I always get a kick out of the phone call that often happens 2-3 days after a cat owner is assigned medicine duties with a feline. They all say, “he/she just won’t take the medicine Doc”. Understanding their frustration, I do not say what I am thinking which is, “I didn’t picture the cat cooperating!” I have to tell my clients that medicating cats tends to vary between difficult and impossible. We have all seen the cartoons of people attempting to give a cat a pill, and some of us have lived it!
Well, from the desk of experience, I have gathered some common errors to be avoided. There can be no cat medicine drawer because that particular drawer handle will begin to sound very differently from all the other handles. Do NOT try to medicate at the exact time of day every day, and definitely not during the same point in your daily routine. A client that thinks they will give the pill between their shower and making coffee every morning will have a difficult time locating the cat no later than day 4. And also do not keep all the medicine in one location or the kitty will be alerted every time you go to that location. I try to keep medicine in separate containers, with at least one per level of the home and often in a bathroom, where the running faucet will allow me time to prepare my kitty meds undetected! And the bathroom is a room that we people often go into for multiple reasons, not just for medicine. I often take any personal medicine I am given in a very routine fashion, to assist my compliance. With cats, opportunity is the main goal, not daily consistency. This can be more challenging with twice daily meds. And only the veterinary ophthalmologists think you can medicate a cat more than twice daily. And they’re dead wrong!
I recommend medicating sleeping cats whenever possible. The rule of thumb in handling cats is to minimize the duration and the extent of your restraint. A yummy canned food meal can induce a nap and allow for medicine planning. When I see my girl Delilah napping after her Fancy Feast, I go to the other floor of my home, into the bathroom and prepare her meds with the faucet running. When I come out, if she has woken, I pocket the meds and try again later. If a cat sees you coming with meds, you have very little chance of success, particularly ongoing success. Again, at no point will this be a collaborative effort! And oral meds MUST avoid the tongue at all cost. Squirt liquid meds onto the roof of the mouth with the cat looking at the ceiling. A pill must be dropped strategically to avoid the tongue, but using it as a guide to hit the roof of the mouth. From the time you first touch the cat and when the medicine is delivered should not be a full 2 seconds. We have to be in and out quickly for long term success.
For those of you that think you can put the medicine in the food, you are likely to change your mind by the end of 1 week. Pill pockets are great while they work, but the clock is ticking on these two techniques. And if the cat begins to eat more poorly because of meds in the food, we now have a major problem. So maybe it will help to know you are not alone with your struggle. And I hope this helps you avoid some of the common mistakes with kitty meds!