Saturday, January 13, 2007

Prozac For Precious Puss-Puss

WHAT could be wrong with Shadow? The green-eyed, long-haired cat had adapted well to his Santa Monica home. There was a carpeted cat tree in the living room for his climbing pleasure. He appeared to have reached an understanding about sharing the house with the other resident feline.Then one day his owners saw wet spots around the house: Shadow was urine-spraying. The door was a favorite target. So was the side of the sofa. And a corner wall of the living room.Not to be confused with eschewing the litter pan, spraying is a ritual of territorial marking that cats sometimes do whether they are spayed or neutered — as Shadow is — or not.Shadow's keepers, Fernanda Gray and Elliot Goldberg, were distressed. Pet ownership, they believe, is a trust not to be betrayed. "I don't throw animals away," said Gray, who with her husband now owns three cats.But Shadow's spraying had tested the couple's resolve. They had to replace draperies, carpeting and the sofa. Their veterinarian was running out of ideas to discourage Shadow's habit.Then Gray saw a small newspaper ad in 2001: "Spraying Cats Needed for Study." Shadow was accepted into a double-blind study of an undisclosed medication's effect on the behavior.Fourteen days later, the spraying abruptly stopped.The drug was Prozac. Five years later, Shadow is still taking the medication — half a 10-milligram tablet once a day — in its generic form, fluoxetine, a $16 supply of which lasts about four months."He's still active, he's still his hyperactive self," Gray said. "But it just takes that anxiety away."