Health and Safety

Giving Cats Their Meds – What Works Best?

One thing that many people dread is taking their meds. Whether it’s because pills may not taste like a gourmet meal or that it can be difficult to swallow them, humans of any age may put off taking pills or swallowing concoctions designed to improve their health. If you think you aren’t thrilled about taking your pills, imagine how cats feel about medication. At least adult humans understand that they are taking something that will make them feel better, reduce pain, or help prevent illness. Cats do not know why they are being forced to swallow pills and they are likely to resent and avoid medicine time. This can be a particular challenge to pet owners, particularly those who are worried that their cat may scratch or bite when faced with the prospect of taking pills. Find out how you can make pills easier for your cat to swallow and face the prospect of giving your cat medication with less stress for you and your cat.

Cat owners know how finicky their pets can be about their food. One day, your cat may love his canned food and another day, he may shun it and opt for dry food. Since felines are sensitive to tastes and smells, they tend to resist taking strong-smelling pills. In an ideal world, medication for cats would be created for the feline taste buds in mind, but unfortunately, many cats and pet owners have to administer or take what is given. Giving your cat medication can involve significant preparation, and may even resemble a ritual. However, the preparatory phase is essential, and it is counterproductive to give your cat her medication when you are in a rush. The cat can pick up on your stress and be even more nervous about meds than he or she would be under ordinary circumstances. Before administering the treatment, make sure you have all of the tools and techniques ready to go, but the first step is to take a deep breath and relax. Since medication has to be given during certain timeframes, it is essential to plan ahead to make sure you are not rushed during the process. Also, find ways to relax and engage your cat. Play a game with him or her prior to giving the medication. It could be that you have given the medication previously, and your cat may be nervous about having to take it again, Make sure you are armed with plenty of toys, special snacks and diversions to make the before and after phases easier.

Before administering the treatment, make sure you have all of the tools and techniques ready to go, but the first step is to take a deep breath and relax. Since medication has to be given during certain timeframes, it is essential to plan ahead to make sure you are not rushed during the process. Also, find ways to relax and engage your cat. Play a game with him or her prior to giving the medication. It could be that you have given the medication previously, and your cat may be nervous about having to take it again, Make sure you are armed with plenty of toys, special snacks and diversions to make the before and after phases easier.

Holding your cat in the correct position is one of the keys to giving medication effectively. Use one hand to keep your cat’s head still and tilt it upward slightly. Hold your pill or capsule between your thumb and forefinger. Open your cat’s mouth with your middle finger and push the pill down the middle of the tongue gently and get the pill as far back as you can. If your cat shows resistance, it may be a good idea to hold your cat’s scruff while you are giving the pill.

This is the basic method of giving your cat pills. It may sound like something that would be unpleasant for any cat. After all, if we were cats, would we like the notion that the people we love and trust and who give us meals and shelter are going to force something down our throat without our knowing why? If your cat resists or seems unhappy with you, don’t be overly concerned. After all, you know that you are doing the best thing for your cat, and you can’t expect him or her to understand. Children often have a difficult enough time dealing with having to take medication, and more so with cats. Although this process might be something you and your cat simply have to put up with, there are methods to make pills easier to swallow for your cat.

Some people use a similar method for giving pills to cats as is often employed with children. Basically, if the medicine is in pill form, you can try cutting it up or grounding it and putting it in your cat’s food. You may reason that this will make the food taste foul, but at least it may be easier than forcing your cat to swallow pills. The type of method that works depends on the owner and the cat, and every situation may be different. Some cats will tolerate a bit of food that is bitter while others may go off their meals if they suspect there is a portion that will taste bad. In this case, forcing your cat to take a pill may be the best way to simply get the meds session over with, but it may be worth at least making a couple of attempts at disguising medication in food.

If you want to try to “fool” your cat into eating his or her meds with meals (given cats’ keen senses of taste and smell, it is unlikely that you will be able to deceive them entirely, although they may tolerate it), try grinding the pill into a fine powder rather than simply cutting it into chunks. It may seem easier to cut the pill rather than grind it, but in this case, your cat will bite into bitter chunks of the pill and may regurgitate the meds along with the food. It is a good idea to use an old-fashioned mortar and pestle to grind a pill down, but you can try any method that is appropriate for grinding dry objects.

