Giving medicines to kitty made easy!
From dewormers to antibiotics, there are many different pills that must sometimes be given to a cat. Unfortunately, most cats are experts at spitting them out, or they refuse to eat them altogether. Here’s how to give pill to your cat.
Some cats push it up a notch and they will actually eat you alive before they can be administered a pill, no matter how important or urgent. If you are part of the likely majority of people owned by cats, pilling little Fluffy, otherwise known as trying to place a tiny, hard object into the mouth of an unwilling creature with sharp claws and teeth- is not something that most cat owners look forward to. In fact, most people who have attempted this feat in the past are recoiling in fear right now, and when the veterinarian hands them a bottle of pills or dietary supplements in pill form. However, there are various strategies and ways you can learn to pill a cat with the least amount of stress to you, and most importantly, to your cat.
The first step of course is to train the cat to tolerate the pill. These steps are taken long before giving your kitty the pill or the supplement. The goal is to help the cat learn to tolerate the handling that will be necessary to pill her, and also to take liquids from syringes and solids from a pill gun or something similar. First step is to get your cat used to being handled around her face and mouth, using treats to reward her for allowing the handling and to associate the activity with something pleasant for her. Make the initial sessions of teaching the handling process short, and follow up with a meal, petting or playtime. As the kitty gets more comfortable with having her face and mouth touched, you can begin to insert your thumb and middle finger to lift up on her mouth, forming a C with your fingers. Place a special treat, like a small morsel of meat that doesn’t need to be chewed into her mouth or immediately, upon letting go.
First: Make sure that you ask your vet or check the manufacturer’s instructions so that you know whether the tablet can be divided or crushed or whether it can be administered with food.
Second: find the simplest and easiest method that is comfortable for the cat, you and everyone involved to give your cat the pill.
Third: Have a confident approach and keep calm at all times. If you run into difficulties, or cannot manage, contact your vet, or vet nurse at the local practice. Here are some things to do before you approach your cat with the pill.
Before you approach the pet…
- Make sure everything is prepared and ready in advance.
- Have a clear plan and time it well.
- Be gentle and kind to your cat. Remember, she is only following her natural instincts.
- If you keep calm, your cat will be calm and you will avoid putting everyone at danger.
- A second handler is always welcome, to help you with your cat. This person can administer, while you retrain, or vice versa. Make sure that is a person without fear of animals and cats in particular.
Before food? After food? Wrapped in food?
- Make sure your cat is hungry! Take all food away for 12 hours to make sure your cat will want to eat.
- Some tablets are manufactured so that they are yummy and cats will willingly take them. Others not so much. Your vet will give you these directions.
- Remember to place the tablet at the tip of your fingers rather than in the palm of
- However, often cats will not eat a tablet voluntarily on their own because (even if designed to be palatable) the flavour and/or texture may be unfamiliar.
- If the tablet is small, hide it inside a small morsel of your cat’s favorite food, chicken, raw fish, tuna, soft canned food, cheese, softened butter, whatever that the cat goes nuts for. The tablet must be completely hidden so that the texture and smell do not permeate the food morsel.
- You can offer the food in the cat’s normal bowl or from your hand/ fingers – as you prefer (taking note if there are any precautions for handling the tablet).
- If your cat eats the food, check to make sure it has also eaten the tablet and not left it behind or spat it out.
- You can then give your cat the rest of its normal meal.
Some cats are clever at finding the tablet buried in food and spitting it out, or just eating the food around the tablet. If it is safe (check with your vet or the instructions that came with the tablets) you may be able to crush the tablet and mix it thoroughly in a small amount of very tasty food. This works best with palatable tablets, and with a strong- flavoured tasty treat that your cat really loves (such as some tinned fish in oil).
Administering the tablet by hand
There are some cats that will deny the pill no matter how you tempt them. In these cases, you will need to pill them by hand as you are left with no other option. Gentle, safe restraint of your cat is important, and it helps enormously to have two people- one person to give the tablet and the other to hold the cat.
