Help me drug my cat! It's for a good cause I promise
January 2, 2011 9:18 PM   Subscribe

Halp -- how do I ethically drug my cat to make him (temporarily) nicer / less of an asshole?

My adorable but bratty kitty has a callback for a Whiskas commerical on Wednesday afternoon. He's 8 years old, slim but not fat, pretty face but needs an attitude adjustment. He'll tolerate being held but I'm concerned he won't sit still. Is there some way I can drug him to make him a little more stationary and friendly without totally putting him to sleep? He sleeps on the heat vent often and gets very cuddly and tolerates being touched, so I know it's somewhat possible. Is this something I could ask a vet without being turned in to the SPCA? I DO NOT want to harm him in any way, I just want to de-anxiety-ify him for a few hours. Make him nicer and cuddlier without making him pass out.

caveat: I really do believe I am a good person, but I would not be against using some illegal substances here. Pot? MDMA? My first thought was melatonin, which the internet says is OK for animals in small doses (and a small dose is what I'm looking for here). Does anyone have any experience?
posted by custard heart to Pets & Animals (42 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Rescue Remedy works for kitties AND humans. Tried and true at my house -- after my cat had her kittens and they all got sent to the vet to have their bits done, she went insane and Rescue Remedy was the only thing that made her normal again. Totally legal, too.
posted by patronuscharms at 9:27 PM on January 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

You're thinking of drugging your little friend for a Whiskas commercial? How, exactly, has this cat expressed to you that he wants to be a famous actor?

Seriously, if your cat can't behave as appropriate for this commercial then I would say that he is not especially interested. Probably he does not especially relish being drugged into submission either.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 9:27 PM on January 2, 2011 [5 favorites]

I would respectfully submit that if your cat doesn't "tolerate being touched" unless he's half-asleep, he might not really be suitable for ad work.
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:29 PM on January 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: To be fair -- the one time (and only time) my cat is pleasant is when he's eating. My previous AskMe question was why he loves it so much when you pet him while he eats, or just sit there and watch him eat. Loves it. But he's not the cuddliest cat.

And I am looking for something that he won't mind too much. Really mild -- I don't want him to be totally doped.
posted by custard heart at 9:30 PM on January 2, 2011

posted by patronuscharms at 9:31 PM on January 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

Um, what's the good cause here?
posted by lalex at 9:33 PM on January 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: DO NOT give your pet anything that is not recommended by your veterinarian. Substances that are mild or harmless for humans can be deadly for animals. Pot for example, can cause seizures in cats and dogs, and can permanently lower their seizure threshhold, making them more susceptible to them in the future.

You could certainly talk to your vet and see if there is a sedative they would be comfortable prescribing, but some cats can have an opposite reaction to sedatives, so unless it is something that the cat has been on before, you run the risk of making the situation worse.

There is nothing wrong with giving a pet a mild sedative to help them get through a stressful situation, but your vet is the one that will determine if they think it is appropriate.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:34 PM on January 2, 2011

Ask your vet, they can prescribe a tranquilizer.
posted by wandering_not_lost at 9:34 PM on January 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

A good cause would be something like "I'm moving and want it to be as stress free as possible for my cat" or something along those lines. Not "I want my cat to be in a commercial".
posted by Brian Puccio at 9:39 PM on January 2, 2011

Ask for ACE from your vet. This will do the trick. You can also try benadryl, but it can have adverse reactions on a small percentage of cats.
posted by TheBones at 9:40 PM on January 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

Ethically (assuming you have an ethical obligation toward your cat), you have to talk to your vet and ask for information on sedating your cat in a physically (and psychologically?) safe manner. I don't see how slipping him kitty valium, assuming no adverse effects, can be at all ethically dubious. (I also don't see how helping him get a commercial that you want is a "good cause.")
posted by J. Wilson at 9:42 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I will ask a vet tomorrow? Benadryl seems like a bad idea, and pot seems hard to control. My first thought was melatonin, as it's somewhat natural and probably won't make him totally freak out. I guess the vet would know if this is safe or not.

I guess the good of asking now is this question has been on my AskMe list for a while -- I have another cat who is going to need a bath pretty soon and I'd like to maybe give him something to make it a little less stressful, while not knocking him out completely.

