Take Your Meds! How to Get Your Cat to Accept Medication
Veterinarian Reviewed by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM on September 28, 2018
Posted in Parent Help
When you were a child, it’s likely that you refused to take medicine that your parents tried to give you, even though it was designed to help you. Now, as an adult who owns a cat, you may be experiencing the same sort of frustration your parents did years ago. Cats that get prescribed medication are notorious for not wanting it—likely because it tastes bad and they don’t understand that it’s meant to help them. It seems reasonable enough, right?
Whether your cat wants to take its medicine or not, though, it has to in order to heal and feel better. This means that somehow, you need to get your cat to accept medication—and this is not an easy task.
Giving your cat a pill and giving your cat liquid medicine can be two totally different scenarios. If your cat is stubborn, though, both situations might sound like a nightmare. You may also be dealing with eye drops, which can be an even bigger headache for cat owners.
Fortunately, there are some tricks to getting your feline friend to accept medication. For all of these tips, make sure to give the medication to your cat when it is feeling relaxed or sleepy, if possible. This way, it is less likely to put up a big fight. Also, always have the medication and any additional supplies on-hand to get the dosing done as quickly as possible.
Liquid medication is usually easier to administer than pills are, but that doesn’t mean your cat will make it easy for you. Have the syringe or medicine dropper ready before you grab your cat, so the process can go quickly.
If your cat will sit still, let it sit on the floor. Sit behind it so it can’t back away, then tip its mouth up gently. Use a syringe or dropper to drop the correct amount of liquid into the back of its mouth, then remove the syringe and let the cat swallow.
When your cat won’t sit still, wrap it in a towel to soothe it and get it comfortable. The towel method also prevents your cat from scratching you or wriggling loose. Once it is secured, open its mouth with your free hand, then quickly squirt the medication into the mouth towards the cheek. Make sure the cat swallows, then release it.
If this process is still difficult for your cat, you can also check with your vet see if you are able to mix the medicine into wet food. This might make it easier for your cat to take the dose, but you need to make sure it eats all the food you provided.
It can be difficult to get your cat to swallow a pill, and that’s largely because a cat’s throat is small! Depending on the size of the pill, swallowing may hurt your cat’s throat, making them reluctant to take medication. Depending on the type of medication, you may have some options when it comes to giving your cat medicine in pill form.
First, ask your vet if it’s okay to crush the pill up and mix in with wet food. This won’t always be an option, but it’s an easy way to disguise the pill and alleviate the pressure of swallowing a whole pill. Or, see if the medicine comes in a liquid format, instead.
If that’s not an option, use Pill Pockets, which hide the pill in a treat and make it more enticing for your cat to swallow.
If the only way to administer the pill is in full-pill format, you’ll need to “pill” your cat carefully. Coat the pill in a slippery substance like butter and offer it to your cat. If you need to help your cat take the pill because it won’t eat it willingly, wrap it up in a towel or blanket so it can’t fight free. Then, open its mouth and insert the pill towards the back of the tongue before letting it close. Wait until your cat swallows the pill, then immediately give your cat some water or wet food to help it wash the pill down.
Administering eye drops to your cat can seem like a whole other type of challenge than giving it a pill or liquid medication. Most cats won’t want you to even come near their eyes, especially not when they are infected and need drops. You’ll need to use a careful approach that keeps you and your cat safe.
When giving eye drops, you should always wrap your cat up in a blanket or towel, so you can hold it still and it can’t leap away. Hold your cat’s head in one hand with your thumb positioned near the bottom of the eye to pull down the lower eye lid.
Use the eye dropper to drop the prescribed number of drops into the lower lid area you’re pulling down, then gently release. If both eyes need the drops, work quickly to repeat the process in the other eye. Then, hold on to your cat to make sure it blinks and distributes the eye drops evenly before releasing it.
Explore other options
Sometimes cats will be really stubborn and refuse to take any kind of medication at all. You never want to skip a dose because your cat is being difficult—that medicine is necessary to heal your pet.
Instead, ask your doctor about other medication options such as a topical gels or injections. They may be able to provide you with a solution that makes you and your pet happier.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan