Use of single-dose oral gabapentin to attenuate fear responses in cage-trap confined community cats: a double-blind, placebo-controlled field trial.J Feline Med Surg 2018; 20(6):535-543JF
Objectives This double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluated the safety and efficacy of single-dose oral gabapentin administered for the attenuation of fear responses in cage-trap confined community cats. Methods Community cats presented in cage traps for trap-neuter-return (TNR) were recruited and screened for inclusion. Each enrolled cat was randomly assigned and administered one of three equal-volume, single-dose treatments: placebo, low-dose gabapentin (50 mg) or high-dose gabapentin (100 mg). At baseline, 1, 2, 3 and 12 h post-administration, a single, blinded observer scored each cat for signs of fear and sedation using published paradigms, calculated the respiratory rate and documented any observable facial injuries. Results Fifty-three cats met the inclusion criteria and completed the study. Cat stress score (a measure of fear) was lower in cats that received gabapentin (50 or 100 mg) than in cats that received placebo (50 mg: P = 0.027; 100 mg: P = 0.029), with the greatest reduction at 2 h post-treatment (P = 0.0007). Respiratory rates did not differ between treatment groups. There was no difference in sedation scores between the groups (P = 0.86) at any time point (P = 0.09). Cat facial injuries did not vary by treatment group or over time. No adverse effects were detected specific to gabapentin administration. At 1 h, hypersalivation was observed in four cats across all treatment groups. All cats recovered from surgery and anesthesia uneventfully. Conclusions and relevance This study supports the hypothesis that 50 mg or 100 mg gabapentin (9.2-47.6 mg/kg per cat) reduces fear responses in confined community cats without measurable sedation over 3 h post-administration vs placebo. Gabapentin treatment was well tolerated in this population of cats. Further studies are recommended to investigate the use of oral gabapentin earlier in the TNR process, such as immediately after trapping or prior to transport for the prevention of confinement-related injuries.