Unless you have a very easygoing or cooperative cat, you will find out just how difficult it is to give tablets or liquid to your feline. Opening the mouth with one hand and popping the tablet down with the other sounds simple in theory and looks effortless in photos and diagrams, but the average cat is not going to take medication without a struggle. In fact, that sweet kitty may very turn into a feral beast when it comes to medicine.  Pilling a cat can often be a two person job and cats are better armed (teeth, claws) than humans. Many cat care books provide photos, diagrams and step-by-step instructions for giving tablets. An even better approach is to get your vet to demonstrate - this will also give you an indication of how cooperative your cat is and whether it is a one-person or two-person job.  Once you are aware how your cat will behave, you will know if you need a second person or other equipment.

Many cats can detect even the tiniest amount of medication in their food and refuse to eat what they view as "contaminated" food. In nature, this helps guard them against poisoning, but in the home it makes medication a problem. If you give tablets in food, make sure the medicated food is served first and is eaten before you serve the unmedicated part of the meal. It is best to serve the medication in a small portion as you can more easily check that it has been eaten.

It may not be too crucial if a worming tablet/powder takes several attempts, and some wasted tablets, over several days. However, getting antibiotics, steroids or chemotherapy into your cat at the prescribed daily rate is very important. Some tablets must be given whole; they are designed for timed release when swallowed whole and could even be dangerous crushed, so please check with your vet.

Many cats respond better to minimal restraint so when medicating your cat start out gently and work up from there.

Here are a few suggestions to try first:

