Human Meds and Cats: Can a Cat Have Hydrocodone, Oxycodone or Xanax?


A few weeks ago, my cat, Bella, knocked my pill minder off the shelf above the toilet and sent a bunch of medications that should never be taken by kitties flying all over the bathroom. I was trembling as I counted the pills, the whole time praying that the noise had scared her off and she hadn’t eaten any. Fortunately, all the meds were accounted for and I didn’t have to rush Bella to the emergency vet, but I’ve kept my pill minder in the medicine cabinet ever since. That episode got me thinking about human meds and cats, and the fact that cats are often prescribed medications that have the same names as the ones we’re given for various conditions, and how dangerous it can be if we assume that our dosages of human meds, like Hydrocodone, Oxycodone and Xanax, are okay for cats. Here are some medicines you should never share with your cat, under any circumstances.

Are human meds ever safe to give to your cats? Find out why not!

Can cats have NSAID pain relievers?

Although dogs do all right with baby aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers designed for pets, cats’ bodies react very differently. Ibuprofen and naproxen can cause stomach ulcers and kidney failure, while acetaminophen causes potentially fatal damage to the red blood cells and liver.

Can cats have Tramadol?

Veterinarians often prescribe tramadol for pets because it is an effective pain reliever. However, the doses for humans are dozens of times larger than the dose needed for a cat. An overdose of tramadol can cause seizures, disorientation, vomiting and tremors.

Can cats have Alprazolam (Xanax)?

This drug is prescribed to cats as an anti-anxiety medication. However, if you are taking alprazolam, don’t give yours to your cat. Overdoses can cause a huge drop in blood pressure and collapse or fainting.

A cat chewing on a cat toy.

Human meds and cats don’t mix. Even if your cats are prescribed the same medicines as you, the dosing is drastically different.

Can cats have SSRI antidepressants?

You’ve probably heard of cats being prescribed fluoxetine (Prozac), but that doesn’t mean you should share your antidepressants with your cat. Again, dosing is much different in cats than it is in people, and when ingested in large quantities, they can cause agitation, fever, elevated heart rate and high blood pressure. Seizures could result, too.

Can cats have medical (or recreational) marijuana?

Yes, I recently wrote a post about how medical cannabis has changed my cat’s life. However, medical cannabis is not the same thing as marijuana: The formula I used for my cat is extremely low in THC, which means it can’t get your cat high. No reputable veterinarian would ever prescribe a high-THC formulation for cats because cats don’t understand being high and the effect we might find pleasantly relaxing freaks them out.

Can cats have Opioid pain relievers?

Again, veterinarians do use and prescribe opioid pain relievers — but in appropriate doses for cats. Some opioid pain relievers contain acetaminophen, and they should never be given to cats under any circumstances. These are hydrocodone-acetaminophen formulas, known under the brand names of Vicodin, Norco, Lorcet and Lortab; and oxycodone and acetaminophen (Percocet).

A close up of a cat's nose.

Cats are notoriously curious, so make sure any human meds are tucked away safely out of reach.

Just one more note while we’re on the subject of medications: If your cat gets into some illegal drugs, just be honest with the vet about what the cat took! Vets don’t give a damn whether you smoke weed, take prescription meds without a prescription, shoot heroin or whatever. They’re not going to report you to the cops. All they want to do is save your cat, and if you lie to them (even if the lie is “I don’t know what he got into”) you’re putting your cat’s life at risk. Your furry friend deserves better than that.

Have you had any close calls with accidental pill ingestion or mistakenly giving a cat a human-size dose of medicine? Have you treated cat who have ingested meds? Speak up in the comments and tell us your stories.

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About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.

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