Hold your cat with your hands
- Cats are slippery, so the surface you put them on should be non slippery, and should allow for a gentle, but firm grip. Floor works best, otherwise a good table, mat or work surface are your other options.
- The cat should face away from you, in an upright position so that you can avoid some of the scratches, if they do happen.
l Restrain the cat by holding the forelegs above the elbows as shown in the image above, and press your palms against the body of the cat to prevent escape or wriggling and injury to the handler from paws and claws and the front legs.Alternatively, use a towel, and I’ll tell you why this is useful
- If you don’t have a second person helping you.
- If your cat is specially wriggly
- Your cat likes to scratch or will bolt at the first sign of danger (the pill in this case)
- Use a mid-sized soft towel – not too large, as those are hard to use. Put the towel on the floor or a flat stable surface and then put the cat on top of the towel, facing away from you
- Wrap the cat up in the towel like you would swaddle a baby. Bring up both sides of the towel and around the cat’s neck, and once your cat is thoroughly wrapped, make sure that she cannot get her front legs out of the towel.
- Hold your cat gently but firmly in the towel as shown in the picture below
Giving the tablet:
Once the cat is restrained, gently but firmly, pill her, and again, this is easier if there are two handlers, one restraining the cat, and the other opening the jaws and facilitating the swallowing. Try to do this quickly but calmly and make sure in advance that you have everything ready, so that your cat does not get upset:
- The handler administering the pill must hold the tablet between the thumb and forefinger of one hand
- The other, free hand is placed on top of the head of your cat, approach the cat from the side as this is the least threatening position (given the current scenario). The head must be held between the thumb and forefingers as shown in the picture, and these same fingers are used for extending downwards both side of the jaw, starting at the corner of the mouth.
- Gently tilt the head upwards, and use the middle finger of the hand with the table to pry open, very very gently, the lower jaw and open the mouth.
- Follow the images. Keep the head tilted and quickly drop the tablet as far back on the cat’s tongue as your fingers can reach. The farther it goes, the less likely it is to be spit back up. Now close the jaw and keep it so for a few minutes. Gently massaging the throat helps in swallowing. Once the tongue comes out and the cat licks her lips or nose, the swallowing action has occurred. Syringing a little water will help the process along.
- Sometimes your cat may not swallow the tablet on the first attempt and may spit it out. So long as your cat does not become distressed, you can try repeating the procedure. Always try to get the tablet as far back on the tongue as possible. Using a pill-giver can also be helpful.
Remember, if you have problems and/or your cat gets upset, contact your vet.
Commercially available tools and tricks that are very useful
- Any plastic syringe, or a commercially bought one, without a needle, but with the plunger, will work. The commercial pill givers have a soft nozzle at the end, where the tablet will fit, and this can then be pushed using the plunger. Always practise the movement before handling the cat.
- A pill-giver can help you administer the tablet right at the back of your cat’s tongue while avoiding any need to place your fingers in your cat’s mouth
- Make sure you have everything ready, with the pill placed in the implement before restraining your cat, to make the task as stress free as possible. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- This small device makes it easy to divide tablets accurately into halves or quarters. This can be useful when your cat does not need a whole tablet or when giving two smaller pieces may be easier than giving one whole tablet
- Always check first to make sure the tablet is suitable for dividing – some tablets have a special coating, for example, and must be administered whole and not divided. If in doubt, always check with your vet. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- These are empty gelatine capsules, which can hold two or more pills, and this is particularly helpful when more than one pill needs to be administered. There is also a little lubrication on the surface, which makes the pill easy to swallow. The capsule with its oval shape and lubrication makes it easy to swallow.
- Make sure that the medicines that you are putting in the capsule are meant to be given together.
- This works with the pill giver, pill splitter and by hand. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- This device is not really necessary, as the back of a spoon will work just as well.
- However, this device does have some very interesting qualities, as the crushed powder is of a regular consistency.
- No dose is lost when using this device.