Medicating your cat - a handy guide

As the slave of 4 very different cats, I know how treating them can sometimes be a real challenge. Thankfully, the drug companies have started to realise that a cat is not a small dog and they are coming up with much more palatable and novel ways of treating and medicating your cat. There’s even one medicine that you administer by rubbing on the inside of your cat’s ear pinna (for treating hyperthyroidism in older cats)! We’re very fortunate to now have such a wide range of safe and effective medicines that we can use to treat cats. There are quite a few different methods of giving medicines and I am often asked for advice on how to medicate cats. In this article I’ll recommend how to use the different types of medicine and what to do if you have a growling bundle of teeth and claws! As a rule, giving any medication to any cat is easier if you have a helper to hold your cat and keep them calm.
If in doubt ask one of our nurses to demonstrate how to give your cat their medication.

Spot-on treatments, e.g. Advocate, Profender

Flea and tick products often come as a liquid in a single-dose pipette which is absorbed through the skin. To use these, you need to carefully part the skin on the back of the neck so that you can see the skin beneath, and then spot small amounts of the product directly onto a number of exposed areas of skin until the pipette is empty. You will need to keep exposing new areas of skin by parting different areas of fur on the back of the neck until you have applied all the product. Because these products need to be absorbed through the skin to work, it is important that they are applied directly to the skin and not onto the fur.  You may find that your cat tries to lick the area where you have applied the spot-on treatment – if you make sure you apply it to the back of the neck and between the shoulder blades they shouldn’t be able to reach! If it’s raining, it’s also a good idea to keep your cat inside until the treatment has dried so that it doesn’t wash off.

Liquid medicines given by mouth, e.g. Metacam, Veraflox

Some products are provided as a liquid to be given orally and are made to taste nice so - these medicines can be very easy to give if your cat likes the flavour. All you need to do is draw up the correct amount of liquid using the syringe provided, taking care to avoid air bubbles. If you’re lucky and your cat is one of the many who really like the taste, they will actually lap the medicine from the end of the syringe as you squeeze it out slowly! If your cat is less keen on the flavour, you will need to slowly dribble the liquid into your cat’s mouth using the syringe. It is important that you do this gently to avoid choking them.

Tablets, pills and capsules, e.g. Droncit

I’m pretty sure that the treatment many (most?) cat owners dread having to give is any form of pill, tablet or capsule. There are plenty of internet jokes about giving pills to cats, including this very funny one comparing how much harder it is to give a cat a pill compared with a dog. If you’ve ever had an unsuccessful attempt to give your cat a tablet, you’ll recognise some of the events described! Of course, nobody should treat their cat like the jokes suggest, but on a serious note giving pills to cats can be a real challenge. Many dogs will quite happily take tablets hidden in a tasty treat without even realising. You may be lucky and be able to do this with your cat and we do have some Whiskas sticks that some people find very useful. However, cats seem to be really good at detecting hidden pills, no matter how strongly-flavoured the treat, and I often find that they manage to eat the treat and leave the tablet behind. 
With a bit of practice, and a semi-willing patient, you can learn to pop a pill into your cat’s mouth. The key to this is for you to be calm, but quick and firm. This is easiest if you stand your cat on a table or worktop, and if you re right-handed to hold them with your left arm. Use your left hand to hold your cat’s head from behind and then gently raise it up towards the ceiling. Your cat’s mouth will naturally drop open – if not you can gently open the mouth with your right hand. You can then place the pill at the back of your cat’s tongue. If you get this right they will swallow the pill straight away. 

If putting your fingers between your mini-tiger’s teeth seems a little risky, we supply soft-nosed “pill introducers” – we call them pill poppers but the manufacturers obviously don’t like this name! These work a little bit like a syringe and have a soft grippy tip which holds the tablet until you push it out by pressing a plunger. These work really well as you can get the tablet to the back of your cat’s mouth before your release it, plus the risk of getting fanged is much lower!
Finally, make sure you talk to us about any medicating concerns you have – there are usually suitable alternatives for all but the most ferocious tiger (and we’ve met a few of them too!).