Tempt your kitty to eat the food with medicine in it by first giving her the regular food without the meds. Gradually add the food with the meds, but make sure there is a large portion that is unmedicated. As your cat gets used to the pills and the way they taste, you can introduce more of the medicated food in the first few portions.  Since many pills have a pungent taste and smell, the best way to cover the taste of the pill is with foods that also have a strong smell and taste. Opt for fish, particularly oily fish that has a pungent and distinctive odor. You may want to give your cat a treat in the form of a can of sardines or kippered herring and mix the pill powder in with the oil. The tempting treat of actual fish may help your cat overlook the bitter taste of the pill powder. Some pet owners are strict about giving cats only pet food. One of the reasons is the reluctance to “spoil” them by getting them used to the taste of actually fish, lest they expect it more often. However, the challenge of giving your pet medication may be great enough to justify the occasional indulgence of actual fish in a can.

You may be pleased to see that your cat is eating the food with pill powder in it, but then he wanders off. This could be happening because the food is less tasty than usual because of the intrusion of pill powder, but many cats wander off in the middle of a meal and come back to finish it later. This can be frustrating if you are trying to ensure your cat takes all of its medication on time. You could go through the trouble of grinding the pill, mixing it with the food, introducing the medicated food gradually to your cat only to have your pet take a break in the middle of the meal and another family member or roommate replacing the old food with new food later in the day, unwittingly throwing out the rest of the medicated food.

First of all, make administering medication to your cat a family affair. It is important to let others who live in the same house or apartment know that the food is medicated and should not be thrown out. You should also inform them to make sure your cat isn’t given a double dose of medication from someone else. If your cat wanders off in the middle of the meal, this shouldn’t be a problem as long as she comes back a few minutes later. Create incentives for your cat to finish all of it, such as mixing in cod liver oil with it or giving catnip. In addition, make sure your cat is hungry before giving him medicated food. This is also a reason others in the household need to be informed about the cat’s medication and routine—ensure that others do not feed the cat for a period of time prior to giving the medicated food. In this case, the cat will be sufficiently hungry that she will eat all or most of the food in one sitting. Another way to handle the prospect of meal breaks is to consider feeding the cat on the tip of your finger rather than in the bowl. Many owners find that their cats will eat food off the tip of their fingers because they consider it a game. It may be a good idea to give the medicated food to your cat from your fingers rather than the bowl. In this way, you can be sure that your cat is consuming the medication rather than leaving it in her bowl.

Of course, not all cat medications come in pill form, but many are fluids that are administered through a dropper. Many people assume that administering medication to cats in liquid form is easier than dealing with pills, but this is just an assumption. Cats can struggle, fight having the dropper in their mouth, refuse to swallow and even knock over the fluid medication. Just as introducing pills to your cat requires special techniques, the same is true of liquid medication. Liquid medication should come with a syringe or a dropper that should be filled with the right amount of medication. Holding your cat’s head still can be a challenge. Be gentle but firm when doing so and be relaxed. Your cat may pick up on any tension that you may feel so take a deep breath and ensure you are relaxed. Avoid the temptation to tilt your cat’s head back. You may feel this is the best way to get the medicine down your cat’s throat and may lessen the intensity of the struggle, but tilting your cat’s head back may cause him to inhale it. Hold your cat’s head with one hand and put the tip in the corner of the mouth with the other between the cheek and the teeth. Position your cat’s mouth closed and discharge the syringe. Encourage swallowing by blowing on your cat’s nose or stroking her head. Give your cat a treat after she takes her medication to reward her for putting up with the ordeal and to encourage her to cooperate with taking medication again. If your cat struggles when you try to give medication through a syringe, try disguising the liquid medication in his food using the same techniques as described above for mixing pill powder into food.

As with any kind of medication, for humans and for pets, it is important to understand the instructions thoroughly. Make sure your veterinarian explains the administration of medication, timeframes, dosing and suggests methods of giving the medicine to your cat. He or she should explain what exactly the medication is intended to do for your cat and let you know of any possible side effects that could result. Ask your veterinarian to provide you with contact information in case you have any questions, or at the very least, a phone number you can call to ask the company that makes the medication more about the treatment. Create a checklist of what you need to know when your cat is prescribed medication. You will need to know what it is, what it is intended to do, possible side effects, when it should be taken, how much, for how long and how it should be administered.

