Thursday, April 19, 2012
My neighbor has a cat with asthma. She travels for work, and when she’s gone I cat-sit for her. The cat is generally easy to care for but recently she needed oral meds and I had to give her a pill every day. We have a cat but fortunately our little guy has never had to take a pill so I had absolutely no experience in this area. I consulted a few cat-loving friends and got loads of good advice.
One friend used to give her cat a daily thyroid pill. She was able to hide the pill inside a tiny bit of something the cat liked, such as cream cheese, butter, turkey, or a bite of FELIDAE wet cat food. She would cover the pill with the ‘good stuff’ and roll it into a bite-sized ball. The cat looked forward to this and would gulp the whole thing down. My friend doesn’t know if her cat knew the pill was in there or not. Maybe she knew but just didn't care because the ‘treat’ was so good. Whatever the case, this method worked well and she never had the stress of worrying about how to get her cat to take a pill. This probably works best with very small pills. The asthma pills for my neighbor’s cat were a bit large but it was worth a try.
No luck. It didn’t matter what I wrapped the pill in, that cat would devour the delicious outer coating and spit out the whole pill. My neighbor laughed at me via text; she had warned me that the ‘hide the pill’ method was going to be unsuccessful but I needed to prove it to myself because the alternative seemed so difficult.
If you’ve ever had to give a cat a pill, you already know how hard it is. Maybe I’m wrong here but I think even the most seasoned cat-people would rather not have to do it the manual way. In fact, Animal Planet says cats enjoy taking a pill as well as they enjoy taking a bubble bath – and I honestly think giving my neighbor’s cat a bath would have been easier.
Here’s a combination of what the experts at Animal Planet recommend and what worked for me:
Have the pill within arm’s reach before you even think about starting the process. Some people recommend lubricating the pill with butter to make it easier to swallow.
Confine your cat to one room; preferably a room the cat is familiar with. Equip the room with the pill and a blanket or large towel. Check to see if the pill can be taken with food. If so, have a high-value treat like FELIDAE TidNips on hand.
Hang out in the room with your cat, breathe deeply or do whatever makes you calm. A cat can easily sense if you’re nervous or apprehensive and that will likely agitate him. In a relaxed way, pet him and talk soothingly.
As you pet your cat, wrap him in the blanket with his head sticking out. Gently tuck the cat under one arm and hold him snugly against your body. Grab the pill with your free hand.
Gently pry his mouth open from the hinge of his jaws using your thumb and middle finger. Slightly tilt his head backwards and drop the pill in the back of his mouth, where the tongue begins.
Let the cat close his mouth, keeping him nestled under your arm. Place a hand under the cat's chin to prevent him from spitting out the pill (speaking from experience).
Stroke your cat’s throat to encourage swallowing. Most cats lick their lips when they swallow something so watch for that sign. I’ve also heard that blowing into a cat’s nostrils encourages swallowing but I didn’t try that.
Some experts recommend giving your cat a drink of water from a needleless syringe so the pill dissolves easily but I didn’t try that either.
After it’s all done, give the cat a treat or a bite of his favorite canned food. This will help the pill go down so the cat can’t hack it back up (again, experience). Praise the cat too, so the process is a positive one. It also makes sense to give the treats to your cat every now and then without the pill.
If all this seems impossible, some companies make pills that taste good to pets. See if that option exists for the meds your cat requires. I’ve also heard of a pill shooter type device that makes the process easier, but I don’t have any experience with those.
Do any of you have tips or tricks to share?
Photo by Raymond Johnston
Read more articles by Langley Cornwell