New drug calms cats during transportation, veterinary visits

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this November approved Bonqat, a nerve pain medication for cats to alleviate acute anxiety and fear associated with transportation and veterinary visits.

Bonqat is the first FDA-approved animal drug containing pregabalin, which is used in human medicine as an anticonvulsant and to treat neural pain.

The drug is administered orally as a single dose of 5 mg/kg (0.1mL/kg) approximately 1.5 hours before traveling or a veterinary visit and can be given for two consecutive days, according to a November 17 announcement by the FDA.

Orange and white cat in carrier at a veterinary clinic

Orion Corp., a Finnish drug maker, conducted a field study of client-owned cats with a history of anxiety that included two separate visits over the course of five to 10 days as well as repetitive transportation and physical examinations for each cat.

A little over half of cats given Bonqat had a good to excellent response during both transportation and the veterinary visit compared to about one-third of cats given placebo, according to the FDA. In addition, 83 of 108 (77%) cats given Bonqat showed improvement in levels of fear and anxiety over the course of the two physical examinations, compared with 46 of 101 (46%) cats given placebo.

Adverse reactions related to Bonqat included mild sedation, ataxia, and lethargy.

Bonqat is only available by prescription from a licensed veterinarian because it is a Schedule Class V drug under the Controlled Substances Act with a potential for human abuse. In addition, professional expertise is required to monitor the safe use of the product, including proper dosing and administration.

Appropriate precautions should be taken while handling Bonqat, the FDA warned, including avoiding contact with a person’s skin, eyes, and other mucus membranes. People exposed to pregabalin should seek medical advice and may experience dizziness, sleepiness, blurred vision, weakness, dry mouth, and difficulty with concentration or attention.

A version of this story appears in the February 2024 print issue of JAVMA