Gabapentin substantially improves adoption rate of shelter cats rescued from a hoarding environment

Cats living with a cat hoarder are almost invariably neglected. They are often only partly socialised, stressed and unhealthy. After rescue, a substantial percentage of them do not take well to a rescue facility. It may be so bad for them that they stop eating and toileting. They are essentially unadoptable because they’re so stressed. They may be euthanized. Other cats from the same environment adapt better and are more adoptable.

Gabapentin combined with a behaviour modification program can substantially improve rescue cats' rehabilitation and therefore chances of adoption after being rescued from a cat hoarding environment
Gabapentin combined with a behaviour modification program can substantially improve rescue cats’ rehabilitation and therefore chances of adoption after being rescued from a cat hoarding environment. Image as per the image (bottom left).
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Anti-anxiety drug gabapentin plus behavioral program works

A study published in the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association by Bailey Eagan, investigated the use of an anti-anxiety drug called gabapentin combined with a behaviour modification program to get the cats up to scratch to make them adoptable.

The results are encouraging. In the study, 94% of the cats found a new home. Two of the cats continued with fearful behaviour despite being administered with more medication and being transferred to foster homes. Regrettably, they decided to euthanise these two cats. I find that very sad by the way.

Kim Monteith, the manager of animal behaviour and welfare at the British Columbia SPCA is very happy with the research. She said:

“Bailey’s research has already changed everything. We are able to help more cats.”

She said that often when they brought cats in from a hoarding situation, they wouldn’t have good outcomes. And they didn’t know how to help them.

Nicely written study

What I like about this study, as well, is that they have taken to heart a criticism that I have made in the past about scientists using almost unintelligible language to write up their reports. In this case they’ve produced a nice infographic setting out the major points of their research. In addition, the report itself is written in ‘better’ (plainer) English. This is important because it means that their work can be read by unqualified people and understood.

It’s important that scientists get their message across to as many people as possible not just other scientists!

Some more detail on the study

The cats received 10 mg/kg of liquid gabapentin or a placebo every 12 hours. The placebo was used as a ‘control’ to be able to compare the effect of the antianxiety drug with no-drug.

Out of 32 fearful cats, 87.5% (28 cats) came through the behaviour modification program in 11 days with a range of four days to 51 days. The report states that cats giving gabapentin progressed more quickly through the behaviour modification program. The average time spent undergoing the behaviour modification program was halved for those cats given gabapentin.

The overall conclusion is that “daily gabapentin was beneficial in behaviour modification progress and reduced signs of stress in shelter cat. Fearful cats from hoarding environments can be successfully treated with behaviour modification ± daily gabapentin within an animal shelter”. I believe that the “±” symbol means that you can provide the cats with varying amounts of gabapentin as appropriate.

Weakness in the study?

Note: it is sad that the cats are reliant on gabapentin. I don’t know at what stage they came off it. There must be a time when that happens. Gabapentin is also used by people for anxiety. It is addictive. My search of the study report for the word “addictive” did not produce any results. I therefore presume that they have not addressed the addictive nature of this drug. I don’t know whether that’s a weakness or not.

My research indicates that it should not be taken for more than several weeks to avoid becoming addicted to it and perhaps encountering problems when coming off it. This needs to be addressed when giving this drug to rescue cats. Did they address this?

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