Understanding the Medication Instructions
The first part of successfully administering medication to your cat is to ensure that you understand the instructions for giving the medication. These instructions include route of administration (for example, by mouth, into the ears, or into the eyes), dosing frequency (for example, once daily, every 12 hours, or every 8 hours), duration of treatment (for example, 7 days, until gone), and other special considerations (for example, give with food, follow with water).
Sometimes there is flexibility with medication instructions; for example, some medications can be given “as needed,” or a twice-daily dosing schedule may be adaptable to once-daily dosing. However, for other medications, the recommended dosing instructions need to be followed closely. Before you leave your veterinarian’s office with a new medication, be sure to address any concerns or questions regarding the medication with your veterinary team. For example, if your work schedule does not permit dosing every 8 hours, your veterinarian may be able to recommend a different medication that can be given less frequently. Ask about your pet’s expected response to the treatment.
It is very helpful to write a medication schedule for your pet on a calendar, including the date and time that the medication needs to be administered. This will help you to (1) avoid forgetting to give a dose and (2) remember when the course of treatment is completed. It is also very important to follow all label directions carefully. Improper storage (for example, keeping a refrigerated medication at room temperature) can affect the safety and effectiveness of medication. Additionally, it is important to give the medication for the correct length of time. Complications can occur if antibiotics are not given for the full duration of recommended treatment; in addition, some medications (such as corticosteroids) cannot be discontinued without causing illness, so it is very important to give medications as directed. If your pet experiences any medication-related side effects, contact your veterinarian promptly for advice before adjusting a dosage or discontinuing the medication.
If you’ve never given a cat medication before, it can be difficult to know what method will work best. Some cats take pills very readily if the pill is hidden inside a treat or given with a small amount of canned cat food. Another option is canned tuna or salmon for people. Pills can also be crushed (or capsules broken and emptied) and mixed with a small amount of canned food. However, your cat must eat all of the food right away to ensure receiving the full medication dose. Also, some coated pills and capsules have a bitter taste if the capsule or coating is removed. If the medication makes the food taste badly, your cat may refuse to eat it. Before choosing one of these options, ask your veterinarian if the medication can be given with food. You will probably know after the first or second dosing if this method will work.
If you must give your cat a pill directly by mouth, here’s a method that usually works. This technique takes practice and may require more than one attempt to get your cat to swallow the pill. If your cat is not used to having your hands around his or her mouth (as with toothbrushing, for example), gradually introduce your cat to this by stroking your cat’s face and neck for a few moments. This should calm your cat. If you think that your cat may try to bite or scratch, do not attempt this technique; ask your veterinarian for alternative medication options:
Administering Liquid Medication
Some pet owners prefer liquid medication because administration does not require placing your fingers inside of your cat’s mouth. However, if your cat refuses to swallow the liquid, this method may not be ideal. Here are some tips for administering liquid medication:
If you are unable to administer medications to your cat, here are some suggestions that may help: