Medicating Cats at Home: Tricks and Tips

frail cat
Frail cat. Photo: Newtown graffitti.
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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.

39 thoughts on “Medicating Cats at Home: Tricks and Tips”

  1. 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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