Soothing the Savage Beast

Study indicates stress relief may be in a bottle

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Many family cats show signs of stress at some point. It may be a short-term stress, which is a swiftly passing stage that may occur after a move or the addition of a new pet. But some cats show long-term stress. Stress may manifest itself as urinary marking, aggression toward people or other pets, scratching inappropriate things like furniture, or overzealous grooming leading to hair loss and possible skin lesions. Some physical ailments, such as idiopathic cystitis and chronic gastrointestinal problems, can also be stress-related.

A study out of Ireland may have found relief for these stressed-out felines. The study looked at oral L-theanine, an amino acid found in tea leaves. It has a soothing effect on people, dogs, and various laboratory animals. L-theanine helps encourage brain alpha waves that are part of a relaxed, awake, and alert state, but it doesn’t make the animal sleepy. In addition, physiological parameters that normally increase during stressful events (e.g. blood pressure, heart rate, cortisol secretion) tend to decrease.

The oral medication (Anxitane) was given to 33 cats whose owners had described stressful behaviors. Cats were given 25 milligrams twice a day for 30 days and 20 stress-related parameters were scored at Days 0, 15, and 30. Stress parameters included behaviors such as hiding but also aggression, elimination problems, and any other signs of stress. Most cats were willing to eat the medication either with meals or hand fed as a treat. No behavior modification was used.

Most of the cats showed improvement by two weeks but even better results were seen by the end of the month. Inappropriate elimination decreased.

This study suggests L-theanine is promising, but further research must be done. There was no control group, and the study relied heavily on owner observations (as opposed to objective measurements). Still, this is an option to discuss with your veterinarian. Anxitane is made by Virbac and does not require a prescription.n

Ir Vet J.2018 Oct 9;71:21. doi: 10.1186/s13620-018-0130-4. eCollection 2018.