Medicating Cats at Home: Tricks and Tips

frail cat

Frail cat. Photo: Newtown graffitti.

I have just been through the usual tricky time trying to give my cat, Charlie, antibiotic pills for a URI. I was given a very large pill suited to this kind of infection (I believe the infection was on the lungs too). It was the size of a human pill and whatever I did to get him to take it failed. If I had tried any harder someone would have been hurt. I had to stop and return to Charlie’s veterinarian and find an alternative. Charlie’s vet was very understanding and he gave us a new pill which was also suitable for this particular infection. It was a fraction of the size and it was designed to be broken into two pieces. It was also flavoured. These differences made all the difference in getting it down Charlie.

The Cat Owner Way

I simply embedded half the pill in a piece of his favourite cooked chicken and hand fed him on the kitchen floor. I wanted him to focus on that piece of chicken and make sure he ate it all. If the half-pill dropped out or he spat it out I could see it on the dark floor tiles and try again. The procedure worked well. One of the major factors for success, I feel, is that the alternative pills were flavoured so he could not detect them by smell. He detected the other pills immediately by smell even as he approached the chicken. He even went off eating his favourite chicken. He wouldn’t even eat it even when it contained no pill.

Below is a thoughtful video by a young lady in America on administering pills and meds to cats at home. It is one of “tricks and tips” videos and the products are of course American. I sense that America has a better range of methods which facilitates giving medication to one’s cat at home. But this lady does have some interesting and, for me, new tricks to get that all important pill down your cat!

The Vet’s Way

What about the professional way of giving pills to cats? Cats are usually passive and somewhat pliable in the veterinarian’s consulting room. Not all cats are, of course, but in general cats are submissive through anxiety and because they dominated by the environment. I think it is very difficult to give a cat a pill at home. Some cats will be quiet and accepting because they are that way by nature. A lot of cats will struggle because they treat you as one them – on equal terms – only accepting the sort of treatment that they want from you.

One aspect of administering pills at home is to restrain your cat. This can certainly make the process work. In the past I have used a towel and another person all of which helped to keep my cat still and to force acceptance of the process. It is unpleasant, nonetheless, but safe for both cat and person. The American vet in the video below sensibly states that wrapping a cat in a towel is not a good technique and I accept that advice but sometimes needs must.

In the video the vet gives his cat a pill at home. He has restrained his cat with a harness, which I think is acceptable if it works and it appears to work well in this instance. He says the harness pacifies the cat. However, this cat seems inordinately passive and accepting. It looks strange to me. Is this level of passivity (almost as if the cat is sedated) because of the harness?

Personally, I don’t believe the vet’s way of giving a cat a pill at home works that often. It may even be foolish to try it because an inexperienced person could hurt their cat employing this method (and themselves). For instance, when you place the pill at the back of the cat’s mouth (if you get that far) isn’t there a danger of forcing the pill too far back in the cat’s mouth so that the cat chokes or the pill is pushed down the windpipe? Perhaps not, but if there is a struggle there would seem to be a risk that the cat could be injured.

I feel that the drug companies could do more to make the giving of pills to cats easier for cat caretakers. Certainly the size and smell of a pill is a factor.

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Medicating Cats at Home: Tricks and Tips — 39 Comments

  1. Giving pills is a nightmare of guilt if you have to force it down but sometimes that is what it comes down to and I’ve found that if I get down on my knees and pull the cat back against and in between my knees until he can go no further backwards it holds him secure then I can poke my finger in the side of his mouth and lever it open and pop the pill as far back as I can with the other hand, then let the mouth shut and rub the chin and throat and finish off with a kiss on the nose. I hate it, he hates it, I feel guilty, he hates me but at least the job is done. Far, far better if you can disguise it in a bit of chicken but cats are so clever they soon get to know what you’re up to and leave the pill on the side of the plate. The best of all is to beg the vet on bended knee for a long acting antibiotic injection that saves having to give pills, they usually say “Oh it will cost you a lot more” but who cares about that compared to being spared the horrors of popping pills into reluctant boys.

