If you’re ever tried to give cats medicine, you know it can be tough, really tough. Let’s look at some different tips and techniques you can try to get the medicine into your cat and retain some of your sanity.
How to Physically Give Cats Medicine
Please always consult your vet before giving any medication or OTC supplements to your cat. These are my recommendations, but your vet may have different suggestions.
For most liquid meds, you’ll use a syringe to administer the medication. Using your non-dominant hand, open your cat’s mouth by pulling above the fangs on the upper jaw (on the outside of the mouth). Then, push the syringe into the opening of the mount and squirt the medicine toward the back of the mouth. For a medication like buprenorphine, which is absorbed through the gums, you’ll want to simply squirt the medicine inside the cheek.
For pills, you’ll administer similarly. Open the cat’s mouth by pulling up right above the fangs on the upper jaw. Then, use your hand with the pill to open the lower jaw. Then you can either drop the pill in or literally push the pill into the back of the mouth using your thumb and pointer finger (you may use your pointer finger to push the pill further back). To encourage your cat to swallow, you can hold their mouth closed with one hand and gently rub their neck and throat with the other.
Please be careful when pilling. If your cat bites you and breaks the skin, reach out to your doctor. Cat bites are notorious for getting infected (treatment is usually oral antibiotics). Don’t wait!
Tips on How to Give Cats Medicine
Tip 1: Relax
Nothing says, “I’m about to do something scary” like walking around stiff and shady. Cats can read your body language and energy too, so make sure to take a deep breath before you prep to medicate.
Tip 2: Go Fast
Whether you’re about to squirt liquid in their mouth or drop a pill into the back of their throat, you need to be quick and decisive. If you hesitate, you may lose your window, and once your cat is upset, it will be harder to medicate.
Tip 3: Involve Food
We’ll discuss this more when we review techniques, but tying medicine to food is a great way to create a positive association.
Tip 4: Create a Routine
Cats love routines. Whatever method you decide to use to medicate your cat, make sure you follow those same steps every time. If you waver, you’ll have a harder time. Plus, an activity becoming routine over time will be easier for your cat. Part of your cat’s fear is not knowing what to expect.
Next, I’ll dive into techniques you can try, and you may find that combining a few of these works best for you and your cat.
Techniques on How to Give Cats Medicine
Technique 1: Breakfast Time Is the Best Time
A best practice is to feed cats at scheduled mealtimes. One of the many benefits to this is that you have some control as opposed to surrendering control with free feeding. The easiest time to give cats medicine is in the morning, during breakfast. They are usually very hungry from the nighttime and are more interested in eating breakfast than anything else. Allow them to start eating, then act quickly by pilling or squirting the medicine in their mouth.
Technique 2: Hide in Rich Food or Treats
Because both liquid and pills can have a bitter flavor, it’s better to hide them in more rich food (like broths and treats) or even in pate. You want to be careful because you don’t want your cat to notice the taste and associate it with the food an not eat it. Try smaller amounts at first.
Check with your vet to make sure it’s okay to break bigger pills into smaller sizes and hide. Also, if it’s a capsule, ask your vet if it’s okay to open the capsule and mix in food. Delectables Bisque is my favorite rich food to use for medicating.
Greenies Pill Pockets are treats which have a little opening where you can hide the pill. Some cats take these no problem, while others are smart to it quickly and won’t eat them. If they work, they’re a super easy method for giving pills.
Technique 3: Kneel
Kneel on the floor and position your cat between your legs with their head and front legs sticking out. You can slightly squat and put a little weight on them to hold them in place while you medicate.
Technique 4: Mix with Water
Check with your vet before doing this method, but sometimes it’s easier to give liquid medicine if it’s mixed with water. I use this method when giving doxycycline, an antibiotic that has a habit of sticking in the throat. I will either mix the med with water in the syringe, or give a syringe of water first, then a syringe of medicine, then a syringe of water to finish it off.
Technique 5: Pill Shooter
Pill shooters do exactly that – shoot the pill into the mouth. They can be slightly cumbersome to use at first, but once you get used to the motion, they are super easy to use. The Jorgensen Pet Piller is the best. Just like other methods, the key is to be very quick with it. I’ve been using this on my cat Lucy for years and she is so used to it now, she doesn’t fight me on it. If you’re having issues, start with putting some of a liquid tube treat on the end of the shooter and get the cat to lick it. This will help the cat associate good things with the shooter.
Technique 6: Compounding
Medications can be compounded in to different flavors (like chicken and tuna) to make them more palatable for your cat. Talk directly with a compound pharmacy to see what options they have. I currently have 100 mg gabapentin compounded into chicken-flavored chews. One of my friends is a vet, and she’s had luck with liquid gabapentin compounded into marshmallow chicken (the marshmallow cuts the bitterness). Compounding is a very nice option, especially if your cat is on long-term medication and they’re difficult to medicate.
What tips do you follow when you have to give cats medicine?