Third Street Veterinary Hospital, PC

303 NE Irvine Street (Corner of Third and Irvine)

McMinnville, Oregon 97128

Office phone: (503) 472-9418

 

Stan Wood, DVM, Diplomate ABVP

Specialist in Canine & Feline Practice

 

Buspirone for Feline Elimination Behavior Problems

 

 

Buspirone (trade name BuSpar) is a drug used by physicians to treat anxiety disorders in humans.  Clinical trials with the drug have demonstrated its effectiveness in treating cats with elimination behavior problems (urine spraying).  Although its success rate is not 100%, it has been shown to be useful in a large number of cats.  One study showed about a 75% reduction in urine spraying in half of the cats studied.

 

It is not labeled as a veterinary-approved product.  Although tested in a large number of cats, it is not approved by the FDA for this purpose.  Significant side effects have not been observed, but are always possible.  Any abnormal behavior in a cat taking the drug should be reported to the veterinarian.

 

Buspirone is one of the most effective drugs available for management of urine spraying in cats.  However, it is important that it be used in conjunction with behavior modification techniques.  These should be directed at making the litter box more attractive to the cat (Attraction Therapy) and making the inappropriate locations of urination and/or defecation undesirable (Aversion Therapy).  These efforts should be accompanied by an attempt to identify and remove stress factors (if possible) and neutralize the odor where your cat has been urinating.

 

Medication Protocol

 

The following outline should be followed.  If the sequence is not clear, please call for further instructions.

 

1. Give 5 mg (1 tablet) twice daily for 1 week

    a. If there is no response, give 7.5 mg (1 1/2 tablets) twice daily for one week

        1) If there is no response, discontinue buspirone.

        2) If there is good response, give 5 mg twice daily for 8 weeks.

    b. If there is good response, give 5 mg twice daily for 8 weeks.

2. If a relapse occurs after successful therapy, resume buspirone at a dose of 5 - 7.5 mg twice daily and continue for 6-12 months.

 

Behavior Modification Techniques

 

Aversion Therapy

 

The purpose of Aversion Therapy is to make the area of inappropriate urination or defecation undesirable for the cat.  These steps are necessary to maximize success.

 

1. A product to neutralize the odor of urine or stool should be used in the places where inappropriate urination or defecation has occurred.

2. Cover the area(s) with aluminum foil and secure it to the carpet or furniture with masking tape.  Aluminum foil is a surface that most cats will not walk on. 

3. If the soil in potted plants is being used, place a lemon-scented air freshener at the base of the plant.  This will usually repel the cat.

           

Attraction Therapy

 

The purpose of Attraction Therapy is to make the litter box more desirable than the inappropriate site.

 

1. Use a new or very well cleaned litter box.  It is important not to use a litter box with a hood.  Although we like our privacy, most cats find a hooded litter boxes undesirable presumably because it traps odors inside.

2. Use a non-scented clumping litter.  If a cat has not been using this type of litter, it will usually find it more desirable than the clay types.  That increases the chances that the new litter box will be used.  One study showed that cats tend to dislike heavily perfumed litters.

3. Place this litter box near the area of inappropriate urination until it is used for several days, then move it 2-3 feet per day back to the desired location.

4. Keep the existing litter box in the normal location in case the aversion therapy causes your cat to return to it.

 

Alternative Medications

 

Although buspirone is a good first choice, some cats are more responsive to other medications.  Other drugs, which have been used to manage inappropriate urination, include Elavil and Valium.