Hello! Nigel, here. We have been getting a lot of calls at For Cats Only lately regarding difficulties with getting kitties to take their medicines. You humans just don’t seem to know how to effectively convince your feline masters to take their pills. This doesn’t have to be a struggle, you know. There are many things that you can do to make this process easier on everyone involved.
Getting a pill down a cat is a feat of monumental proportions for many a cat guardian. Just the mention of giving medication to a cat can strike terror in the hearts of most human servants.
If you’ve ever struggled to pill a cat, try these tips for putting the treat into treatment and getting a cat to more willingly take a pill. Note that every cat is different, and the method that works best for one cat may not for another kitty. Consider these ideas to get your cat to take a pill willingly:
First ensure the medication can be given with food. The type of treat the pill is hidden in is important. Try out different types of treats to find what works best for the cat. Some treats that we find work well are:
— Pill Pockets (commercial treat)
— Roast Beef sliced thin from the deli–can wrap a small amount around pill to cover it up
— Small Salad Shrimp–can slice an opening into the spine of the shrimp to slip pill into
— Turkey Hot dog–can cut small pieces to press pill inside of for hiding
—Anchovy paste—can put a dollop of paste on and around the pill—this is very good for disguising the taste of medications
—The company “Inaba” makes little pouches of tasty soft treats called “Churru” that are great for pill-giving. You can use the same technique as described above with the anchovy paste.
2. Have precut portions of the treats ready when you’re pilling so you can easily dole them out in fast order.
3. To build the excitement and hide the treat further, randomize the number of treats you give and the order of the pill to keep the clever kitty from learning the pilling order and turning her nose up at the treats.
4. Whichever hand you use to hide the pill inside the treat, use the other to seal the pill in the food so picky cats can find no trace of medication on the outside part of the food.
5. Keep the portion size small enough or soft enough so the cat doesn’t chew, only licks and swallows. This prevents chewing up the pill that can be problematic with metabolism of certain medications. Chewing may also release a nasty taste when the outer coating is broken.
Use the 3-step approach
1. Give the promise—the treat without a pill.
2. Follow with the deed—pill hidden inside of a treat.
3. Immediately follow with the chaser—the treat without a pill.
Why it works: It’s easier to give three treats this way. Giving only one treat to a cat can cause them to be more cautious, especially if they’ve found hidden pills in the past. The promise treat eliminates caution as it’s tasty. And pill-free and following up the hidden pill with another treat gets the cat more excited in anticipating the next morsel, so they may eat faster with less hesitation with the one containing the pill.
If you are using a technique that skips the treat and goes straight for putting the pill directly into the cat’s mouth, it is important to get the cat used to the pilling motion. Part of the fear factor of being pilled is the frightening situation of having their face held and head held back. But if the cat is used to this move and associates it with something pleasurable, it’s not such a big deal.
> Regularly handle (even at times when not pilling) around your cat’s face and mouth to get the kitty used to touching around the face and mouth area. Find ways to reward the cat during this type of handling, such as soft treats.
> Follow up handling with something the cat enjoys, like their meal, petting or play. As the cat is comfortable, practice lifting up slightly on their mouth with the thumb and middle finger, forming a C shape above the cat’s mouth. Immediately give a treat after or place a treat inside the cat’s mouth that’s extremely palatable to the cat, like a small morsel of lean turkey meat that’s small enough it doesn’t need chewed. The goal is for the pilling motion and action to be associated with positive results.
> Teach cats to eat broth or puréed canned cat food from a syringe or medicine dropper.
It’s important to have a cat comfortable taking liquid and swallowing the pill so the pill doesn’t get stuck in the esophagus. NEVER dry pill a cat. Teaching a cat to take a small amount of flavored liquid, like tuna juice or soft food from syringe, spoon or bowl can help with proper digestion of the medication. Generally, your cat should take at least 3 mL of liquid after having a pill put directly in their mouth.
For more helpful instruction please visit our website at www.vetforcatsonly.com. On the “Resources” page there are links to videos from the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine’s website on how to effectively pill a cat.
****If you have not achieved success with any of the above methods, please don’t give up! Call our office at 561-687-1188 and our knowledgeable staff is sure to have many more ideas that may work for your kitty.
Well, that’s all for now. I hope that this information was useful to you! This is Nigel, signing off. Meow!