    • Brutal 😉 It can be the only way to do it successfully. Long term (2 week) injections are great. I do not think they are effective for all infections unfortunately. I feel that the drug manufacturers and vets expect too much of cat owners because a lot of them won’t cope with this. I am sure some people take their cat back each day for the vet to administer the pill. Charlie’s vet does not charge for this.

      • -If My Veterinarian would give injections-at a lower $ amount, then I would prefer this method. I medicate, bathe, shave & diagnose my four ” Maine Coons” at home.Of course I have researched & cared for all types of animals my entire Life 50+ years; And would not recommend Playing Doctor to an inexperienced Layman.]Here is my technique for giving my cats pills [On my knees, cat snuggled between, head held back @45% angle,open jaw very gently but firmly & slide the pill quickly down back of tongue-but not too far or your pet will choke on it> just enough to grab a lightweight pipet & squirt fluids into the edge of their mouths to help facilitate swallowing.NEVER use a large hard plastic syringe & NEVER use a GLASS dropper, & if you squeeze fluids straight into their mouths instead of inside the edge; the cat may choke by taking it the wrong way [into the lungs].Immediately rub underneath the neck being careful to apply only gentle pressure. Also, I have to mention a video in this website that shows a man spitting his saliva into the cats mouth $%^&* Why in Heavens name doesn’t he realize that he is transferring his nasty germs into that helpless cat? Not only can we contract disease’s from our pets, But we can also transfer them as well. That being said:Another tip to keep your cats safe is to wash their feeding bowls “Every Day” & make sure they have Clean & “Fresh Water”.Yes Cats need water, Wet food & Dry food.Try to find all natural or as close to natural ingredients in the foods you give them.____ PS. A cat can die within 24-hours if it has an infection or infestation {Before the owner discovers their beloved is even sick.} Cats hide their illness from predators & from us. “KEEP A CLOSE EYE ON YOUR CATs-BE ALERT TO ANY DIFFERENCE In ATTITUDE OR MANNERISMS & PLEASE SEEK MEDICAL HELP RIGHT AWAY ! Eva D.R.Force

  2. michael i had to do this week to ozzie, was dreading it but it wasn’t a big pill was a pink one . i was amazed at how well he took it. He restisted at first but was amazed. I gave him lots of love and attention and dropped it down his throat without him taking my arm off or spitting it out. . I gave him a treat afterwards with lots of praise. When i got him dematted they saw he had a type of abcess. It looks like its pretty much cleared up is very soft and silky and very loving now. Im hoping to get a photo of him with his Winter Coat as its amazing. As its getting wintery here 🙁

  3. I detest that vet! That poor cat was tied up for more than the 5 minutes making the video, his head forced back numerous times and none too gently either, it’s torture for a cat knowing someone is going to do something, that cat was cowed with fear, the pill there ready and the cat knowing it was going to be shoved down his throat. Spitting in his mouth was disgusting! Sorry but I hate that method. I just hope and pray this video isn’t seen by any idiot who could end up strangling his cat if the cat struggles tied up on a rope or by being dragged out from under the bed on one. It ended by the poor cat dragging the lead while the man laughed! That video will give me nightmares!

      • He shoved another cat out of the way none too gently either!
        Not a glowing example of a vet in my book 🙁

        • I noticed that too. 😉 He does seem to be what I call “America vet” in behavior. A bit strident. I like vets to be gentle and tender. I want them to be strong willed and smart but built on a foundation of tenderness and extreme respect for animals. He could have made a joke about his other cat coming into the video. It would have made the video better.

          • Did you notice also Michael that he didn’t talk to the cat? He stroked his head a few times but didn’t reassure the poor creature at all that he wasn’t going to hurt him AND he didn’t thank him for being so patient and taking his pill.
            It might sound daft but I do not trust any vet who doesn’t talk to his patient, maybe cats don’t always know what we are saying, but the sound of a kind voice can make them feel calm and safe.

