Animal Welfare Professionals

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  • 1.  Webcast:Maddie's® Insights: Gabapentin and Behavior Modification for Shelter Cats - 12/1/22

    Posted 10-11-2022 11:46 AM

    Maddie's® Insights are monthly webcasts with practical tips based on current research to help pets and people. This month's webinar is presented by Bailey Eagan, MSc, PhD Student.

    Recorded on Thursday, December 1, 2022  (1 hour)

    Cats entering shelters often experience fear, anxiety, and stress while in care. Mitigating negative states in cats is critical to their health and well-being, especially in populations of fearful cats that are already at risk for poor outcomes. One particularly at-risk population are fearful cats rescued from animal hoarding environments. In this presentation, results will be shared from a new study assessing and using a standardized behavior modification program and daily gabapentin administration to treat fearful cats from hoarding environments. Further, instructions and resources for conducting behavior modification in shelters are shared, along with a summary of a growing body of research and in-shelter experience demonstrating that many fearful cats from hoarding environments are treatable in shelters and can have positive outcomes in homes.


    After viewing, join us right here on Maddie's Pet Forum to continue the discussion or ask questions.

    This webinar has been pre-approved for 1.0 Certified Animal Welfare Administrator continuing education credits by The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement and by the National Animal Care & Control Association.


    Bailey Eagan, MSc, PhD Student, University of British Columbia

    Bailey Eagan holding a small dog

    Bailey Eagan is a PhD student specializing in animal behavior and welfare in animal shelters. Bailey has a particular interest in conducting applied animal behavior and welfare research and incorporating research findings into animal shelter practice. Bailey's current work focuses on anxiety-medication use in behavioral treatment plans of shelter animals.


    alison gibson
    Senior Media Specialist
    Maddie's Fund

  • 2.  RE: Webcast:Maddie's® Insights: Gabapentin and Behavior Modification for Shelter Cats - 12/1/22

    Posted 12-01-2022 01:53 PM

    Hi everyone, 

    Thank you for the wonderful discussion. Please see below for some links to studies and resources that we chatted about during the session.

    1. Downloadable Behaviour Modification documents -

    2. Cat Stress Score -

    3. Two studies that were done on hoarding environment cats by Jacobson and colleagues at the Toronto Humane Society

    Please let me know if you have any questions, or if you would like to chat about any of this further!

    Thank you, 

    Bailey Eagan

    Bailey Eagan
    PhD Student
    UBC Animal Welfare Program

  • 3.  RE: Webcast:Maddie's® Insights: Gabapentin and Behavior Modification for Shelter Cats - 12/1/22

    Posted 8 minutes ago
    Thank you for the chart and studies.  We were not able to open the behavior modification documents.  Can those to reattached?  This information is encouraging news for these critters.  Appreciate the information.

    Glenda Davis
    Animal Rez-Q, Inc.

  • 4.  RE: Webcast:Maddie's® Insights: Gabapentin and Behavior Modification for Shelter Cats - 12/1/22

    Posted 12-01-2022 03:32 PM

    Questions and answers we did not get to during the live webcast

    Did you have/collect any information on the cats in your study and their level of sociability prior to entering the shelter?
    During the intake exam, and in the enclosures post exam, cats were assessed by the veterinary behaviourist and determined to be eligible medically and behaviourally for the study. In order to be included in the study from a behaviour perspective, they had to be showing high levels of fear in the presence of a human, as evidenced by hiding, trying to escape or freezing, being in an alert state, and showing tense body language (e.g., laying ventrally or crouching, dilated pupils, fast respiration, etc.). Those that were not showing these signs, or were showing signs of sociability, were not included in the study (and moved on a lot quicker to adoption )!

    How many different homes did the cats in the study come from?
    All the cats (n=37) came from three separate hoarding environments in staggered intakes.

     Why use gabapentin instead of diazepam and similar meds?
    We would love to study other medications as well down the road. For this study, we used gabapentin because it is inexpensive, shows benefits when given as needed in fear inducing scenarios (e.g., vet clinic, TNR), and due to reported anecdotal success in behaviour modification programs for fearful cats in shelters. However, I would really love to test other medications with behaviour modification programs, and perhaps compare gabapentin to other medications for ongoing progression in shelters. We are currently surveying shelter staff in Canada, the USA and Mexico trying to learn what medications people are using and having success with in shelters for reducing fear and anxiety. If you have 20 minutes to spare, we would love to hear form anyone working or volunteering in a shelter on this topic, regardless of if you prescribe medication or not!

     English Survey -

    French Survey –

    Spanish Survey -

    Any details on what the behaviors were that distinguished the very fearful cat (who was euthanized) from the rest of the cohort?
    Unfortunately for both of the study cats that were euthanized, ultimately the very difficult decision was made based on their daily welfare in care being apparently severely compromised, and their poor prognosis within the shelter or homes. Both cats were hiding 100% of the time, not eating, drinking or using the litter box, and showing extreme fear when people were near (e.g., trying to escape, very dilated pupils and very rapid breathing). And very unfortunately, as a result, these two cats were euthanized.

    Do you think this would help with cats that have petting-induced aggression?
    I believe it could be beneficial for creating a positive association with being petted, especially if being very careful to keep the cat under its threshold of what would induce aggression. However, while we did have cats showing aggressive behaviour in this study (apparently motivated by fear) that had good success with this program, we didn't encounter this exact scenario of petting induced aggression, so I am sorry to say I don't have specific use examples of this. In a few scenarios we did notice petting preferences for cats (e.g., some didn't like near their ears touched etc.) which I expect could have been motivated by pain due to an underlying medical condition, or perhaps negative previous experiences.

     How did you time spay/neuter with this study?  Did any cats in this study also present with infectious disease (URI, ringworm, etc) at intake that required immediate treatment and were they included in this study?
    We would usually get them spayed or neutered a week after they had been in the shelter, once they had a chance to acclimatize. If a cat was showing higher levels of fear and was not consistently eating, drinking or using the litter box, we would try to delay their procedures. However, all cats were spayed or neutered within their time in the shelter, and we did not wait until they finished BMOD to do this. We did have suspected URI in all the cats (some confirmed, however we did not do population-wide testing), but thankfully all improved in the shelter. One cat was very pregnant when she entered the shelter, so she had kittens in foster, then entered the shelter in the next cohort. Aside from that, we did not pause BMOD or the study for specific care, however we recorded the days and times of various treatments (e.g., spay/neuter, swab, giardia baths), and monitored for any dips in behavioural measures. The data is unfortunately so controlled to do formal analysis on a population level, but anecdotally, often these procedures seemed to cause a small dip in BMOD progress, but would return to normal within approximately a day. However, there was one unfortunate case where a cat was getting ear drops, got neutered, and then continued ear drops, and had a very drastic decline in behaviour. This did make us realize that while we could see great progress among these cats, it appeared it could be precarious in some cats, and from this it seems important to consider what is the most needed medical care to provide while they are behaviourally so vulnerable.

    alison gibson
    Senior Media Specialist
    Maddie's Fund