How to Give Your Cat a Pill
Eventually, your cat is going to need to take some medication. Cats seem to commonly get certain conditions, like bladder or kidney infections, respiratory problems, or oral inflammations, and these are traditionally treated with antibiotics. Some cats are easier to medicate with liquid preparations, administered with an eye dropper, but sometimes it's necessary to get a pill down them.
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It's not always medication, either. You might wish to provide your cat some vitamins, and they may be obtained in pill or capsule form, too.
You can fool a dog by wrapping the pill in a slice of cheese or a wad of hamburger, but cats are more discriminating and not easily fooled. The only way to do this is with the direct approach. The cat must simply learn to accept that you are the boss and this pill thing is going to happen. (Don't shake your head... you can do this!)
Similar to getting a reluctant cat into a pet taxi, a towel may be your best option with this, too. Calmly and gently wrap the cat so you end up with a "papoose," with the mouth exposed at one end. Everything else must be wrapped tightly, or you may get scratched. Or worse, the cat will escape, and you won't be able to catch him again very soon.
Place your "cat-papoose" on a table or counter top, then lean over him lightly with your upper body. Be careful, he still needs to breathe! If you have a pill popper tool, use it. If not, caution here is essential, for even a tame cat may bite as a simple reflex he can't help. With one hand, hold the back of the cat's head by the skin. Pull firmly back. (Yes, this gives them a streamlined look.) Sometimes this opens the mouth. If not, and you have a helper, grasp the chin skin and pull the jaw down.
Insert the pill tool so it is poised at the back of the tongue. Pop the pill into the throat, then quickly close the mouth and stroke the cat's neck to help him swallow. Don't let him open his mouth until you are sure the pill has been consumed.
If you do not have a pilling tool, you might need to have good aim. Toss the pill directly into the throat. If you miss, you may have to put the pill on the back of the tongue and poke it down with your finger. This is a touchy deal. Be very careful, and very fast so you aren't bitten. Once the pill is in, close his mouth and hold it, stroking the throat area to help him swallow it.
If you need some coaching or a good demonstration, ask your veterinarian to show you how to do this.
When done, carefully release the cat... slowly, calmly, and speak reassuringly. You don't want to let him take off like a streak afterward, as this will reinforce the idea that he has escaped from some torture you are administering. As you gently unwrap him, tell him what a great cat he is and what a great job he did. Then calmly set him down on the floor. Cats respond to compliments, so use them copiously. He may run off, but if you act nonchalant, the cat will learn to relax, too.
Dr. Peters has an extensive background in health care and animal care. Visit The Problem Cat for more articles and information about cats.
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