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Behold: I Am the Queen of Giving Pills to Cats

It’s easy for me to give medicine to a cat. After a decade of bloody trial and error, it should be.

 |  Aug 29th 2012  |   26 Contributions


Last week, I took my darling Kissy to the vet because she was limping heavily on one leg. Unfortunately, I found out that the reason she was limping was a giant bite wound, almost certainly inflicted by her feline housemate, Thomas.

I was sent home with Clavamox liquid and instructions to dose her with the stuff twice a day until it was gone. Even though she’d fought like crazy when the vet administered the first dose, I felt confident that I could get the medicine into her. Why? Because I’m really good at giving medicine to cats, that’s why!

Many years of cat caretaking experience told me I was going to have make Kissy fight less and cooperate more -- no small task, considering the fact that the medicine had a bizarre fake-banana smell that even made me want to throw up a little in my mouth.

The first dose was difficult: She fought me and tried to spit the medicine out. But I didn’t let her run away as soon as she’d swallowed it, because I had a secret weapon in my arsenal: a bag of her favorite treats. I praised her to the high heavens as I let her eat two of them out of my hand.

Now, a week later, Kissy comes running every time she hears me shaking the bottle of medicine and lets me give it to her with barely a twitch. Flawless victory!

I've got Kissy eating out of the palm of my hand! Photo by JaneA Kelley

But it wasn’t always that way.

One morning in early 2000, I was cleaning the litter box and saw the squirming rice grains that are indisputable evidence of tapeworms. Off to the vet Sinéad and Siouxsie went, and each of them got their first dose of Drontal at the office. I was sent home with another pill to give them two weeks later.

“How hard can this be?” I thought when I watched Doctor Sarah pop those pills right down their little throats.

I was soon to find out.

I picked Sinéad up and put her on the table, where I held her with one hand and tried to put the pill in her mouth with the other. The first time I tried, she spit it out. The second time she spit it out again. The third time she’d clamped her mouth shut so hard I couldn’t get it open even a little bit. I had no idea up until then that even alligators have weaker bites than a 7-pound cat who doesn’t want to take her medicine.

It went pretty much the same way with Siouxsie, so it was time to bring in reinforcements. I called my mother.

After work, she came by and we formulated our plan of action. “You hold her,” Mom said, “and I’ll give her the pill.”

I snuck up on Sinéad and wrapped her in a towel before she knew what was going on, and hugged the now-hissing and writhing little demoness to my chest with every ounce of strength I could muster.

Furious black cat by Shutterstock

After several unsuccessful efforts to get the pill in her mouth by traditional means, my mother constructed a makeshift pill-shooter out of a straw while I tried desperately to keep Sinéad from escaping, gritting my teeth as I endured multiple scratches in the process.

Eventually the pill-shooter approach worked. Sort of.

The medicine stayed in Sinéad’s mouth just long enough to let loose its full rancid bitterness, at which point terrifying gouts of foam began spewing forth from between her lips. With a screech and one last rake of her claws, she wrestled herself free of my death-grip and promptly disappeared into the farthest, darkest, and most unreachable corner of my apartment.

At that point, Siouxsie was nowhere to be seen, so I conceded defeat.

“Thanks for trying, Mom,” I said as I passed her the peroxide and Band-Aids.

I looked a lot worse than this when I finished trying to give Sinéad her worming medicine. Cat scratches on woman's hand by Shutterstock

I eventually discovered that there are two secrets to successfully medicating cats: 1) you have to know how far back to put the pill so the cat can't spit it out, and where to put the liquid so it doesn't spill out or choke the cat; and 2) you must be confident in your cat-handling skills.

Back then, the Internet wasn’t loaded with hundreds of video demonstrations on how to administer medications to cats, so I had to learn these things the hard way. But learn I did, and now it’s almost as easy for me to give meds to cats as it is to give myself an aspirin.

How about you? When you have to give medicine to your cats, does it usually go smoothly or does it go more like this? What secrets have you learned over the years? Please share your tips in the comments -- you could help to make other readers’ lives much easier!

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