How to Medicate a Cat
There is a moment at the end of some feline exams that everyone involved hates….the part where I tell you (the owner) that Fluffy (the cat) is going to need medication. I can see you deflate a little at the prospect of the inevitable daily struggle, and Fluffy is glaring at me, her tail swishing back in forth as if daring me to try to pill her. I don’t envy you.
As the caretaker (I don’t dare imply any ownership) of two felines, I have been in your position many times. I’ve gotten pretty good at pilling a cat, frankly, but have a lot of experience doing it and didn’t develop that skill without shedding some blood in the process. In the early days, it usually ended with myself and my cat heaving in exhaustion, growling from one of us (never sure which), and a goopy, saliva-dripping tablet in my hand.
There are numerous excellent videos and step-by-step instructions on the internet on how to give your cat a pill, feel free to look them up….today, I am going to share some tricks with you on medicating.
The takeaway lesson is this: you have to be smarter than the cat. Regardless of the medication, there is a compromise in there somewhere. Cats, because they are cats, have forced us as veterinarians to come up with some creative ways to dose them.
- Try the pill in a treat. A little spray cheese, a piece of chicken, a little tuna juice. There are commercial products like Pill Pockets (a treat with a hole in it to hide the pill) that are also available. Tip: don’t just put it in with all of her food or water – the dose is what is important, and if we cannot be assured she got the full dose, we cannot be assured that it will do her any good….or she can just eat around it. Therefore, if you hide it in food, make it a small amount first.
- If it is an ointment/gel form, try putting it on the front paws – they may not like it, but they will ultimately be unable to resist the necessity of grooming it away.
- Pill-shooter devices: these stick-like devices allow you to place the pill on one side, stick it in the back of the mouth (the point of no return where they can’t spit it out), and tap a plunger to send it down the gullet. It can be done quickly, with minimal fuss, and no blood drawn!
- Alternative formulations / Compounded medications: almost any medication is available in or can be compounded into any one of several forms – flavored chewy treats, transdermal gels, liquid, long-lasting injectable….having a medication compounded is a little more expensive, but very do-able ….and often well worth it to regain that happy relationship you used to have before you kept shoving things down her throat. Note, every medication is different and has pros and cons to different formulations…but don’t be afraid to ask if something is available!
Cats are wonderful animals, but they can also be among the most uncooperative of patients. I look at my own furry-whiskered faces at home and remind them periodically that “It’s a good thing that I love you…”. Then they flop over, a deep rumble in their chest, and remind me why I keep doing what I do. We love them…that’s why we go through the struggles….but life can be so much easier if you find some middle ground.
Below is a popular forward / email that was circulating in the past that has never lost its resonance:
HOW TO PILL A CAT
- Pick up cat and cradle it in the crook of your left arm as if holding a baby. Position right forefinger and thumb on each side of cat’s mouth and gently apply pressure to cheeks while holding pill in right hand. As cat opens mouth, pop pill into mouth. Allow cat to close mouth and swallow.
- Retrieve pill from floor and cat from behind sofa. Cradle cat gently in left arm and repeat process.
- Retrieve cat from bedroom, pick up and throw soggy pill away.
- Take new pill from foil wrap, cradle cat in left arm, holding rear paws tightly with left hand. Force jaws open and push pill to back of mouth with right forefinger. Hold mouth shut for count of ten.
- Retrieve pill from goldfish bowl and cat from top of wardrobe. Call spouse in from garden.
- Kneel on floor with cat wedged firmly between knees, hold front and rear paws. Ignore low growls emitted by cat. Get spouse to hold head firmly with one hand while forcing wooden ruler into cat’s mouth. Drop pill down ruler and rub cat’s throat vigorously.
- Retrieve cat from curtain rail, get another pill out of foil wrap. Make note to buy new ruler and repair curtains. Carefully sweep up shattered figurines and vases from hearth and set on one side for gluing later.
- Wrap cat in large towel and get spouse to lie on cat with head just visible from below armpit. Put pill in end of drinking straw, force mouth open with a pencil and blow into drinking straw.
- Check label to make sure pill not harmful to humans, drink glass of water to take taste away. Apply Band-Aid to spouse’s forearm and remove blood from carpet with cold water and soap.
- Retrieve cat from neighbor’s shed. Get another pill. Place cat in cupboard and close door just enough so that head is showing. Force mouth open with dessert spoon. Flick pill down throat with plastic band.
- Fetch screwdriver from garage and put cupboard door back on hinges. Apply a cold compress to cheek and check records for date of last tetanus shot. Throw t-shirt away and fetch new one from bedroom.
- Call fire department to retrieve cat from tree across the road. Apologize to neighbor who crashed into fence while swerving to avoid cat. Take last pill from foil wrap.
- Tie cat’s front paws to rear paws with garden twine and bind tightly to leg of dining table. Find heavy duty pruning gloves from shed. Push pill into mouth followed by a large piece of fillet steak. Hold head vertically and pour 2 pints of water down throat to wash pill down.
- Get spouse to drive you to emergency room. Sit quietly while doctor stitches fingers and forearms and removes pill from right eye. Call furniture shop on way home and order new dining table.
- Arrange for ASPCA to collect cat and contact local pet shop to see if they have any hamsters.
How To Pill a Dog
- Wrap it in bacon.