Medicating Your Cat - With Minimal Trauma to You

Congratulations! You have survived the vet visit and now have come home with some medications either for a problem that your kitty has, or to prevent future diseases. Medications come in a variety of forms and the first step is to read over the instructions carefully so you understand where the medications are supposed to go. This should be done at the vet office and if you have any questions or concerns regarding medications or how they are administered it is important to bring them up before you depart. This article, while written for senior cats, has several good tips on how to manage your cat's medications.

In general, it is a good idea to choose a small enclosed room with minimal hiding places to medicate your cat to prevent escaping before the treatments are over. Have the medication out and ready so you can minimize the time spent restraining your tiny tiger. If your kitty tends to get upset around medication time, make sure there is a towel handy to wrap them up and make it easier on yourself.

Oral: This is one of the most common forms of medicating, and also one of the hardest for owners. Many funny stories have been written about giving cats pills, and it is rightfully one of the more stressful activities due to the concerns of being bitten. Most cats are very unlikely to eat pills that have been crushed and mixed with food and may well just stop eating hardly the ideal for a sick kitty! For some cats, you can hide pills in a treat such as Pill Pockets and the cat may gobble it down, but not all cats can be tricked that way.
The basic starting position is to have the cat in the crook of your non-dominant arm with both you and the cat facing the same direction. Put your non-dominant hand over the top of the head and lift your cat's nose towards the ceiling while pressing very gently on the cheeks. This will drop the mouth open for the medication.

Liquids: With liquids, put the syringe or dropper between the cheek and teeth on one side and squeeze the medication in, allowing the cat time to swallow.

Pills: With the pill in your dominant hand, use a finger to push the lower jaw open slightly more and drop the pill down into the back of the mouth. Close the mouth and massage until you see the cat lick their lips, which usually indicates they have swallowed. For very difficult cats which have to get oral medications regularly, medications can be compounded in flavored liquids or tablets which may make it easier to give.

Eye: Most eye medications come in either an ointment form or as liquid drops. With the cat in the crook of your non-dominant arm, hold the eye open with your non-dominant hand. Use your dominant hand to administer the drops (in the case of eye drops) or apply a thin ribbon of ointment to the eyeball itself. Be sure to not scrape the medication tip against the eye!

Video - How to Apply Eye Drops or Ointment to Your Cat's Eye.

Ear: Most ear medications are liquid drops that are dripped into the ear canal, then massage the ear thoroughly. With a ear cleaner, apply the cleaning liquid to a cotton ball and then use the damp cotton ball to wipe out the ear canal, bringing the debris up and out. Do not use cotton swabs in the ear canal as you may hurt your cat's ear.

Video - Ear Care for Cats

Topical: While much easier to administer, topical medications have the concern of the cat ingesting the medication while cleaning. If the cat is wearing an E-collar (also known as an Elizabethian Collar or Cone of Shame) this will prevent the issue but if not discuss your concerns with the veterinary staff.

Sprays: Spray the affected areas until moist, but not soaking wet.

Ointments: Apply ointment to the affected areas so there is a thin layer -- ideally the cat should not be leaving "medication prints" on any surfaces they brush against or lie down upon.

Spot-on: Part the fur on the back of the neck, up close to the head, until you can see the skin. Apply the entire amount of medication to this area and gently fold the hair back into place.

Injections/Fluid Therapy: In certain situations, you may actually need to give injections to your cat. This most commonly happens in cases of diabetes (where you are injecting insulin) or kidney failure (where you are administering fluids). These are usually given in the loose skin over top and sides of the shoulders. Pick up a fold of skin and look for the triangle formed as you raise the fold upwards. Aim for the middle of the triangle, and you can feel a moment of resistance as you go thorough the skin and into the subcutaneous (under the skin) area. If you are giving an injection, pull back slightly on the plunger of the syringe to make sure you don't see any blood which may indicate that you have hit a blood vessel. If you have, just pull the needle out and try a different location.

Giving Your Pet an Injection
Administration of Subcutaneous Fluids at Home
Insulin Administration in Cats

The staff at the vet office have a wealth of experience they would love to share with you if you ask. Often they are willing to demonstrate how to medicate your cat, and if appropriate may give the first dose before you check out. Remember, the medication does not do any good if it is not used properly!

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