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Medicating cats requires special technique

Q: My cat has just been diagnosed with a urinary tract infection and needs to take an antibiotic. My veterinarian sent me home with a small pill to give her twice daily for one week. I have never given her any medicine so how hard could it be, I thought. Well, it is very hard to give her this medicine!  I think she has swallowed it and out it pops along with a ton of drool.  This makes us both slimy and mad.  Is there any trick to giving her this medicine?


There are many funny jokes about giving a cat a pill and the profuse bleeding and the loss of limbs that always follow; so I feel your pain.

I can and do cheat by enlisting my technicians to help me at the hospital. They make it look so easy. But in all honesty some cats, and dogs for that matter, are darn near impossible to medicate. Let's go over the technique here, and then I will give you other options to explore.

First, remember that cats usually weigh only 10 pounds, and we are certainly stronger physically and mentally. Use this information to your advantage. This will give you strength as you proceed. After you are mentally prepared, find the cat and give her a little treat to win her over and let her know this is going to be OK for her.

Place her on a table or counter with her tail and back end resting in the crook of your right elbow. This is a solid position to hold her in so she cannot back out of your arms. More treats can be given here.

Now remember to breathe and try not to squeeze too hard. Take your right hand and place your index finger and thumb on each side of her face at that area where her cheekbones would be. You will be coming from behind her head and covering her eyes a bit, which is OK. With your right hand holding her face, rotate her head upward toward the ceiling. This will automatically cause her mouth to drop open a tiny bit.

So far so good. Cat secure in arm. Nose to ceiling. Mouth open. No blood. Here is the good part. While holding the pill in your left hand, use one of the other fingers on your left hand to open her mouth a little more.  It is critical at this point that you do not let go with your right hand even though it is hard for her to bite you in this position.  

Place the pill as far back in the mouth as possible, avoiding the tongue at all costs. If she tastes the pill, the drooling will soon start and she will turn into that slimy drool producer you referred to in your question.

Now, let go of her head after you place the pill in the back of her mouth, and watch for lip licking motions that usually indicate the pill has been swallowed. At this point you can squirt a small amount of water into her mouth to help her swallow the pill. Just a little water will do. If you give too much, she will definitely struggle with you and you will get spit on by your own cat. (A story not to share with others.) Now it is safe to give another treat to her and gently release your hold on her peacefully.

Does this seem impossible? It can be done. I have seen it and participated when needed.  But if she is just getting more and more resistant, there are other options to try. One is an injectable antibiotic shot that continues to work for seven days. It is more expensive, but a nice option for wilder cats and especially the outdoor ones from the neighborhood.

Some antibiotics come in liquid form, which can be easier for owners and cats. You still have to give it twice daily by mouth, but there are cats who do better with this form. Liquids can even be flavored to taste like tuna or chicken so the cats do like to take their medicine. This is ideal. Flavoring happens at human compounding pharmacies, and there is an additional cost with this preparation.

Another option for some medicine is a transdermal approach. A compounding pharmacist can turn your medicine into a paste that you rub onto the inner part of your cat's ear. It is absorbed and the cat gets treated.

But if all this fails, your cat is still sick, half of your medicine has been wasted and you both are wounded, talk to your veterinarian. Almost all hospitals will allow you to bring your pet in twice daily for a technician to medicate your cat. If there is a will, there is a way to fix your cat.

Send questions for Dr. Allison Dascoli to "Ask the Vet," Charleston Daily Mail, 1001 Virginia St. E., Charleston WV 25301 or email them to Comments or suggestions can be submitted the same way.



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