Giving Medicine to your cat or kitten

Giving Medicine to Cats:
A Step-By-Step Guide

Giving your cat medicine does not have to be an unpleasant experience. To do it well, follow a process that involves restraining, giving medicine and then rewarding your feline friend. See below for our step-by-step guide.

How to Give Medicine to a Cat or Kitten

Dear Simba,
I have a 16-year-old spayed female cat.
She has always been a moody cat and has never tolerated change very well. Keeping up with her moods has been an ordeal! About a year ago we got a new dog. Our other dog had cancer and had to be put down. Pussa did not like this and became quite aggressive. She would attack anything and anyone. We tried her on some medication. It did not really help and I do not remember what we had put her on. A year passed and she has figured out that the dog is not going away and has settled down.

Her new thing is howling all night! She gets so loud that she wakes everyone up. Our vet has spent hours trying to figure out what to do with her. He ran bunches of tests and this 16-year-old cat is very healthy. He tried anipril (which is normally for dogs). The problem with this is...
I cannot get the medication down her! I do not know how she knows, but no matter what methods of hiding it in food do not work. She will not eat the food. I have tried everything. I do not put it in the food when she is around I have tried the best of cat foods, her favorite meats, dissolving it in milk. Shoving it down her throat worked for a bit but then she decided she could be bulimic and just walks off and makes herself throw up!

How can I get her medicine in her and make it stay there!! Also, when we are trying to get medicine down her she then starts to become aggressive! Signed, Owner of a Very Stubborn Old Kitty

Dear Owner of a Very Stubborn Old Kitty,
How very frustrating this must be for you. Ask your vet if the medicine comes in anything other than pill form. I am a big fan of pastes, since these tend to be easier to give and much more difficult to regurgitate on the cat's part.
Assuming that there is no paste or topical form, I recommend that you break the little pill up into smaller pieces and give it to her in small doses as part of a strong smelling food (i.e., oily tuna). Your cat may be able to detect the whole application in one meal, but her success rate in detecting the medicine will be reduced if the food has a stronger smell to it. I like what you have done by dissolving it in milk. If you have not tried so already, try feeding her the dissolved milk solution in a beaker. Again, this will be easier to administer and more difficult to regurgitate. As for her aggression, I would consider giving her the medicine in a small room and doing so only if there are two people giving her the medicine. One to hold her, both hands on her upper torso, right below her front legs and the other opening her mouth and feeding her the medicine with a beaker. Here are some additional tips for giving medicine to your cat.

Step#1: How to Restrain a Cat

  • Be gentle and firm.
  • Place your cat on a table or bench.
  • Have the other adult hold each of the cat's elbows so that they are locked straight while tucking the cat's body against theirs. Or wrap the cat in a large towel so only the head is visible.
  • Have the adult lean on the cat to keep him against the table.
  • Try to wear a sweater or shirt so if the cat tries to scratch with the back feet it cannot do too much damage.

Step#2: Giving a Cat Medicine

Pills Try a pill syringe. These are available at most pet-supply stores. Be sure to ask your vet to demonstrate them, so that you do not hurt kitty. If you are unable to find one, here it goes:
  • Hold the head in the palm of your hand and gently tilt the cat's head back (cats reflexively relax their jaw and open their mouth slightly).
  • Hold the pill in the opposite hand between your thumb and index finger
  • With your middle or ring finger, gentle lever the jaw open and place the pill 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.
Liquid Medicine
  • 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/syringe slowly place the medication into your cat's mouth.
  • The tip of the dropper can be inserted st 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
Step#3: Reward Your Cat
  • Always give your cat positive attention following successful medication.
  • Praise him, play with him, and if approved by your veterinarian, offer a tasty food reward so the next time will go even more smoothly.
Best of luck. Keep me posted. Your Pal, Simba

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