A New Drug Could Help Cats With Travel and Vet Anxiety · The Wildest

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A New Drug Could Help Your Stressed-Out Cat Get Through Trips to the Vet

If your cat’s ripping their carrier to shreds, there might be an answer.

by Sio Hornbuckle
December 8, 2023
An adorable young cat cuddling owner when owner is hugging without a carrier for reducing cat stress during car ride.
RJ22 / Shutterstock

If you’re a cat parent, you probably dread getting your cat into the car for a vet visit. It’s not a feline’s favorite activity, to say the least. For some cats, their dislike of travel — or just, you know, generally going where you want them to go — manifests as full-blown anxiety. 

Luckily, there’s good news for stressed out cats: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new drug, Bonqat, to treat cat anxiety related to travel and veterinary visits.

How does Bonqat work?

According to the FDA, “Bonqat is the first FDA-approved animal drug containing pregabalin.” Pregabalin is a nerve pain medication that is sometimes used to treat epilepsy, diabetic neuropathy, fibromyalgia, and other conditions in humans; you may have heard of it under its brand name, Lyrica. It is sometimes used to treat generalized anxiety disorder in humans.

A study presented to the FDA followed 108 cats with a history of travel and veterinary anxiety over two visits — one without Bonqat, and one with Bonqat or a placebo. The cat’s pet parents and veterinarian both accessed the cat’s anxiety levels. 

“A little over half of cats given Bonqat had a good to excellent response during both transportation and the veterinary visit compared to about one-third of cats given placebo,” the FDA explains. Additionally, 77 percent of cats given Bonqat showed reduced anxiety levels, compared to only 46 percent of cats given the placebo. 

How is Bonqat administered?

Bonqat is given to cats orally via a syringe. One dose should be taken about an hour and a half before the anticipated travel. It can be administered to cats directly into their mouths or mixed with food. Bonqat is only available by prescription.

What are the risks of Bonqat?

Some reactions cats experienced during the study were lack of coordination, mild sedation, and lethargy. In humans, the side effects of pregabalin are similar: drowsiness, blurred vision, confusion, dizziness, poor concentration, and other cognitive difficulties. It can rarely cause physical issues in humans, such as hives, chills, dry mouth, and chest tightness; none of these symptoms were found in cats. The FDA urges humans administering Bonqat to cats to use caution and avoid contact between the medication and their skin. 

Should you give your cat an anti-anxiety drug? 

It’s very common for cats to dislike car rides, but not all cats have high levels of anxiety. “Cats are very territorial and attached to their home environments,” veterinarian Dr. Tammy Hunter told The Wildest. “Most pet cats live a sheltered life with a very predictable routine that does not involve traveling away from home, making a visit to the veterinarian an overwhelming experience.”

If your cat’s discomfort is extreme, intervention might be necessary. “It’s hard to know exactly what cats feel when they have anxiety because they can’t talk to us with words. However, they do talk to us with behavior and body language,” Stephen Quandt, a certified cat behavior specialist and owner of Cat Behavior Help, told The Wildest. Some behaviors Quandt says to watch out for include pacing, loss of appetite, destructive behavior, over-grooming, and over-vocalizing.

If your cat’s anxiety seems severe, a veterinarian can help you figure out a solution. Prescription meds aren’t for all pets, but they can help cats who experience intense distress. Meds aren’t usually a long-term solution; in the case of Bonqat, the prescription can only be taken two days in a row maximum for short-term relief. 

“Just putting your pet on medication isn’t enough — you have to change their behavior as well — but it can help,” Dr. Ashley Rossman, a veterinarian at Glen Oak Dog and Cat Hospital, told The Wildest

Sio Hornbuckle

Sio Hornbuckle is a writer living in New York City with their cat, Toni Collette.

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