Not all types of medication come with strict instructions, but if they do, be sure to follow them to the letter. Sometimes a vet will tell you to give a cat certain kinds of medication “as needed.” Other medications need to be given at certain times of day in exact amounts. The stricter guidelines can be a challenge if your cat is resistant to taking his meds. In this case, it is vital to invest extra time into preparing your cat to take medication.

If you find that exact dosage times do not fit into your work schedule, make sure your veterinarian knows about this. Don’t assume it is a lost cause or that you will have to spend hard earned cash on a cat sitter to make sure she gets her meds. Many veterinarians have alternative medications and treatments that can be given if one form is not convenient. Also, keep this in mind if your cat absolutely refuses to take his or her medication in its present form. There may be alternative treatments that can be taken in different ways or don’t require an afternoon dosage if that would conflict with your work schedule.

Your cat can’t remind you that it is time to take his meds, so it is important that you have reminders to ensure you give each dose on time. Use technology to remind yourself, but also have a notice on your refrigerator or on the wall in case you are somehow separated from your mobile device. Don’t be tempted to skimp on the medication if your cat seems to be feeling better, but administer the medication for the entire duration. This is especially true of antibiotics. Stopping a treatment of antibiotics abruptly can cause the problem to come back more aggressively because not all of the residual bacteria killed, the strongest survive and multiply rapidly. Also, make sure that you are storing the medication as instructed. Keeping liquid medication on the shelf when the box indicates that it needs to be refrigerated could compromise the safety of the medication, so don’t take the risk. If you notice any side effects from the medication, notify your veterinarian. It is good to know about potential side effects before administering the meds, but there might be some that pop up that were not identified by your vet. Be on the lookout for any changes in behavior and speak to a vet if there is anything out of the ordinary.

If giving your cat pills or liquid medications do not seem to be working, it may be time to have a serious talk with your vet. The solution may not be that difficult. There could be alternate forms of medication that could work just as well. Perhaps your veterinarian can give your cat an injection or provide another quick form of administering medication that can be easier but could cost a bit extra. It may be worth investing in these forms of medication if your cat is resisting pill or liquid forms given at home. Your veterinarian may have better tasting forms of the medication that can work for your cat.

The last resort may be to think about not giving medication at all. This may be tempting to consider during the process of finding the right way to get your cat to swallow pills or liquid or dealing with your pet’s upset at having to be forced to take meds. If you have talked to your vet and nothing seems to be working, you may consider whether your cat needs the medicine or not. If your pet has already started a course of antibiotics, you need to continue until the bitter end. However, if your cat is taking pain medication after having been neutered or spayed, something that is not always prescribed in that situation or if your cat has been given pills to ease his or her anxiety, you may decide to give up the battle and decide it is better to forego medication. If it is pain medication, this may seem like a shame, because it is likely that one of the reasons your cat is acting up is that she is in pain in the first place, but it may, in the end, not be worth the struggle, and the pain of being spayed or neutered lasts only a few days. Similarly, with anti-anxiety medication, it isn’t a surprise that a cat that is anxious in the first place may not want to take pills or liquid medication. However, you may lose a few battles, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up on the enterprise entirely. Keep trying to introduce the medication in various ways until you hit on something that will work.

Some of the most difficult decisions may involve cats with incurable or terminal illnesses. The decision not to treat may be a tough one that should not be entered into lightly or without attempting other solutions, but if the medication makes your cat nauseous or if he absolutely refuses to swallow it, you may decide not to treat. This option should be discussed with a veterinarian and should be only a last resort. It should not be considered if a cat is otherwise young and healthy and what he has could be potentially dangerous if not treated. In this case, you can try every avenue to find ways to medicate you cat, and it is likely you will come up with something.

If you find that you are able to administer medication to your cat but he is not too happy about it, make peace with the notion that you are not always able to make your cat happy. Pets, like children, are not always able to understand the decisions we make for their wellbeing, but nevertheless, we have to do certain things whether they are happy with it or not. Your cat will forgive you for giving her meds, although the short-term can be a challenge. Give your pet plenty of love, attention and treats to get her through the tough time of taking medicine

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