Kitty pics: numero un, numero deux, numero trois
posted by custard heart at 9:47 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

A sedated cat is sedated. It'll be really obvious to anyone that works with cats (say, television commercial casting people) that something is amiss, especially when the cat can't walk in a straight line toward food and its pupils are dilated like crazy. "Stationary" will be "sitting up, then falling over, then mroooooooooowl" and it won't be worth the cost of the vet visit and the prescription.

Picture this guy in a commercial.
posted by mendel at 9:53 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just chiming in to say that cats have a metabolism that is drastically different from humans (in fact, most other animals; cats are obligate carnivores) and that you should never consider giving something to your cat just because humans tolerate it.
posted by Lord Force Crater at 9:54 PM on January 2, 2011

Please be very careful here. People safe does not mean cat safe. For example, a Valium would simply have a calming effect on a human but it is toxic to cats and can kill them. Do not go messing with stuff if you're not a vet.
posted by slow graffiti at 9:56 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

please don't tell your vet that you considered just dosing your cat with illegal drugs. i mean, i guess you can if you want to, but your vet might find that to be a fairly horrific idea and be concerned about your pet rearing abilities.
posted by nadawi at 9:57 PM on January 2, 2011

Response by poster: Noooooo, I'm looking for something more mild if possible, if anyone has any experience or recommendations. Even if this commercial doesn't work out, I'd like something to calm the other one while I bathe him and I don't know if I want to put him anywhere near water if he's drunkles like that guy there.

Another option: he's pretty lovable when he's really sleepy, or when he's sitting on the the heating vent. I've heard Anne Geddes keeps her studio super warm, like 100 degrees, when she takes those ridiculous photos of babies dressed as flowers so the babies sleep the whole time. Would keeping him warm or simply keeping him awake all day so he's tired maybe work to keep him sitting still and not clawing me?
posted by custard heart at 9:57 PM on January 2, 2011

Best answer: I know for a fact (it was an accident so calm down everyone the cat was fine) that pot will freak your cat the fuck out. Like amped up and wiggy, so definitely not weed.

I don't know, asshole cats are assholes. I am looking at mine right now. I'd say Pounce, a heating pad and some crossed fingers are your best bet.
posted by mckenney at 9:59 PM on January 2, 2011

Response by poster: Also -- illegal drugs meant as an example. If I could get some "cat MDMA" to make him sedate and cuddly, that would be great. I would not dose him with PEOPLE pot or MDMA. I just want him happy and chill, but not passey-outey or drunk.
posted by custard heart at 10:00 PM on January 2, 2011

Best answer: Uh, Rescue Remedy is homeopathic. Homeopathy is unscientific nonsense; the substance is in all practical senses inert, so harmless, but likely only to be effective as a placebo.

Vets tend to recommend Feliway for similar situations. It's an extract of valerian root that typically has an immediate calming effect (I have used it and it works when you have an upset or bugged-out cat). I can't be certain, but I'd bet that a fair number of domestic animal drama mamas use it already. But as noted, it may also put your cat's personality on the other side of the line that separates call-backs and non-call-backs. YMMV.
posted by dhartung at 10:15 PM on January 2, 2011 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: on earth does a placebo work on a cat?? Like, the response is just the owner imagining it?
posted by custard heart at 10:17 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: and I'm not sure if Feliway does much -- a past roommate tried it to get her cats to stop peeing on the floors all the G.D. time. It had little to no effect on my cats, nor did it stop the constant flood of cat pee until she just moved out.
posted by custard heart at 10:19 PM on January 2, 2011

Response by poster: Commercial or no commercial -- I have to bathe & transport the cats once in a while. I take the melatonin to help me sleep, it's nice and makes me drowsy without getting that "i've taken a sleeping pill" groggy awful feeling. I've been under anaesthetic and have taken drowsiness-inducing allergy medication and fucking hated the way it made me feel. I get freaked out when I get that druggy, drowsy feeling. I'm just wondering if there is something, preferably natural, that would make my cats chilled out, relaxed, and happy, without feeling the awful, scary drowsy feeling -- which I wouldn't want to cause them as I hate it myself. I don't want a vet to prescribe anything that would make them drugged out and incapacitated like the kitty in the video, but one I will need to transport on Wednesday, and the other one (though fixed) has a tendency to spray, and gets a bit stinky. He needs bathing, the other one needs moving! Is that so bad?
posted by custard heart at 10:27 PM on January 2, 2011

I really do believe I am a good person, but I would not be against using some illegal substances here. Pot? MDMA?

