A study at UC-Davis looked at using gabapentin for short-term stress relief in cats traveling to the veterinary clinic. Gabapentin has been used in cats for seizure and pain control, but human studies show some reduction of anxiety as well. An earlier study used gabapentin for feral cats involved in trap/neuter/release programs to reduce fear responses.
The study cats were all healthy but fractious or anxious during travel and less-than-compliant about procedures at the clinic. The goal was a reduction in anxiety as detected by owner and veterinarian, and video interpretations by behavioral experts.
By all accounts, the cats were less stressed. Some cats showed some ataxia or wobbliness for up to eight hours after the drug was administered but otherwise had no ill effects. This study suggests that the medication must be given about 90 minutes before travel and two to three hours before the actual appointment.
Since stress is often given as a reason for avoiding regular preventive veterinary care for cats, this could be an important step towards better feline health.
Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, November 2017