Pill by mouth: tablets and cats
Vets make popping a pill down the cat’s throat look easy, but many of us struggle. From time to time nearly all cats will become poorly, so the vet will prescribe them medicines and cats also need to be wormed regularly. Which means tablets….
Now as a smart shopper (you’re on Pet Drugs Online after all) you know you can buy the cat’s medicine’s online. The tough bit can be when the drugs arrive, because then you have to give them to the cat. Giving the medicines quickly and effectively will make the process easier for both you and the cat. Yet this will take some learning, and perhaps non-medicine practice, to become good at it.
Always be careful to follow the instructions given verbally by your vet (and written on the label) as closely as possible. And be sure to administer the full amount for the full course of treatment. Adhere as closely as possible to the advised timings like “2 hours after food” and “four times a day” as these have a direct impact on absorption rates – rather than being picked to make life awkward. Now don’t judge yourself too harshly if there is a small spill, occasional spat out pill or you’re 15 minutes late. These are cats, it happens.
Liquids and syrups
Now if you’re lucky, the medicine the vet prescribed is a liquid that can be mixed with food. Some may still need disguising in really smelly fish, but others are pleasantly flavoured. Either way the mix option is the easiest. So be sure to check with your vet if their liquid meds can be added to food or if it has to put directly into their mouth. If you have to use the oral application route, then there are 5 key steps:
- Always read the label first to check correct dosage and, if instructed, shake the contents of the bottle. Then check the graduations or dropper to be sure you know how much to draw up.
- If you’re using a syringe, be sure to practice squeezing it in and out one handed. It is surprising how different these can be – some plungers move easily, others resist and then squirt everything out in one gush. When you’re comfortable, fill the syringe or dropper with the liquid.
- Hold the top and to the back of the cat’s head and extend your fingers. Then ‘close your hand’ over their head, reaching down the grasp the cheekbones with your thumb and index finger. Have the syringe/dropper ready in the other.
- Pop the tip of the syringe/dropper in their mouth and aim for the pouch between the teeth and the cheek. Squeeze the syringe/dropper to squirt the medication in.
- Hold on to them for a few seconds more to ensure they’ve swallowed.
Capsules and tablets
Some tablets, pills or capsules can be mixed with food. In this case you can crush the pills (there are special pill crushers available at all good online pet drugs suppliers!) and then mix the dust in the cat’s food. Some capsules can be opened or squeezed onto food, then mixed in. Some, particularly capsules, can have a very distinct taste so you may need to do some disguising with Raksfisk or something stronger!
If you need to give a pill or tablet orally check the dosage carefully. Some tablets are given whole, others as halves or quarters. If they need to be divided look to see if they have been ‘scored’ and try snapping one to see if this actually works. If not, you may need a pill cutter (there are special cutters available at all good online pet drugs suppliers)!
If you have to administer the tablets orally, it is possible, it just requires a bit of planning. And the more you do it, the better you’ll get.
- Get the pills ready and have them within arms reach.
- If you can get some help, do so. Having someone else do the restraining means you can concentrate on the giving.
- Grab the pill between the thumb and index finger.
- Hold the top and to the back of the cat’s head and extend your fingers. Then ‘close your hand’ over their head, reaching down the grasp the cheekbones with your thumb and index finger.
- Tilt their head back until the cat’s eyes are facing upward. This action usually causes their jaw to drop open of its own accord. If not, apply a little pressure (just a real gentle squeeze) on the lower jaw with your middle finger.
- Bring your pill holding hand up to the cat’s mouth.
- It may feel brave, but place your middle finger over the small incisor teeth. This will help keep their jaw open and although these teeth are sharp the cat cannot exert enough pressure to bite. Or at least bite hard.
- Try to pop the pill as far back on the tongue as possible. Your cat will now pull its hairball face, as it tries to stop swallowing the tablet. Don’t be fooled!
- Immediately close the mouth and hold it closed for at least 30 seconds.
- Gently stroke the throat or blow on the nose to encourage swallowing.
- Give them a proper fuss. They deserve it!
There are cat pill givers, which work in one of two ways, either as long tweezers or as launchers that gently fire the pill down the cat’s throat. Some people find having their fingers clear re-assuring, but other find these cumbersome. It really is a matter of finding the best set-up for you and your cat, we’d suggest getting a pill giver and trying it out but we would say that because these “special pill givers available at all good online pet drugs suppliers”!
The ONLY reason vets are better at giving cats tablets is practice. The more you do it, the better (or quicker) you get - so persevere!
Over the last few years a number of manufacturers have launched specific pill hiding products. There are tubes of ‘paste’ which have such a moreish flavour that pills are eaten by accident. For cats the leader is pill putty, which feels like an under cooked, doughy biscuit that can be moulded around pills. This tastes nice and may be eaten as a standalone treat or smuggled in amongst kibble to be wolfed down without them knowing. Guess what? There are special pill putties available at all good online pet drugs suppliers!
This post is an opinion and should only be used as a guide. You should discuss any change to your pet’s care or lifestyle thoroughly with your vet before starting any program or treatment.
If in doubt contact your veterinary practice
And always keep your vet's phone number handy - just in case!