Updated November 29, 2020
Do you have to give your cat medicine? The good news is that there are a lot of other ways than tablets.
Giving Tablets To Cats
We have a separate page on giving a cat a pill but I’m guessing you’re here because it isn’t very appealing. So let’s move on.
If you are not confident giving tablets, the first thing you should do is ask your vet if there is another option. Here are all the other ways we can deliver medicine to cats:
Use A Pill-Popper
These little gadgets (pictured) make giving pills easier for some cats. They have a soft tip so you shouldn’t hurt anything when you put the pill on the back of the tongue. Personally, I find them awkward to use and reserve them for difficult cats. You still have to be quick.
Using Drops Or Paste
You could ask if the medication comes in drops. Although most experienced ‘pillers’ will prefer tablets, liquids are usually easier for owners. The idea is to have someone hold the cat as usual, and you open the mouth just like you’re going to give a pill. Instead, you squeeze in the dose and keep the head tipped back until they swallow.
Some medications come as flavoured pastes. Generally, the larger the quantity (like some wormers) the harder they are to give. We can also get a flavoured medication made especially for your pet if you ask.
Hiding In Food
This is always worth a try even though most cats aren’t that easy. First, check if the medicine is compatible with food (most are), then think of your ‘never fail’ cat treat. Every cat is different but cream, butter, tuna, yoghurt or kangaroo are popular choices.
It’s better to give the medicine in a small amount first, then feed normally afterwards. You can crush the pill first using the back of a spoon or use a special tablet crusher. There are also just a few diseases that can be treated solely with prescription foods or diet change.
It sounds insane, but every owner who tried has agreed: giving cats injections is easier than tablets! If the drug comes in an injectable form don’t write off this option. The video shows how easily one of our clients gives her cat insulin
Some drugs even come in long-acting injections that your vet can give. While never the perfect choice, these can be lifesaving in selected cases.
Most vets will agree to board a cat during an essential treatment. It won’t be fun for your kitty, but you can be sure the medication will be successful. Alternatively, owners can bring their cat in each day for the nurses to medicate (most vets don’t charge for this).
You can get many medications ‘compounded’ into a form that can be absorbed through the skin. This is done at compounding pharmacies and will roughly double the cost of treatment. Once you read my blog on topical treatments for cats you might see why I think this is a bad option. Transdermal medication is also shown to be less effective than oral meds when compared.
It might be hard to believe, but cats can respond to routine. If you are patient and persistent without excessive force, most cats will learn just to let it happen. It might take a few weeks and it will be more successful if a treat or meal follows straight afterwards.
That’s what we did with Grendel. We made sure it was done just before each meal. Like most cats, after a week he got used to it and didn’t fight so much.
Don’t forget that for all of these options except hiding in food it’s vital that you have a helper who knows how to hold a cat for medication.
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By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These articles are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story!