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Most cat owners dread having to give their cat medication. Cats have a sixth sense when it comes to pill time and many will scratch, bite, or run away from you and hide. The good news is that there is more than one way to get your cat to swallow a pill; it’s a question of finding what works best for you and your cat.
Giving your cat a pill
Opening your cat’s mouth can be tricky. The easiest way is to take one hand and place your thumb and forefinger on either side of your cat’s face, and then gently lift her nose up towards the ceiling. As the head tilts back, the mouth will automatically start to drop open. By tilting the head back like this, your cat doesn’t have the strength in its lower jaw to bite. You can then use your finger to drop the pill onto the back of your cat’s tongue.
Close your cat’s mouth and gently rub her throat until your cat swallows. You can also gently blow on her nose or face to encourage swallowing. Cats usually lick their nose or mouth after they swallow a pill – so watch out for this telltale sign. Opening your cat’s mouth is another way to double-check. Cats are incredibly clever at hiding pills they don’t want to swallow in their cheek pouches and spitting them out later when you’re not looking.
Make sure your cat always has a drink of water after they swallow a pill – a 5ml teaspoon is usually sufficient, squirted into their mouth with a syringe or eye dropper. This will both encourage your cat to swallow and help the pill settle into their stomach. Without water, pills can get stuck in your cat’s throat and irritate the tissue lining of their oesophagus.
Other methods to get your cat to swallow a pill:
Crush the pill – Crushing the pill into a powder and mixing it with cat food will disguise the unpleasant medicine taste – strong smelling fish is usually best. Just make sure you check with your vet first as some medications are designed to dissolve slowly in the stomach rather than be absorbed in a single dose. Your cat will usually eat from its bowl, although some people recommend smearing it on your cat’s paw, so that they instantly lick it off.
Hide in food – Most cats have a special food that they love but which they don’t get to eat very often. You can wrap or insert the pill in their special food to encourage them to eat it. Cheese and cream cheese often work well, unless your cat is lactose intolerant. You can also hide the pill in a commercially prepared treat, especially the soft variety which makes it easy to disguise the pill. Make sure to double check that they have swallowed the pill though, and have not just eaten the treat.
Coat the pill – Smear the pill with anchovy paste – most cats love it. Anchovy paste will lubricate the medication and make it more palatable for your cat. If you place it inside their cheek (as far back as you can insert your finger) this will encourage cats to swallow. If your cat dislikes fish (surprisingly, some do), then you can try coating the pill with a small amount of butter.
You can also use:
Pill poppers – Usually made of plastic, the pill popper is like an extended finger…it allows you to position the pill at the back of your cat’s throat but without having to put your finger in your cat’s mouth.
Towel wrap – If your cat hates taking pills and is prone to bite and scratch try wrapping their body and legs in a towel. The effect of a towel wrap can be calming (think of it as a hug), and will also protect you from being scratched.
Praise and reward – Praise your cat after they have taken a pill to reward their good behaviour; you may also like to give them a treat.
Follow your vet’s advice
Always follow your veterinarian’s advice when giving your cat medication; they can advise you on the correct dosage, whether the medication should be taken with food or without, and the best way to give it to your cat. Some pills for example, should not be crushed as they are intended for slow-release in your cat’s stomach rather than one stronger concentrated dose.
How does your cat cope with being given medication? Do you have any other tips to get a cat to swallow a pill?