By Julia Williams
“I gave the cat her medicine. Could you drive me to the hospital now?”
This was the caption of a funny cartoon that featured a man whose clothing was shredded and his skin was all scratched up. I’ve never had quite that disastrous an outcome when medicating my cat, but it can certainly be a challenge. It’s a task that every cat owner will probably face at some point, though, so it pays to learn how to do it properly. With that in mind, here are a few pointers on giving medication to your cat.
Watch and Learn
I could try to describe specific medication-giving techniques with words, but I’ve found that actually watching the process is more helpful for most people. If you can, have your vet show you their technique. YouTube videos are also an effective way to watch and learn. There are several different techniques; you may need to experiment to find the one that works best for you and your cat.
Pick a Location
It’s a good idea to use the same place each time you give medication to your cat. This way, when you take them to the spot they will know why they are there and what’s going to happen. It will become more of a routine experience even though it isn’t exactly a pleasant one.
Before you fetch your unsuspecting cat, get all your supplies together in your designated location. Trust me, having everything close at hand and ready before you do the deed will make it go so much smoother.
If you’re giving liquid medication, draw it into the dosing syringe before getting your cat. If giving a pill or capsule and you want to use a pill gun (also called a pill popper or pill shooter) have it loaded and fill a syringe with water to “chase” the pill.
Have a soft towel or blanket for your kitty to sit on, and a towel in case you need to wrap them up for gentle restraint.
Remember to Breathe
Your cat can read you like a book, so it’s important to stay as calm as possible. Yes, you may be scared or stressed about giving medication, especially when you’re new at it. But staying calm will help lessen any anxiety your cat may have, and will make the procedure go much better.
For pills or capsules, there’s a genius product called a pill pocket that you can hide the medication in. These work especially well for foodie cats, as they will eat the “treat” without even knowing there is a little something extra inside. If your crafty cat nibbles around the pill and leaves it behind, you can put it in a product called pill paste which is stickier and can be molded around the pill. Some people have success hiding a pill in a dab of cream cheese, butter, piece of chicken or hot dog. You’ll have to experiment to see if any of these work for you.
Bitter tasting pills will make your cat foam at the mouth profusely. The best way to give these pills is to put them in an empty gel cap (size 3 or 4 are perfect for cats) that you can purchase in bulk from Amazon, iHerb and similar stores. You may also be able to get them locally at a health food store. Gel caps are perfect for giving multiple medications as you can put them all in one capsule and just have to pill your cat once (check with your vet to make sure the meds are OK to be given at the same time).
Dry pilling is not recommended because it can cause injury to the cat’s esophagus. It is important, therefore, to follow any pill medication with about 5ml (1 teaspoon) of water. You can use a syringe, or buy a pill gun that has a water reservoir designed specifically for the purpose of chasing the pill.
Compound the Medication
If your cat needs to be on medication long term and you’re struggling with the pilling process, you might want to see if the medicine can be compounded. Not all of them can, but it’s worth looking into because it can be less stressful for the cat and the caregiver since it allows you to give them a pleasant tasting liquid with little fuss.
Some medicines are available as a transdermal gel, which is designed to be absorbed through the skin. These medications are usually applied to the inside of the tip of the ear; most cats don’t bat an eye at the procedure, so it’s a good option for feisty felines who are more difficult to pill.
Giving medication to your cat isn’t ever going to be fun, but with practice, patience and a calm demeanor, it can go smoothly. Then you can get back to the business of giving your beloved feline friend lots of love and pets!
Read more articles by Julia Williams