What's the Best Way to Give a Cat Medicine?

CatChannel expert Jeanne Adlon, professional cat sitter, shares tips for medicating cats with pills and liquids.

By Jeanne Adlon | Posted: October 8, 2010, 3 a.m. EDT

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Q: What’s the best way to give my cat medication?

A: This is a frequent question with my cat-sitting clients. It really depends on your kitty and her willingness to let you do what’s best for her — and as we know that’s not always easy.

Some time ago one of my client’s cats, Ollie, needed an antibiotic. I was asked whether I thought a pill or liquid was easier and I said liquid, thinking one quick squirt into Ollie’s mouth and we’d be good to go. Boy, was I mistaken. I managed to get the full dropper of bright pink liquid squirted into his mouth, but it must have tasted awful because he proceeded to vigorously shake his head, spraying me and the walls with the sticky pink goo. He then drooled the rest down his face and neck. Yikes, what a mess. But I learned my lesson: A tiny pill is often better than a sticky, unpleasant liquid.

Be it pills or liquid, you must medicate your cats without becoming the enemy. If pills are too difficult or stressful to get into your cat’s mouth, ask your vet if you can crush the pill and mix it into your cat’s food. Make sure the pill does not lose effectiveness when crushed. If all right to crush, put the crushed pill in a small amount of cat food, let your cat finish that and then refill the bowl with the remainder of the cat food. You can purchase pill crushers at the pharmacy.

If you have liquid medication, it would certainly help if it tasted good. Check with your vet to see if it comes in a “cat-friendly” flavor like tuna. This can help if your cat needs medicine daily. Follow all instructions, check the expiration date and if the medicine needs to be stored in the refrigerator, please do so.

After medicine I also give my kitties extra treats — it helps them quickly bounce back and I am redeemed in their eyes. As always I welcome your comments and stories.

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Reader Comments

Jo Ann    Lodgepole, NE

11/9/2010 4:03:44 PM

Putting a pill in a small drop of cheese (especially soft cheese from a spray can) works sometimes.

Nola    Richland, MI

11/5/2010 9:39:42 AM

You are silly - crush a foul tasting pill into pet food and you think they will eat it. Cats are not dogs they do not inhale their food - they can tell in an instant that you put something into it and refuse to eat it.
Even worse is trying to put a pill down a cat's throat - they have the ability to bring it up and spit it back at you with a sweet smile as if to say 'Got Ya'.
I'll take liquid any day - at least you can get some of the medicine into them - and it is a joke about good tasting if flavored- the medicine still tastes foul - I know because last time she managed to give me a taste when she spit it back out.

Trudy    Omaha, NE

11/5/2010 4:14:24 AM

I've given antibiotics to my cat using the empty pill capsules, and while they didn't make it easy they did make it possible. They got rid of the awful taste, but my cat just doesn't like something put into her mouth that she didn't decide to put there.

Last summer she was diagnosed with diabetes, and I've been giving her twice-daily insulin injections since then. The vet tech taught me how to do it and it's been much easier than I expected. Now we're trying a liquid medicine that might help with her diabetic neuropathy, and it was the old "What are you sticking into my mouth?!" problem. I was hesitant about mixing it with her food, because that had failed before - if she can taste medication in her food she just won't eat it. But it's a tiny amount of fluid and doesn't have much taste (yep, I tasted a bit), so I tried it and it works. So glad, as this will be twice-daily for a couple of months.

Judy    Elmira, NY

11/4/2010 6:06:01 PM

I've had to give pills daily to a cat, and found that empty capsules (available by prescription from the local pharmacy) make it easier. Break up the pill so it fits into the capsule. The cat can't taste the pill - especially if he spits it out and you have to get in it him again.

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