She was placed on the drug in 1967 and the headaches ended.

I take 100 mg at night and it doesn’t help my insomnia, but I only get maybe 1 migraine a year. My thoughts on coming off of the drug again are this. Just shoot me. I have no desire to live feeling as thou a mallot is being pounded on my head and I’m too nauseated to even stand up.

I’d trust this drug for use in animals more than I would a newer drug like Prozac. It also has a side effect that increases appetite and also excessive thirst. So it could possible improve appetite and encourage the cat to drink more.

Jul 06, 2010 Potent drugs
by: Ruth

After a particulary bad time of family illness, bereavements and change,also the arrival of a bereaved new cat to live with us, one of our cats Walter,started spraying in the house a lot.
Our vets were no help at all, one even suggested keeping Walt outside always,even at night.He added that cats can always find shelter.He charged us £25 to say that !
I’ve dealt with stressed out cats successfully before but even kindness and patience didn’t work with our Walt.
In desperation we had a well known cat therapist from down South to pay us a visit, to the tune of £300. We’d have paid thousands if she could have helped us, but her first suggestion was to rehome him….no way,he’s OUR Walter whether good or bad. Her second was to buy a water pistol,and squirt water at him when he did it….no chance, bereaved and stressed and water squirted at him as well,he’d be on the ceiling ! Her third was to put him on Amitriptyline,which she said at first would turn him into a zombie but gradually as the dosage was adjusted MIGHT help and if so he could stay on a lifelong low dosage ….Having been on Amitriptyline myself after the traumatic death of my mother I wouldn’t wish the side effects on any person or any cat.
Maybe it has its uses but I don’t think we have the right to force potent drugs on our cats.
It became routine to constantly wash the furniture and floor but Walt did gradually improve and only sprays now at times of great stress.
I think he’s such a sensitive cat because he had a dreadful start in life.
I still think kindness, time and patience is the way to go with any cat with anxiety problems of any sort,not drugs.

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.
Useful links
Anxiety - reduce it
FULL Maine Coon guide - lots of pages
Children and cats - important

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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