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