Max's House
Guide to

Medicating Your Cat

Oral Medications

There are several techniques for giving oral medications, but speed and dexterity often are necessary. Up to 10 mL of a liquid can be introduced at one time between the teeth and the buccal wall with an eyedropper or a syringe.  Liquid medications can also be administered through the gap just behind their canine teeth where the tip of a small baby medicine syringe or eyedropper fits perfectly.  Hold your cat's head with one hand as described below for pills or cradle his head with your hand placed under his neck (as pictured below). Slowly squirt in the medicine giving your cat a chance to swallow.

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Small amounts of liquid, gel, or paste will be ingested by a cat that is grooming if the material is placed on the hair or nose. To give medication in the food, a small amount of medicine is first placed on the cat's nose to satiate her olfactory system. The cat will lick it off and satiate her gustatory system so that the rest of the medication in the food will be eaten undetected.

To give tablets, minimal restraint is best, and the tablet must get into the laryngopharynx quickly so that it neither dissolves nor is tasted or smelled.  While holding the head back, one uses the thumb and third finger to push the sides of the cat's mandible and hold it open. Make sure the cat's lips are between your fingers and his teeth so you don't get bitten.  The index finger of the opposite hand can be used to open the mouth by pushing down on the lower incisors. Drop or place the pill at the center of the back of your cat's throat, aiming at the V-shaped area at the back of the tongue, and quickly but gently push it as far back as you can. After putting the tablet in place,  hold the mouth closed until the cat licks her nose or otherwise indicates that she has swallowed. If the cat still does not swallow, a sudden puff of air on the nose may prompt her to swallow. 


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Another technique to administer tablets requires that the cat face you. Using the restraining arm, place the hand on the cat's head so that the thumb grasps one ear, the palm is near her other ear, and the fingers are at her throat. The cat's skull is rotated, without raising her head, until her nose points toward the ceiling.  About 90 per cent of cats in this position will relax the muscles of mastication so that the mouth can easily be opened.  Again, the head is held until the cat has swallowed.

A light coat of butter on the pill (or capsule) will help mask the taste of the pill and facilitate swallowing.  The pill or capsule should be followed by a water bolus or moist food to assure that the pill has not become entrapped in the esophagus where it can dissolve and cause irritation or worse,  medication-induced esophagitis.  Irritation of the esophagus is painful and leads to a pill-pain association which will make medicating your cat extremely difficult in the future. 

Eye Drops

Place one hand on your cat's chin, lift his head and gently pull down the lower eye with your thumb. This creates a little pocket between the eye and the lower lid. Hold the bottle between the thumb and forefinger of your other hand and gently hold the upper eyelid open with the heel of your hand. Squeeze one or two drops out of the bottle into the little pocket or onto the surface of the eye. If you can’t get the drops into the pocket try to apply the drops onto the white of the eye rather than the colored part, as this is more comfortable for the cat. Be careful not to touch the bottle to the cat's eye when administering eye drops. You could injure the eye and/or carry the infection to the other eye.

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