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Trazadone for Cats (Vet Answer): Uses, Side Effects & FAQ

Written by: Dr. Chantal Villeneuve MS BVetMed (Veterinarian)

Last Updated on January 31, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Woman at home holding her lovely Devon Rex cat on lap and gives it a pill

Trazadone for Cats (Vet Answer): Uses, Side Effects & FAQ


Dr. Chantal Villeneuve Photo


Dr. Chantal Villeneuve

Veterinarian, MS BVetMed

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

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Trazadone is a human antidepressant that is used off-label in cats to manage short-term events of high anxiety. In cats, Trazadone can help them be less stressed out by events that might be scary or disturbing.  Times when Trazadone might be helpful include a veterinary visit, when traveling or moving, during thunderstorms, during construction or renovations on your house, and after surgery.

It’s important to consult with your vet before giving Trazadone to your cat, as it can be dangerous in large amounts. Read on below to find out more about Trazadone and cats.

cat paw dividerWhat Is Trazadone?

Trazadone, also sold under the brand names Desyrel, Desyrel Dividose, Oleptro, and Trazodone D, is used off-label, meaning no company makes the drug specifically for cats. Instead, veterinarians prescribe the human version and carefully calculate the dose to account for the small size of cats. It is commonly used in humans to treat depression, anxiety, and sleep difficulties.

It is considered a safe drug when used under veterinary supervision. But be aware, the size of a pill does not determine how much of the dose is within it. Do not give your cat Trazadone without specific dosing instructions. Serious side effects or death can result from giving any human medication without veterinary direction.

cat with pill bottle
Photo Credit: Lightspruch, Shutterstock

How Does Trazadone Work?

Trazadone increases the amount of serotonin in the brain. With more serotonin humans are less depressed, obsessive, and anxious. Cats can also be less anxious with Trazadone and it is used mostly to help manage short-term events of high stress and anxiety.

How Is Trazadone Given?

Trazodone comes in tablets, capsules, or liquid depending on the formula. It can be given with or without food. Trazodone should be titrated to an individual cat’s needs—a cat may receive more or less Trazodone depending on how they respond to it. It may be helpful to give a couple of trial doses before a stressful event to know how it affects your cat.

cat looking up
Photo Credit: victoriyasmail, Shutterstock

What Happens If You Miss a Dose

If for some reason you miss a dose, it’s very important to not double up the dose—just skip that dose.

If you miss the dose before a stressful event you will need to do a cost analysis to decide how important that event is for your cat. For example, if you do not give it before a routine vet visit it might be best to reschedule the visit, but if the vet visit is to treat an injury, then you might need to bring your cat in without it. Weigh the benefits against the stress it causes your cat.

It is more common for cat parents give it too late. Remember that Trazodone needs about 2 hours to take effect. So, giving it 10 minutes before a car ride will not be helpful. Be sure to time it properly and give it 2–3 hours before a potentially stressful event so the medication is peaking within the body at just the right time.

Potential Side Effects of Trazadone

Trazadone at the appropriate dose usually has very few side effects—they do not happen very often. Usually, the side effects are related to too much of a sedation effect, such as sleepiness, incoordination, or clumsiness.

On the other hand, sometimes, it can have the opposite effect and counterintuitively make a cat extra excited and hyperactive.

Some side effects include:

  • Excessive sedation
  • Vomiting
  • Incoordination
  • Drowsiness
  • Hyperexcitability
Cat vomiting
Photo Credit: Tunatura, Shutterstock



Frequently Asked Questions

How Will I Know If It Works?

The best thing to do is to try it out two or three times before a stressful event. So, for example, if you got Trazadone so that your cat can ride in the car, give one dose of Trazadone a couple of days before at home, without any stressful stimulation. That way you and your cat will know what to expect, and you will know how your cat responds to it without the added stressful event.

If you do not think that the dose was enough to manage your cat’s anxiety discuss your observations with your vet. Do not increase the dose on your own. Your cat may need more Trazodone to be optimal, but we also do not want to overdose them.

cat in a carrier riding a car
Image Credit: Varavin88, Shutterstock

Why Does It Seem To Work Better At Certain Times?

Trazodone may have a different effect on your cat depending on the level of stress they experience. So, if you give it to your cat on a relaxed evening you may notice your cat is extra chill. But if you give it before a stressful car ride it may seem like your cat is just acting normal.

The level of stress that Trazodone has to reduce will determine how much of an effect it has. Do not be surprised that it seems less effective when your cat is super stressed. The idea is to lower the stress threshold—not to eliminate it entirely.

When Should I Not Use It?

If your cat has any of the following problems, be extra cautious using Trazodone:

  • Glaucoma
  • Urinary disease
  • Liver disease
  • Seizures

Additionally, if your cat is on other medications, be sure to double-check with your vet.

How Do I Administer It Without Stressing Out My Cat?

Stressing your cat out by forcing them to take a pill is defeating the purpose of the medication. Some cats will learn to swallow pills if you place them far enough back in their mouth without fighting. However, many will fight this method.

Usually, hiding a pill in a tasty treat works best. If your cat has a favorite (safe) treat, save it for use with the medication. By limiting the number of times they get their favorite treat you can further increase the value of the treat, which hopefully increases your success rate.

Remember—with cats, less if often more. If you act stressed and nervous about administering the pill and fumble the process your cat will pick up on it. Be quick and confident about it, while also being gentle and not overwhelming them with physical force.

What Happens If My Cat Ate Too Much Trazadone?

If your cat eats a human dose of Trazodone, take them to the vet right away and bring the medication bottle with you. If you get there in time, your vet may be able to make your cat vomit up the medication, which is the safest solution. Within 2 hours is the best scenario.

Bring the bottle so your vet can double-check the dose and contents—additives to the medication can sometimes be toxic to cats.

If a cat overdoses on Trazadone it may develop serotonin syndrome, which is a group of signs that can range from excessive sedation to hyper agitation, tremors, diarrhea, and heart regularity changes. Your cat may need hospitalization if this occurs.

cat paw divider


There are many medications that can help a cat with its anxiety. Trazodone is one option, and it is effective and safe to use. Be sure to discuss this with your vet first in order to get the correct dose for your feline.

Medication, however, is not the only option when it comes to behavior-related problems. A cat behavior specialist might also be helpful to understand your cat’s needs.


Featured Image Credit: Veera, Shutterstock

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