Cats love taking pills about as much as they enjoy taking bubble baths. Since you can't hand your cat a glass of water and say, "Take two and hiss at me in the morning," what's the best way to give your unwilling feline its medicine without any bloodshed?
Keeping calm is the key. Cats are sensitive to nervousness, and they may become agitated. Never try to medicate an excited or nervous cat. Confine your cat to one room, placing it on a piece of carpeting: cats may want to grip the surface until they figure out what's going on. Spend time petting, talking softly. Wrap your cat in a towel, with the head protruding. This protects you and secures the kitty for easier handling.
Placing your thumb and middle finger at the hinge of his jaws, gently pry open his mouth. Without yanking or holding too tightly, tilt the head back slightly, so you can see the back of your cat's mouth, where the tongue begins. Drop the pill into the center of the mouth, and then quickly close it. Rub your cat's throat, encouraging it to swallow. You'll know the pill has gone down the hatch when your cat licks its lips. Once your cat swallows, give it a small amount of water from a needleless syringe to help the pill dissolve smoothly.
Tips for Giving Pills to Cats
If dropping a pill into the center of a cat's mouth seems like an impossible mission, a pill shooter can help. Usually available from your veterinarian or pet supply store, it looks like a straw with a soft rubbery tip that encases the pill, and it won't hurt the cat. The other end functions like a syringe: Push it in, and it ejects the pill into the cat's mouth. Before you use a pill shooter, let your cat see, sniff and get familiar with it. Once you're ready, open your cat's mouth, place the shooter gently into the back of the mouth, and pop the pill. Hold the cat's mouth closed, stroking the throat until the pill is swallowed.
What's in Your (Pill) Pocket?
Some cats will not be coerced, tricked or forced into taking pills. For stubborn felines, pill pockets are the (delicious) answer. These small, moist treats have an opening, or pocket, for a pill. Place the pill inside, pinch the top closed, and offer it to the cat. Available in several feline-favorite flavors, aromatic pill pockets mask any "medicinal" scent the cat may pick up. Many cats gobble pill pockets without hesitation, but offer your cat an empty one before you actually need to use it to make sure they'll be acceptable.
If your cat turns up whiskers at pill pockets, he or she may perk up at the prospect of cheese. Few cats can resist this treat, even wrapped around an unwelcome pill. Place a small amount of cream cheese or soft butter around the pill, covering it from view. He or she may take it in one gulp, but make sure nothing gets spit out later. Your cat will be so busy licking up every bit of dairy, it won't notice the surprise in its center. Cats generally adore cheese and butter, so this method is usually successful, for a short-term prescription.
Unless your vet recommends it, never crush or grind pills to put in food or water. Crushed medication can taste bitter, so your cat won't get the full dosage.
To give ear drops, restrain the cat as if you're giving a pill. Standing behind the cat, gently roll back one ear at a time. Place the drops in the, and then fold and rub the ear to ensure the medication gets absorbed. Never use a Q-tip on a cat's ear, since it can push debris into the ear canal.
No matter how you medicate your cat, always offer praise, pets and a treat when the deed is done. This will help your cat associate something fun with an activity it would rather avoid.