Three days ago we put my 15-year-old Siamese-Persian cat, Nala, on anxiety medication. Yep, anti-depressants for a cat. Why? Because of the pregnancy.
Since early on in the pregnancy, the first trimester, Nala started to sense something was different, and it began to make her anxious. There’s no conclusive evidence that cats can sense pregnancy, but they can definitely pick up on cues, like your behavior changing. Who knows what she sensed.
We always knew this would be a difficult thing for her. Nala is MY cat. 100% attached to me and only me. About 4 years ago, we got a second cat. Partly we were hoping that would help her separate from me a bit, to know that she can share me. Well, that was an interesting experience. She got very sick for several weeks, requiring medication in order to help her keep down food and water. We worked through the process with behavioral training and by using Feliway. Still, she was very hurt and distant for a long time. It was a year before she sat on my lap again and much longer before she fully trusted me again. Going away for business or vacations helped her to realize she was being silly, actually, and each time she became more pliable and cuddly again.
Back to now. Nala began to exhibit signs of her stress early on, and they only got worse. She was grooming excessively, had litterbox issues, was losing weight, was demanding food constantly (including twice during the night) and overall seemed to be in “panic” mode about everything. If I even went into the baby room she would meow frantically.
Nala was not getting any less attention, though what we’d read suggested to prepare her for the baby by spending a little less time with her. That obviously was out of the question. We also found that getting mad at her for any issues, such as waking us up at night, was only making things worse. Stopping that, and placating her instead with lots of attention, was only somewhat calming her.
Of course, we were worried about how all this would progress once the baby was actually born. We’d tried all the behavioral modifications before and the process of getting Guinness was still very traumatic for her. We got all the baby furniture in place as soon as possible to reduce her stress, but obviously that didn’t matter.
So, after Nala had a full series of medical tests to rule out any other causes of her behavior, we opted to medicate her. It’s been 3 days. At first, her dosage was too high. Even though she was on the minimum dose, she was very sedated to the point of losing interest in everything. Now, we’ve cut that in half and she’s pretty much her normal self. She’s sleeping better through the night, eating regularly, and is playing and cuddling normally.
It will be about a month before the medication takes full effect. Right now we’re probably seeing these changes from the sedative side-effect. However, we’re hopeful this will help her cope when baby comes home. The other cat, Guinness, couldn’t care less about any of this stuff so far, so we have no worries about him!
BTW, during this whole process, Nala also had to change her food, so that was an added stress to her. She’s always been mildly allergic to her dry food, but she was too stubborn to change it. After that allergy worsened, we managed to find a wet food she’d eat – after 15 years – in the hopes it would help her with her weight. She’s also now on a dry food that is chicken and grain free, though she prefers just her wet food. Overall she’s been happier with these foods – though still having other issues ;)