#1-Feline Urine Marking-Cyproheptadine

NMVMA listserve Veterinary Behavior Tip #1

Hello colleagues-

Below is some brief information on behavior medicine that you may find helpful. I am interested in comments, pro or con, on whether our listserve members would like to receive a behavior update like this from time to time. Please send feedback.

Jeff Nichol, DVM
Behavior Resident in private practice training
Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center
Albuquerque and Santa Fe

Feline Urine Marking-Resistant Cases

A problem more often seen in male cats (usually intact, but many are neutered) urine marking is actually a normal method of feline communication. High or low status cats in a group may do this in response to conflict. Multi cat households are often affected.

Marking behavior, usually a horizontal spray, may occur when household cats have little or no argument with each other because an outdoor cat or other creature is skulking about outside the home. Effective treatment can include improved litter pan management, environmental enrichment, covering windows, and bobby trapping the yard to discourage neighborhood visitors. Neutering or spaying is essential. Anxiolytic medications and pheromones (Feliway) can also help.

Some cases don’t fully respond. In addition to standard medical rule-outs (cystic calculi, lower urinary disease) incomplete neutering of a male cat may be the cause. A retained testicle or ectopic sites of testosterone production can be recognized by testosterone measurements. Ultrasound can identify the location, in some cases a testosterone secreting adrenal tumor.

If surgery is impractical or contraindicated in a urine-marking cat with elevated testosterone, cyproheptadine can be a reliable treatment. This antihistamine is also an appetite stimulant and a serotonin antagonist (useful in the treatment of serotonin syndrome). It also blocks testosterone production. Side effects include sedation, paradoxical hyperexcitability, and anticholinergic effects like dry mouth. These are seldom seen. Used without psychotropic medications cyproheptadine can be a diagnostic tool in cases of borderline elevated testosterone.

I hope this kind of information is useful. Please let me know.

Jeff Nichol, DVM