Treating Inappropriate Elimination in Cats with Amitriptyline

Inappropriate elimination is a common condition in domesticated cats in which cats urinate or defecate in inappropriate locations, such as locations inside the house. While cats with inappropriate elimination can be retrained using behavior modification techniques, it is also possible to resolve the problem with drugs such as Amitriptyline. It is widely understood that the most effective treatment for inappropriate elimination in cats consists of a combination of both treatment options.

Causes of Inappropriate Elimination in Cats

It is possible for a cat to exhibit inappropriate elimination because of a medical problem or infection, in which case amitriptyline is not an appropriate treatment option. However, the condition is more often caused by behavioral problems, the most common of which are a dislike of the litter box and stress related misbehavior. If dislike of the litter box is the cause of a cat's inappropriate elimination, the problem does not require treatment, but rather a change in the location of the litter box, the type of litter in the litter box, or the frequency with which the litter box gets cleaned. The only cause of inappropriate elimination in cats that warrants the use of drugs like amitriptyline is stress related misbehavior.

How Amitriptyline Works

Amitriptyline belongs to a group of psychoactive pharmaceutical drugs called the tricyclic antidepressants, and it primarily acts as a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. Serotonin and norepinephrine are two neurotransmitters in the mammalian brain that are involved in mood. When more serotonin and norepinephrine are present in a cat's brain, the cat is in a happier, better mood. In normal cats' brains, these two neurotransmitters are released into the brain to make the cat happy or content, but are later reabsorbed into the neurons that released them in order to stabilize the cat's mood. Amitriptyline works by inhibiting the reuptake of the neurotransmitters, so when serotonin and norepinephrine are released into the cat's brain, they will stay there for much longer, causing a prolonged period of uplifted mood. In this way, amitriptyline can reduce the cat's stress level, thereby removing the root cause of the inappropriate elimination.

Side Effects/Warnings

Some common side effects of amitriptyline in cats are weight gain, sedation, increased water consumption (dry mouth), urine retention, and rapid heart rate. Some drugs, such as cimetidine, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, and serotonin reuptake inhibitors, could interact with amitriptyline to produce negative side effects, so be sure to inform the veterinarian if your cat is currently being administered any of these drugs before you administer amitriptyline. Follow dosing instructions exactly, because an overdose of amitriptyline can cause very serious damage to the heart and, without prompt treatment, death.

If you think that your cat eliminates inappropriately due to stress, you should do what you can to reduce the amount of stress experienced by the cat. This will both make the cat's life more enjoyable and stop him from eliminating inappropriately. A good way to alleviate stress in your cat is to administer amitriptyline.