Are You Awesome or Awful at Giving Medication to Cats?


Last year I bragged about my extraordinary skill at dosing my cats with medications. I thought I was all that, but was I really? I got a chance to find out when I earned a promotion at the shelter where I volunteer.

A few weeks ago, I got a phone call from the shelter volunteer who taught me how to give blood glucose tests and insulin shots to my cat, Bella: “Would you be interested in helping out with meds?” she asked. “You don’t have to answer right away.”

But I did. “Hell yeah, I’d be interested,” I told her.

After assisting with morning and evening meds under the watchful eye of experienced med techs, last weekend I had my first solo flight. I was cocky. “I know my stuff. I’m fearless and yet I have a gentle touch with the cats. Bring it on!” I told myself.

I spent most of the first hour looking for medications and supplies. Which meds are in the refrigerator? Which ones are in the box on the counter and which ones are in the cabinet? Where are the exam gloves? What does the feline acne medicine bottle look like? Is there antifungal cream in the quarantine room or do I need to send some in with the volunteer who’s cleaning it? Where’s the needle snipper? And so on, and so on.

Once I finally got to start medicating the cats, my confidence rose: This one got his methimazole, that one got her prednisolone, the other one got her clindamycin. “Yeah, I can do this,” I thought.

Then I got to the diabetic room.

I knew that one of the diabetics hates getting his insulin shots and lashes out at anyone who even gets near him with a needle. “It’ll be different with me,” I thought. “I have a special knack for this, and cats just trust me.” I was rewarded for my arrogance with a claws-out whack to the head, and I may or may not have gotten any of his insulin in before he bent the needle at a 90-degree angle.

Then there was the massively obese tabby in a kennel by the door. “Please get a BG (blood glucose) test on her, just to check,” a note on her cage card read. “Sure, I can do that,” I thought, ignoring the fact that she hadn’t stopped growling and hissing since I’d arrived at the shelter.

After several growling, shrieking, scratching and snapping minutes — and five testing strips and three lancets — I finally got a sample. Her blood glucose was completely normal, but her blood was on my hands. And my shirt. And the walls of her cage.

“Well, thank God that’s over,” I said with a smile as I returned to the kitchen to prepare my next batch of meds.

The next room was uneventful. I figured I was getting my mojo back, so it was time to dose Houdini in Room 1 with his medicine. “Hi, Houdini,” I said in my most gentle voice — at which point he promptly disappeared.

I found him and managed to get half of his medicine down his throat before he sank his claws into my thumb.

Then it was time for the main room, which went great until I got to Tiger Lily. As soon as I got near her, this oh-so-sweet little calico started shrieking so loudly that another volunteer rushed into the room, ready to break up a cat fight.

Tiger Lily didn’t get her medicine.

“It’s not life or death,” the volunteer told me. “This med is optional, so there’s no need risk serious injury.”

Oh. Now you tell me.

The process of medicating 25 cats took me three and a half hours. It was exhausting. But I’ll be back to do it again because it is a skill that not many people are willing or able to pick up. I’m smart, organized and science-minded, and I’m a good observer of cat health and behavior. I’m grateful that the shelter trusts me with this responsibility.

The humble pie I ate last weekend didn’t taste so great, but I know the job will get faster — and less bloody — as I get more experienced.

What about you? Are you bad or good at giving meds? Have you ever helped out like I did at a shelter or vet clinic? Please share your tips or tales of horror in the comments!

About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer, and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their cat advice column, Paws and Effect, since 2003. JaneA dreams of making a great living out of her love for cats.

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