Beyond 9 Lives: How to Get Your Pet to Take Meds

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This is a sponsored post by veterinarian Elizabeth Arguelles, owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza. She writes weekly on Reston Now

As cat parents, we’ve all been there. Your veterinarian prescribes oral medication for your kitty, and you leave the clinic happy that your feline friend is getting some much-needed treatment.

On the way home, however, you start to wonder how you are going to get the pills or drops in your cat. You remember your past experiences: the food left uneaten after medications have been mixed in or sprinkled on top, the wrestling matches and the gooey pills spit up on the floor, the time spent trying to coax your kitty out of its hiding place when it’s time for its medication. You wonder if there’s an easier way.

Fortunately, there is! Getting cats to take pills or drops will never be hiccup-free, of course, but there are a lot of things you can do to make the whole process smoother and less stressful for you both. For starters, you can try to train you kitty to be more receptive to taking its medication. Here are some relatively easy steps to take:

First, talk to your veterinarian or pharmacist about whether the medication can be compounded into a flavored liquid or even chewable flavored treats. Flavors usually include chicken, tuna, or beef.

Encourage your cat to sit in a place that it likes, such as on a favorite blanket or near its food dish. To do this, give it one of its favorite treats when it approaches one of its spots. Before long, it will to those places every time you get near.

Once your cat is settled in a place it likes, gently put your hand on its jaw and hold it for very few seconds. Try to release before your cat tries to get away. But just before you take your hand away, say something reassuring and give your cat another treat.

Repeat this process once a day for a few days or even a week. During that time, gradually increase the time that you hold your cat’s jaw by a few seconds each time. Be sure to proceed very slowly.

When your cat is comfortable with you holding its jaw for approximately 8 to 10 seconds, gently put a finger just inside its mouth. Do not try to pull its jaws apart; just hold the tip of your finger inside the kitty’s lips. Please proceed with caution here, as cats do have very sharp teeth!

When you remove your finger, reward your cat with a treat. Once your cat is comfortable letting you keep your finger in its mouth for about three seconds, you can move on to the next step.

Next, teach your cat to allow you to separate its jaws and open its mouth. Again, proceed slowly and with caution here! Every time your kitty lets you do this, open its mouth just a little bit and then remove your finger. When your cat is cooperative, offer it a treat.

Once your cat is comfortable with you opening its mouth enough to slip a treat inside, you can start replacing the treat with a pilling device or oral dropper. Then you should be able to give the medication without as much of a fuss.

If you’re not able to train your cat in this way (or if you just don’t have the time and patience!), there are still things you can do to make the process easier. Here are some tips for medicating your cat:

Place your cat on a countertop or table top with its rear facing you. This allows you to maintain a secure hold on your cat when it attempts to back up and escape. Then gently lay over the top of your cat not applying pressure or body weight but simply blocking another escape route. Then place both arms on either side of your cat using one hand to hold your cat in place and the other will be used to gently open your cat’s mouth.

Gently tilt your cat’s head back. This should cause your cat’s lower jaw to open naturally. If your cat refuses to open its mouth at this point, don’t give up. Simply place your thumb and forefinger at the corners of your cat’s mouth, which causes your cat to open their jaw slightly. Make sure that your fingers are NOT too close to sharp teeth.

Next, hold the pill between the thumb and index finger of your dominant hand and have a syringe of water (about 1 ml) ready to go to help chase the pill down. If you’re giving a liquid medication instead of a pill, follow the same steps. If it’s a large amount of liquid – go slow to prevent your cat from foaming or spitting it back out.

Finally, drop the pill as far back in the cat’s mouth you can, then immediately close your cat’s mouth and gently blow on its nose to force your kitty to swallow. Gently rubbing your cat’s throat can help them swallow as well.  Then using the already prepared syringe of water, gently administer the water into the corner of your cat’s mouth to help chase the medication down.

Pilling devices can help get the medication over the base of the tongue and keep you from having to put your finger inside your cat’s mouth.

Remember, all cats are different and some cats are certainly trickier to medicate than others, but it’s important to find what works for you and your cat.

If you try these tips and still have trouble, contact your veterinarian about other methods for administering medication.



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