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Do Steroids Make Cats Aggressive? (Vet Answer)

Written by: Dr. Marti Dudley, DVM (Vet)

Last Updated on May 14, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

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Do Steroids Make Cats Aggressive? (Vet Answer)


Dr. Marti Dudley Photo


Dr. Marti Dudley

Veterinarian, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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You’ve likely heard of someone who had “roid rage,” which is a physiological response that humans can sometimes experience because of steroid administration. Just like how humans on steroids can experience quick mood swings and agitation, steroid administration to your feline companion may also cause behavior changes, like an increase in agitation. However, this is more common in dogs. If you want to learn more about the effects of steroid administration and how to support cats who may have behavior changes, keep reading.

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What Are Steroids?

Corticosteroids are a type of steroid that is naturally produced by the adrenal glands, and they benefit the body in several different ways. They are involved in inflammation, stress, metabolism, and electrolyte regulation, among other things.

Certain medical conditions that your cat may encounter in their lifetime may require treatment with steroids. Examples of conditions that may require steroid administration are allergies, dermatitis, asthma, and immune-mediated disease processes.

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Side Effects of Steroid Administration

The effects of steroid administration vary and can be correlated with the dosing. Steroids may be dosed at physiological, anti-inflammatory, or immune-suppressive doses. Undesirable side effects are more likely to be noted with high doses of steroids.

Commonly reported short-term side effects of steroid administration include:
  • Increase in water intake
  • Increase in urination
  • Increase in agitation
  • Increase in restlessness
  • Increase in appetite

Additionally, cats that are borderline diabetic may become diabetic with the administration of steroids. Similarly, a cat with mild heart disease may develop severe heart complications with steroid administration.

Cats that may need to be on steroids for more than a few weeks can develop the above side effects but could also be at risk for developing long-term side effects as well.

Long-term side effects include:

Ways to Support Your Cat

If your cat is experiencing undesirable side effects from steroid administration, it is important to reach out to the prescribing veterinarian. The steroid should not be abruptly discontinued unless recommended by your veterinarian, as this could cause changes to the body. In some cases, the steroid dosing may be reduced, and improvement in undesirable side effects may be achieved. Alternatively, a different medication may be prescribed.

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Image Credit: silverblackstock, Shutterstock

Other Thoughts to Consider

Although your pet is receiving steroids, there may be other reasons for the clinical signs that you are seeing, including aggression. Some pets may act aggressively during times of stress. During an office visit or shortly after a car ride, your pet may be feeling stressed and may act out aggressively. Similarly, a cat who is in pain or is anticipating pain may use aggression to protect themselves from unwanted attention.

It will be important to be mindful of your cat’s behaviors and share your concerns with your veterinarian. Additionally, be mindful of the cues your pet is providing you with and respect their boundaries.

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Yes, the administration of steroids may alter your cat’s disposition. Although less common than in dogs, aggression may be noted in a cat receiving steroids. It is important to not just assume the aggression is related to the medication, as it could also be the result of fear or discomfort. Most importantly, keep communication open with your veterinarian if you notice concerning signs in your pet while receiving steroids.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: Slava Dumchev, Shutterstock

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