I'm sorry, I'm calling bullshit on that. Unless the FDA is cracking down on cat nip you meant regular, illegal, human ecstasy.

Also, the answer to every cat AskMe is of course: Feliway.
posted by fontophilic at 10:28 PM on January 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

I meant DEA...
posted by fontophilic at 10:43 PM on January 2, 2011

Don't EVER give your cats ANYTHING that isn't OK'd by a vet. Rescue Remedy, for example, doesn't seem to give a clear description of what's in it, but anything that contains any essential oils is toxic to cats.

I'm sure you really are a good person, but you need to understand why this question is really, really disturbing to other people who have pets, because you do not seem to get it. Most cat owners would not ask this question (maybe "how do I help my cat adjust and stay calm during the trauma of a move?", as mentioned above, but not "how do I get my cat to behave so I can make him be in a commercial"). Consider that it isn't a cat's job to behave nicely when you want it to, or to do things like be on TV. You are a human with critical thinking abilities (I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt), and you chose to be the caregiver of this cat, so it is 100% your job to make sure that the cat is healthy and that you aren't doing things to hurt it or put it at unnecessary risk or stress. Sedating it for something as frivolous as filming a commercial is not a normal, healthy cat activity. People are coming down hard on you because they are very surprised that you really think it might be ok to give a cat illegal drugs to make it just chill out so you can get paid for it to be in a commercial (yeah, I don't buy your later comment that you really meant "kitty weed" or something).
posted by so_gracefully at 10:55 PM on January 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

Like, the response is just the owner imagining it?

No, the act of giving the substance changes the owners behaviour and the cat picks up on that. A placebo isn't going to work for you, and neither is anything else you cobble together. Also keep in mind that mild sedation causes some cats to freak out so it needs to be tested first (following proper medical advice). If melatonin is appropriate for your specific cats your vet will tell you that, as well as advice about doses and potential side effects to watch out for. Taking advice from the internet for drugs to give your cat is just as dumb as taking medical advice from strangers for yourself (i.e. very).

There is no short cut here, talk to your vet. And don't be surprised if they're not entirely sympathetic or helpful because you're not describing situations that require medical care with the risks and drawbacks that always go with such a thing (bathing a cat? really? a cat that doesn't clean itself properly needs medical attention anyway).
posted by shelleycat at 10:57 PM on January 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have worked with a professional TV cat before. He was slightly hungry and his owner/wrangler/trainer fed him small morsels of wet cat food which were concealed in her hand to keep him focussed. That cat had an extreeeemely chilled out disposition and was very used to new places and people; your cat may be different.

Also; on-set, cat-actors are trained to do things by putting dabs of wet cat food wherever the trainer wants the cat to go. Once the cat has found maybe 5 dabs of catfood on that place, he will automatically check the sixth time. This is how the cat wrangler got a commercial cat to lick my actor-friend's nose in a rather famous catfood commercial. 5 dabs of food on her nose; then the 6th time the cat licked her nose, which was camera-ready with no catfood on it. Use this information as you will.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:06 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well I have to say that if your ethics are anything like mine, this isn't something you can do ethically.

I would give an unhappy/stressed cat a vet-vetted sedative for unavoidable stress situations (such as a necessary long car journey) but I'm afraid I don't consider a cat food commercial audition to be in that category.

If you must go ahead with this you need to talk to a vet.
posted by Decani at 11:28 PM on January 2, 2011

How about catnip? Or even better, silver vine? (Though that might be harder to get hold of)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:39 PM on January 2, 2011

I just wanted to mention that Valium is prescribed to cats in kitty sized doses. My cat had it for FUS in hopes that he would pass a crystal (he didn't). It's pretty obvious when they're on it. He would half try to jump up on me and then slide down my leg and sit ther looking confused.

We asked about sedating cats for a long drive and our vet at the time recommended against it. I think they were worried that it would be worse for them. They did offer the childrens Benadryl idea but we did not use it. Others who have mention the unpleasant side effect of your cat foaming pink at the mouth if you don't get it in well.
posted by oneear at 1:09 AM on January 3, 2011

Would catnip work for this or would it do the complete opposite of what you're after?
posted by teraspawn at 3:33 AM on January 3, 2011

the substance is in all practical senses inert, so harmless, but likely only to be effective as a placebo.