            • I noticed that too, R.
              He treated the cat like an inanimate object.
              And, I didn’t like the way that he brushed the other cat to the floor either.

              • To a Brit he does have the aura of an American vet (dare I say it). I have seen this sort of character before. It is more than about character/personality. There does seem to be a lack of tenderness. Obviously there are tens of thousands of tender gentle vets in the US but they declaw and the ones I have seen on video who declaw are like this. A degree of arrogance.

    • Love your comment. American vets and British vets employ a similar technique but I wonder if the Americans do it differently. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did and it may tell us a bit about the different mentality of the two groups of vets.

    • Stupid old git! Long past his sell by date, he used “the baseball grip” to lift the cat up by it’s head!! And putting his filthy juices into the poor cowering cats mouth, that sickened me. Who the hell is he? Surely a vet wouldn’t recommend lifting a cat by it’s head and tying a rope around it’s neck. He wants putting away somewhere secure, he’s not right in the head.

        • Watch it all, Michael.
          Take note, especially, when he talks about declawed cats and pulling a cat from under a bed by the leash (THE NECK).
          And, if I ever saw a vet spit in the mouth of one of my cats, I would slap the sh-t out of him!

          • I picked a crap video! Moral: see all the video. Still it provided a talking point and it does show some veterinary techniques but spitting into the mouth of a cat – bizarre.

  4. Also the casual way he mentioned declawed cats, I didn’t actually see any claws on that one, although that was maybe because I was seeing red because I wanted to tie a rope round the man’s neck and spit in HIS mouth!

  5. I could have written Ruth’s comments for her after watching the second video. I hated it. I feel sorry for his pets. The casual mention of declawing was deplorable.

    In the other hand, I felt a connection with the gal in the first video. I think it makes sense to get a cat used to having a special treat time. I agree with Ruth, some cats cannot be tricked! And I find each cat to be different. The AD would not work for my Bigfoot. I have becomes skilled at pilling him, quick and to the point, followed by lots of snuggles and tenderness. I’m so fast at it now, he barely knows what happened.

    I remember the first time I pilled sweet feral Yellowcat, whom I couldn’t handle at all. The thrill of watching her eat the tip of the pyramid of food I built, that housed the pill, caused me to get thrill bumps of joy.

    Marvin’s head is so big, and he so loves attention, I can push a capsule between his front teeth and he grabs it and swallows it all while still wriggling and head bumping for attention. Hopefully, I won’t have much trouble with him as years go by.

    I recently bought some special fish oil with other ingredients to help with Bigfoot’s CKD. I tried it first on Marvin. It is in liquid form, with a sort of squirt syring. It was easy to slip between Marvin’s cheek and teeth. He didn’t seem crazy about the intense flavor. I haven’t even tried it on Bigfoot. I’ve never been able to give him liquid anything. And, I can see him spewing it all over the place. I may look for chicken flavored capsules, fill them with the liquid, and go that direciton.

    I’m lucky that my vet is very sweet with the cats. She has several if her own, and unlike that insensitive vet in the video, she gets how different each cat is.

    • lol Dorothy I bet you could sense me fuming over the ocean! I was looking forward to yours and Dees comments!

  6. What in the hell kind of vet is that!

    Right, Mr. Vet… Just try tying one of my cats to something, grabbing a head, and poking your finger in a mouth and see what happens to you! You’ll be declawed yourself. and it won’t take any one of them the 15 minutes you spend declawing! A–hole!

    On a calmer side, the lady has some good ideas. Some would work on a few of my cats. For most, what really works for me is to “melt” the pills in tuna juice or the like, draw up in a syringe, and squirt between teeth and cheek. Even at that, some are more of a challenge than others.

    And, just because I’m p-ssed off…
    What in the hell kind of vet is that???

  7. Here is a link to an article written by a vet on how to give a pill to a cat. There’s a little video using pill pockets. Notice she uses several pill pockets, 2 of which have half a pill and the rest are just decoys. Notice also how quickly she tosses them down so the cat has to swallow quickly. Tricky vet.

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