Making Kitty eat his meds

… sometimes feel like being a Jedi padawan, and having disembodied Obiwan Kenobi for your master, who just happens to be channelling on an unreliable frequency.

But it doesn’t have to be a constant struggle between light and dark. If it does feel that way to you, please ensure neither Emperor Palpatine nor Darth Vader are in the neighbourhood. Then engage the child-lock on your light-sabre before attempting to medicate kitty.

Why is medicating Kitty an important topic? Well, face it – there is likely a chance in the lifetime of your cat that he needs to take meds. You, as cat parent, will have your work cut out for you. From experience, feeding a cat medicine is like being Luke Skywalker in his X-wing, aiming to drop those bombs down that exhaust(?) pipe of the Death Star (while unsure of your feel for the Force).

If it’s a liquid med, you can try squirting it into his mouth. But do note that kitties have a knack for foaming every bit of the good substance out of their mouths.

For a pill, you need to pop it down (but do refer also to Dangers in Dry-Pilling of Cats for post-popping ideas to minimise risks of having pills, especially capsules stuck in the throat).

We found that it is easiest to do like the vet when administering meds orally:

  1. Hold him by the scruff
  2. Tilt his head back. (Try to align it and the rest of his body so the path down into his gullet is a relatively straight one. But remember, do not force kitty into an awkward or uncomfortable position, and do not hold him by the scruff for longer than necessary)
  3. Pry open his mouth (There should be very little, if any resistance from kitty if you’re holding him by the scruff correctly)
  4. Pop in the pill or squirt the liquid
  5. Hold his mouth close if he resists or tries to foam the pill out (believe me, it is doable)
  6. If need be, massage his throat for a bit to help the meds go in

Steps 5 and 6 should not need to be repeated more than a few times if you hold him by his scruff in the right way and have done steps 2 and 4 correctly.

(Obviously, we can’t both do a demo and have enough appendages to take either photos or vids. So for pictorial reference, read this page called “HANDLING AND RESTRAINT“. The pictures there covers all aspects of scruffing discussed on this page)

Why it works
This is an effective way to feed meds and it’s workable because kitty is rendered resistance-less. The technique exploits the kitten reflex to go limp and cease and desist when being held by mummy. This reflex stays with the kitten throughout his life so even as an adult, he will respond to it in the same way he did as a kitten.

Practise a bit before attempting to feed meds if you’ve not done so before: hold by his scruff and lift him off the ground. If you’re doing it right, he will dangle with no resistance. Put him back down on the ground immediately or support his weight.

Remember: DO NOT ever leave kitty suspended in scruff-state in the air as it can hurt his neck or cause him injuries in other ways, especially if he’s anything over 3 months old. The reflex is, after all, a tailor-made technique for mum to move young babies. If you’re trying out your technique, release him immediately once you’ve established your technique’s correctness. After that, ALWAYS support kitty by holding his feet or his bum with your other hand when you scruff him and lift him off the ground.

When feeding meds, ensure his bum/legs are grounded, ie you only need to lift his upper body up. This will help reduce the strain on his neck and also minimise discomfort. (It will also free your hand to provide further support while feeding kitty his meds as discussed in the next paragraph.)

You may need 2 people to complete the medicating operation though, 1 to hold kitty and the other to administer the meds. If you’re worried about causing him undue discomfort, and you have a tag-team, the scruff holder can also use the other hand to support kitty by propping up kitty under the ‘armpits’.

As a point of reference, after feeding Bam Bam half a Fortekor pill nightly for more than 1 year, we still need to tag team. It doesn’t help that he knows and sometimes play hard-to-get.

Post-pilling kitty, please note what to do to mininise the Dangers in Dry-Pilling of Cats.

Sometimes you need to get creative with medicating your cat, especially when he wises up to the monkey business after one or 2 medicating rounds, and begins making like Han Solo in the Millenium Falcon and taking fancy evasive manoeuvres of his own. Don’t curse or swear, or considering violence upon the pill bottle. Just be grateful kitty isn’t going into Darthie shoots down X-wings like flies in his dandy tie-fighter mode and come after you for vengence.

Ok that’s not (hopefully) something that’s likely to happen because we’re all civilised, here on Catruscant.

So what can you do? You can try mixing the meds in his food (good idea to powder any pills) – this usually works only if the meds is odourless, if kitty is indiscriminate about food, or if the food you’re feeding is already very strong-smelling. Wet food works better, if your kitty will take it, as it also has the advantage of masking the powered pill’s texture and smell. To ensure kitty gets the whole dose, mix the meds into a small dollop. After that is lapped up, give him the rest of his meal portion.

You can also try to surprise him by varying your medication routine. EG. if you open the fridge to get the meds, and go direct to feed him, try to wait for an interval before medicating him.

Also, you may want to try making it less of a stressful event by incorporating it into your playtime. This may also work for routines like nail clipping.

Vets also have a syringe-like device called the pill popper if kitty’s meds are solid. But using this also takes skill/practise, as it still involves using one hand to hold the cat by the scruff. Note also that the pill popper is not useful for tiny pills or half pills, or quarter pills as the pill popping end has a fixed size opening and can only take pills of a certain size and up.

Whatever you choose to do, remember this: it’s not an impossibility to medicate kitty. But in a lot of cases it’s not a walk in the park, especially if you’ve not done it before – it’s a matter of getting enough practise. Remember, even Luke Skywalker, talented as he was, went through 3 movies before he was Jedi.

Ask the vet for a demonstration. They should be glad to oblige.

However, note that the vets make it look like a cakewalk, but it’s an delusion illusion, because they’ve clocked in untold hours before getting so pro at it. (Remember the difference between Luke’s initial attempt at lifting his X-wing out of the swamp and Yoda’s beatific demo)

Making it work
Ultimately, you’ll have to figure out what works, but if the thing you’re trying doesn’t cut it with kitty, don’t stress yourself out over not achieving a perfect pill-popping record. Just take a deep breath, and try something else.

The important thing to remember is that kitty is an adept of the farce Force too, and any disturbance in the force caused by your tension/stress will alert him that something fishy is happening and he will anticipate and plan his escape. So be one with the force, feel it and make use of it well for kitty’s sake.

However, as noted here, sometimes, medicating your kitty may be like helping Leia piece Aldaraan back together again. If that happens, easier to ask Vader your vet for alternatives.

Some cats can be very difficult to pill. The truth is that with some cats and some owners, the answer to the question of “How can I give a pill to my cat?” sometimes has to be, “You can’t”. As one of our forum members described it, they turn into Tasmanian Devils and even a team of two handlers can’t get them to take a pill, not without the risk of serious injury. If you have such a devil of a cat to deal with, talk to your vet about other options for administering the necessary medication. Your vet may be able to provide the same treatment in the form of either pastes or even injections, and with some felines these may actually prove to be less stressful, for both cat and owner.
(source. Also refer to Dangers in Dry-Pilling of Cats)

May the farce force be with you and kitty.


(Created: 9 Dec 06. Updated: 22 May 07)

Footnote: this page created in response to Phew ! What A Day on Focus blog. Results of the blog owner’s attempt at feeding by scruffing according to our SOP: How To Handle A Cat


2 responses to “Making Kitty eat his meds

  1. Pingback: Sitting with the mitey miaow « Tipped Ear Clan

  2. Pingback: Sitting with the mitey miaow (Part Deux) « Tipped Ear Clan

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