As many cat owners know, trying to coax felines into anything they don’t want to do can extremely difficult.
However, in the administration of medication, owners need to place their cat’s health above the pet’s preferences.
Dr. Lori Teller, an associate professor in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, said owners should recruit an extra set of hands to give a reluctant cat medication.
“Ideally, there will be two people involved — one person to gently restrain the cat and the other to administer the medicine,” Teller said. “If you are alone (or even if someone is restraining the cat), you can snugly wrap the cat in a towel or blanket, so that only the head is sticking out. It also helps to have the cat in your lap with the head facing away from you.”
The administration method may depend on whether the prescribed medication is liquid or a pill.
“Liquid medicines can either be trickled or squirted into the back of a cat’s cheek pouch,” Teller said. “Try to avoid squirting the medicine directly in the back of the throat, as cats are more likely to aspirate a liquid medication than a tablet or capsule.”
Although putting the liquid dose in a cat’s food bowl may seem clever, your cat won’t receive the correct dose if it doesn’t finish its food. This may also make the cat’s food taste bad, in which case it may stop eating and be without the required medication and essential nutrition.
“To administer a pill, hold the pill between the first finger and thumb of your dominant hand. With your non-dominant hand, grasp the cat’s head at the cheeks. Be careful not to squish the whiskers,” Teller said. “Point the cat’s nose toward the ceiling. The jaw will drop open slightly. Use the third or fourth finger of your dominant hand to gently pull down the jaw, and then quickly drop the pill into the back of your cat’s throat and poke it down with your index finger.”
Teller said owners can also purchase a device called a pill popper. These devices look like long syringes that the pill can be placed inside of.
They are used to deposit the medication at the back of the cat’s throat without the owner needing to stick fingers in the cat’s mouth and risk being bitten.
“Cat bites can be very serious,” Teller said. “If your cat does bite you while trying to administer medication, please seek the advice of a human health-care professional.”
After depositing the liquid medication or pill in the cat’s throat, hold its mouth closed and gently stroke its throat and/or blow in its nose until the medicine is swallowed. Owners should follow the pill with a small amount of water so it doesn’t get caught in the esophagus.
The most stubborn cats may spit out the medication or vomit immediately after it is administered.
“If the cat just spits out a tiny amount, you probably don’t need to worry about it, but it would be good to ask your veterinarian,” she said. “If it spits outs all of the medicine or immediately regurgitates it up, then you may need to repeat the dose. Definitely speak to your veterinarian about this.”
After successfully medicating their pet, owners should offer it a favorite treat or pet it in its favorite spot to make the experience more positive.
If you can’t give oral medication to your cat, it is very important to let your veterinarian know so he or she can try to provide an alternative, such as compounding the medication into a transdermal gel that can be applied to the ear or into a flavorful cube or liquid.
Teller says owners may want to prepare to give medication prior to their cat becoming ill.
“There are ways to train a cat to take pills without the owner ever having to restrain or touch the cat!” she said.
(Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to [email protected].)