  • Be gentle but firm. Bullying your cat into behaving rarely works as it does in dogs.
  • Place your cat on a table or bench.
  • If an assistant is necessary, have him/her hold each of the cat's elbows so that they are locked straight and tuck the cat's body against his/her own. Have him/her gently lean on it to keep the cat against the table. It is a good idea if your assistant is wearing a sweater or shirt so if the cat tries to scratch with the back feet it can't do too much damage.
  • If this doesn't work wrap the cat in a large towel so only the head is visible. Placing your cat head first down the sleeve of something like a dressing gown may also work.
  • If your cat is well behaved hold the cat's head in the palm of your hand and gently tilt the cat's head back. Most cats reflexively relax their jaw and the mouth will open slightly.
  • In the opposite hand, hold the pill between the thumb and index finger.
  • With your middle or ring finger, gentle lever the jaw open and then place the tablet onto the back of the tongue. Push the tablet over the back of the tongue with a finger.
  • Quickly close the mouth and rub the throat to stimulate swallowing. Blowing on your cat's nose tends to give it a bit of a fright and may induce it to swallow.
  • Restrain your cat as above.
  • Hold the cat's head, this time holding both top and bottom jaw. Tilt the cat's nose slightly upwards.
  • Using an eye dropper or syringe slowly place the medication into your cat's mouth. The tip of the dropper can be inserted just behind the canine (fang or eye) tooth where the jaw does not completely close.
  • Unless the dose is small give the medication slowly allowing your cat to swallow and to lick the medication from its mouth before giving more.
  • Rubbing the throat or blowing on your cat's nose may help to stimulate swallowing.
  • Never inject into the back of the mouth as this may cause your cat to choke.
If the "easy way" didn't work, try these:
  • Wrap the cat in a towel, blanket or a pillowcase with only its head sticking out should immobilize the cat enough to protect against claws. Make sure the towel is wrapped securely. If possible, kneel and hold the wrapped cat between your knees to free up both hands. This method is not foolproof, but is certainly worth trying, especially if the tablet has to be given whole.
  • Check your pet store for a cat restraint bag - these are made of mesh and have a zip and a hole for the cat's head. They are designed for restraining a cat for bathing, but some are sturdy enough to be used when giving medication.
  • If the problem is getting the cat to swallow: After putting the tablet at the back of the cat's mouth, spoon or drip a couple of drops of water into the mouth to make the cat swallow. A couple of drops from an eye dropper is usually enough.
  • To make the "tablet-in-a-treat" method work, your cat should be used to getting occasional treats of the food in question and view the treat as something desirable e.g. a reward or accompanied by praise or following play. Many cats are suspicious of new foods and if you try to hide a tablet in something unfamiliar, you probably won't succeed. For many, the fact they are getting human food (normally forbidden) may be enough to make them gulp it down before you change your mind. Tablets do not mix well with dry food (kibble), but can be mixed with canned foods. Experiment to find out what treat foods your cat likes before you ever need to give tablets. For a long course of medication, you will need to vary the treats as many cats grow bored and/or suspicious.
  • Crush the tablet and mix with strong smelling canned food or with sardines in tomato juice or a similar very strong smelling treat. Foods worth trying include fish paste/pate or one of the stronger-smelling meats. Cats have much better senses of taste and smell than we have, hence the need for strong smelling, strong tasting foods.
  • Hide the whole tablet in a small piece of greasy cooked sausage, greasy cooked burger or greasy cooked chicken. Larger tablets will need to be broken into pieces and fed in several treats. Many cats are attracted to greasy meats (cats are designed to quickly metabolize fats into energy) and greed may overcome caution. Some cats will take tablets crushed in butter or even in cooked pork fat. These methods won't be suitable if your cat is sensitive to fat - vomiting or diarrhea will prevent the tablet being digested.
  • Hide the whole tablet in a piece of cheese which you have warmed in your hands so it can be molded into a ball. Larger tablets will need to be broken into pieces and fed in several treats. This method is only suited to cats which can tolerate dairy products.
  • Hide the whole tablet inside a hollowed out soft cat treat.
  • Liquid medicine can be mixed into strong smelling foods, such as sardines or mackerel. The varieties in tomato sauce are often most successful.
  • Crush the tablet and mix it with goat's milk which can be served on a saucer or dish.
  • Crush the tablet and mix with a tablespoon of raw chicken or beef minced up.
  • If your cat allows you to open its mouth or restrain it, but still won't swallow a tablet, crush the tablet in a pestle and mortar (or use the back of a teaspoon on a plate) and mix it with a little liquid such as lactose-reduced milk, tuna juice etc. Slowly spoon or syringe the liquid into the cat's mouth. It is likely to swallow this by reflex. It is best not to use an eye dropper as many tablets don't dissolve in milk or water and the crushed pieces (even if very fine) can clog the eye dropper (worse, they might form a cement-like solid in the eye dropper).
  • If your cat accepts being spoon or syringe fed, but won't swallow tablets, ask the vet if the medication is available in a liquid form.
If your cat is a sucker for tidbits from your meals, try some psychology. Cats will often beg tidbits from your plate when you are having a meal, but won't eat the same things when served in their usual bowl. They have a concept of these things being treats. Put the pill in a piece of sausage or chicken and have this handy when you eat a meal containing the same types of meat. Give the cat a tiny piece of meat from your own meal as a "loss leader". Having successfully begged for that tidbit, most cats will want more. Give it the piece containing the pill. Alternatively, if you don't want to encourage begging (which is probably the lesser of 2 evils if your cat is on lifetime medication), leave the piece of meat containing the pill on your plate and put it on the floor for the cat to eat when your meal is finished. Maybe drip some gravy or sauce on the meat so it seems like a genuine leftover.

If you have a multi-cat household, you must ensure that only the patient gets the medication. It won't do a sick cat any good if a less fussy housemate eats the tablet. If it is taking medication mixed into food:
  • Feed it in a different room, feed the medication in a small amount of food and let it rejoin the other cats for the main portion once it has eaten its medication (unless also on a special diet). It doesn't matter if the "different room" is the bathroom or bedroom, just so long as it is isolated from the other cats while the food is eaten.
  • Give the other cats unmedicated treats to distract them from trying to steal the medicated treat from the patient. This may also make the patient less suspicious of the special treatment. The competitive nature of cats at mealtime may encourage it to gulp down the medicated treat before another cat tries to steal it.
Hope this was helpful!Hope this helps!



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