Not quite "inert", given the brandy.
posted by holgate at 3:43 AM on January 3, 2011

I saw an interview with a Hollywood cat wrangler one time who said (forgive the language) that the best cats to go into acting are "the ones all the other cats think are retarded." That is, cats who act like cats are not good actors. Cats who are super-mellow about being handled, being in the car, being around a lot of noise and attention and change, want to people-please enough to take to training like a dog, etc. And that the other cats usually gave them a bit of a wide berth because it was clear those cats were unusually weird, even for cats.

The other cats he worked a lot with were ones with emotional trauma who would sit totally still in terror the entire time (for times when the cats didn't need to move at all in the scene). I guess it was good because they were all rescued and taken really good care of, but it just seems mean to me.

So acting may not be for your companion, regardless of drug-use status.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:19 AM on January 3, 2011 [4 favorites]

Uh, Rescue Remedy is homeopathic. Homeopathy is unscientific nonsense; the substance is in all practical senses inert, so harmless, but likely only to be effective as a placebo.
Rescue Remedy is unlike many homeopathic preparations because the nonsense ingredients are dissolved in brandy. I realise that a normal dose is unlikely to get even a cat drunk, but ethanol does have a real sedative effect.
posted by caek at 4:58 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I take the melatonin to help me sleep, it's nice and makes me drowsy

Trident gum makes me happy. But it almost killed my dog when he rifled through my bag to chomp some. Vet emergency room, stomach pumped, fluids administered.

Tylenol makes a headache go away, but it almost killed my idiot cat who decided they were tasty. 3 day hospital stay, blood transfusion, $1500 in vet bills!

The point is... wow, REALLY? Don't start rifling through your medicine cabinet for things that work for you to give to animals. You'd be alarmingly surprised at just how toxic things are for their little systems. It's just a cat food commercial. Not worth killing/injuring/sickening anyone. TALK TO THE VET.
posted by jerseygirl at 5:55 AM on January 3, 2011

It says alcohol free right on the box.

The right answer is call the vet, the scolding and the bizarre horror stories is not helpful. This person is doing the right thing- he/she is ASKING what to do.
posted by gjc at 6:04 AM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't have personal experience with this, but the folks at Whiskers might have something to recommend (in NY and online)

their site / yelp / googlemaps
posted by Sarah Jane at 6:04 AM on January 3, 2011

Mod note: comments removed - stop calling people morons.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:04 AM on January 3, 2011

Fine, since my last comment was removed.

For what it's worth, every vet that has worked with my family for the past 15 years has recommended both Rescue Remedy and Feliway along with a number of other products when it came to soothing my more anxiety-ridden pets. Regardless of what you think about homeopathy, coupled with the fact that Feliway is technically considered prescription homeopathy on its own, I as well as about 4 different vets with 30+ years of professional medical experience treating anxious animals can attest to Rescue Remedy's efficacy as a treatment for animals who can't seem to calm down. Since your real question was more about finding ways to soothe your pets when they must go through something intense, such as having a bath or a trip to the vet, I offer this up as assurance that I am not one of those survivalist hippies who spends their time ranting and raving about their herbs and plants, and that the products mentioned above are solutions that may also work for you and your kitties.
posted by patronuscharms at 10:16 AM on January 3, 2011

My first thought was melatonin, as it's somewhat natural

Hemlock is natural. Rattlesnake poison is natural. They'll kill you, tho. "Natural" is not the same as "inert." A substance that has a physiological effect, even if it's a mild and desirable one, is a DRUG.

Drugs don't work on cats the way they do on people. They also don't work on cats the way they do on dogs. Things we think of as harmless can be fatal even in tiny doses. That's one of the main reason vets are THERE: check with them before administering anything to a pet.
posted by galadriel at 4:23 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Vets are going to be apprehensive to give you something to sedate your cat, if my experience with my previous two vets and my anxiety-ridden kitty are telling. (The last one told me to give her some Benadryl, which only made her seem paranoid and didn't sedate her at all.)

The thing is, I don't really get why you want to change your cat's personality. If he's getting a callback (and will likely be eating, which is when he looks happy) they apparently liked something about him. I wouldn't want to risk getting rid of the thing that caused them to call him back in the first place.
posted by eldiem at 5:16 PM on January 3, 2011

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