You bring your ailing cat to the veterinarian and initially feel relieved to hear that she’ll make a complete recovery. But relief quickly turns to frustration when you realize her health depends on giving her pills in the prescribed dose at certain times for a specified duration. You remember previous scenarios when your cat fled from the room or hid under the middle of the bed at pill time, or deftly spit out the pill when you weren’t looking.
Experts uniformly stress that owner compliance is essential in a cat’s recovery from an injury or illness. Even though it may be tempting to stop administering the medication due to frustration, it can sometimes make the condition worse and lead to other issues.
To set you up for success, we offer guidance from behaviorist Sophia Yin, DVM, the author of Low Stress: Handling, Restraint and Behavior Modification of Dogs & Cats.
Administering Meds to Cats Can Be Difficult
“The idea of trying to force a pill into your cat’s mouth is not always comfortable for either you or your cat,” says Dr. Yin. “Some cats are difficult to ‘pill’ because they don’t like being restrained or having their mouth opened, or the pill does not taste good to them. Also, cats have shorter faces than dogs, so you can’t control them by holding their muzzles.”
Consult your veterinarian to see if you can split the pill for easier swallowing, use a pill gun or pulverize it without affecting its potency or absorption. Don’t assume that all medications can be crushed and/or mixed into food. This method works for some medications — but not all. The option of compounding medications into flavored liquids or pastes is an option, as well.
Be sure to share your concerns (and past struggles) with pilling your cat. Hopefully your veterinarian can help come up with a solution that suits both of you. For instance, ask your veterinarian if the three-times-a-day dose can be converted to one or two times a day without compromising the effectiveness of the medicine.
Another option is to try a product called Pill Pockets (Feline Greenies), a semi-moist treat that contains a built-in pocket to hide pills or capsules. Some owners find that a tidbit of cheese or meat can also be effective.
Before reaching for the pills, put yourself in the right frame of mind. Consider using counter conditioning to make your cat comfortable by first opening her mouth and giving her a small treat. She will learn to equate having her mouth opened with a positive experience — getting a favorite treat.
Prevent Your Cat From Escaping At Pill Time
Next, select a location that prevents feline escapes, such as a bathroom where you can close the door. Body positioning is also important. Position your cat so that her rear end is against a wall to prevent her from backing up and escaping.
You can also gently but firmly wrap your cat in a large towel to give yourself more control and protection should she try to use her claws to escape your well-intended ministrations.