TNR programs play an increasingly important role in management of unowned cats in many communities. And until recently, there was little beyond trap covers and minimizing time in captivity to mitigate the stress of cats during trapping, transport, and confinement. TNR providers were pretty much on their own to guess at what worked best for cats.
In a new breakthrough published in the Sept. 2017 issue of Advances in Small Animal Medicine and Surgery, Use of single-dose oral gabapentin to attenuate fear responses in cage-trap-confined community cats, it turns out that the drug gabapentin can mitigate stress in TNR cats.
Gabapentin is a human drug originally developed to control seizures. It is now frequently prescribed in human medicine to relieve pain and anxiety, and its use in veterinary medicine for those same indications has been growing in recent years. This double-blind, placebo-controlled study looked at the drug’s effect on signs of stress in community cats trapped and held for spay/neuter.
The drug and the placebo were administered orally in liquid form via a tomcat catheter, in doses ranging from 9.2-47.6 mg/kg. Cats who were given gabapentin at either the higher or lower dose had lower stress scores than the cats given placebo, with the same rate of adverse events in both the placebo and gabapentin cats. The greatest impact was seen at about two hours after dosing.
The greatest challenge to the use of gabapentin to alleviate stress in cats trapped and held for TNR is the difficulty of administration. “We are all still grappling with how to make practical use of this finding,” said Dr. Julie Levy of the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at UF. “But we think it’s fantastic that TNR is becoming so mainstream that it has earned its own line of assessment and professionalism in veterinary journals.”