You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink it. You can lay as many mats and rugs as you want but you cannot get your dog to wipe its paws before entering the house. And with cats, you can plead and grovel on your knees but it is very difficult to get a cat to take a pill or medicine. Cats are amongst nature's most contrary creatures. The veterinarian may make it seem easy-peasy.
But you try explaining the need for medicine, be it antianxiety pills or deworming tablets, to a cat. There are some sneaky and some obvious ways to give your cat tablets and liquid medicines. If you try the obvious catch-cat-and-try-to-force-feed way wrongly, you may end up visiting in a hospital's emergency room! There is a subtle art in feeding medicine to a cat and listed below are various techniques and tricks to aid hapless owners.
Pills and Tablets
Important: Always ask the veterinarian pertinent questions about the medicine, like when should it be given, before or after food and if you can give the cat a treat after taking the medicine.
Way 1: Disguising the Tablet with Food
- You will need to cut the tablet into chunks or pieces.
- You can also grind the pill into a fine powder. Please consult the vet prior to breaking the pill, as some medicines should not be broken or mixed with other substances.
- Mix the pill in powdered or chunky form with some meat-flavored cat food, preferably one with a heavy smell like tuna and which is wet and thick in texture.
Some other ways to disguise food include making food balls. You can ball the food around a pill and place it in the cat's food but your cat could just lick the food off and leave the pill behind (cats are smart alecs). You can hide the pill in a food item. Use a treat food, which is any food item the cat likes but doesn't get to eat often. First you need to feed the cat some of the treat, without the pill, so it gets used to eating the food. Feed the cat from your hand or with a spoon to make the event seem extra special. Now combine the food and pill (not in front of the cat) and feed the cat. Special treat foods include liverwurst, cream cheese or baby food. Consult your vet to know whether the medicine can be mixed with such foods.
Way 2: Dissolving the Pill in Milk
- Avoid dissolving the pill in water. Your cat will only drink water when thirsty, so it may get an incomplete dose of the medicine.
- You can dissolve the pill in milk. But to ensure a complete dosage, you need to make sure the cat slurps up the milk in one go.
- So either feed the cat, the pill-milk by spoon or through a beaker, so it consumes all the milk.
Way 3: Catching the Cat and Feeding it the Pill
- If the above methods fail, it's time to get up close and personal with your cat.
- Do not chase the cat around or act suspicious (creeping up behind it, peeking at it around doors and walls).
- Be normal and friendly, pet your cat, play with it for a while and talk to it lovingly.
- Keep the pill and a treat ready in your hand.
- Wear a thick sweater or a full-sleeved shirt to protect yourself.
- Do this on a bench or table, do not feed the cat on the floor.
- You may need another person to help you, especially for the first time.
- Your helper must hold the cat from behind, his/hers hands should hold the cat's front legs, so no part of the cat, except its head, can move.
- You can also wrap the cat in a towel, firmly tucking in its legs and paws, such that only its head is visible.
- Either the other person should hold the cat against him/her or you should tuck the towel-wrapped cat against you firmly.
- Position your body and arms from behind the cat at all times.
- Gently but firmly grasp your cat's head from behind with the palm of your hand.
- Your thumb and index finger should be on the sides of the cat's mouth.
- Slowly tilt the cat's head backwards, its mouth will reflexively open slightly.
- You can gently press the sides of its mouth with your finger. Hold the pill in your other hand.
- If the cat still won't open its mouth, you need to insert your middle finger into its mouth and firmly but gently push down the lower jaw.
- Put the pill on the cat's tongue, as far back down the throat as you can.
- Now close the cat's mouth and gently rub its throat, so that it swallows the pill.
- You can also gently blow on the cat's nose.
- Release the cat and wait for 2-3 minutes. It could spit the pill out. But if it licks its mouth or nose and then its paws, it has swallowed the pill.
- To avoid having a miffed kitty (especially if you have to do this again), immediately give it a treat and praise it.
Way 1: Hiding the Medicine
- Pour the medicine into an eye dropper or medicine dropper.
- Try spoon feeding your cat food or offering the cat a treat by spoon for a few days.
- After the cat is used to eating treats from a spoon, use the dropper to add a drop of the medicine on the spoon.
- Feed the cat, the medicine mixed with food, as per the recommended dosage.
Way 2: Restraining and Feeding the Cat
- The steps of "Catching the cat and feeding it the pill - part 1" should be followed here.
- Prepare the syringe or dropper in advance.
- Here, hold the cat's head in one hand from behind. Your palm should hold both the upper and lower jaw in one grip.
- Gently tilt the cat's nose upwards and position the nozzle at the cat's mouth.
- Your cat's jaw is not completely closed, there is a small gap at one corner.
- Place the nozzle behind the tooth or fang.
- Give the medicine slowly, one drop at a time, let your cat swallow or lick the drop, then give it the next.
- Do not give the liquid in a hurry, your cat might choke. Let it smack or lick its lips, this means it is ready for the next drop.
- You can gently rub its neck to simulate swallowing. Complete the dosage.
- Wipe any spilled liquid from its muzzle and jaws.
- Wait for 10 seconds, then comfort and praise your cat and give it a treat as a prize for tolerating all the above steps.
- Do not attempt to shoot or squirt the medicine from the syringe into the back of your cat's throat. This may cause it to gag or choke and it may vomit. Be slow and gentle with your pet.
If giving oral medication to a cat is too much of an ordeal for you to handle or if your cat is showing you an "I refuse to eat that liquid/pill" attitude, you may need to take it to the vet and let a professional handle it. Or ask the vet for an alternative medicine form, like liquid or paste instead of pills. Cats are normally fussy animals, they eat when they want to and when they feel like.
So when it comes to feeding your cat medicine, keep in mind that you need to try, try, try and try again. Your cat will try to fool you by spitting the pill out later, when you are not looking. Do not give up, prove who's the most persistent and hopefully your cat will soon realize the medicine is for its own good and eat it willingly!