I never even thought about how to medicate a cat, until I had to medicate a cat. Every day. Twice.
If you’re like me and most other people ruled by a cat, the idea of trying to place a small, untasty thing into the mouth of a creature with razor blades for teeth and claws does not bring you joy.
Every cat is different and depending on his temperament and relationship with you, what works for one may not work for another. My little Sparrow, for example, is the most chilled out cat I’ve ever met and will let me do pretty much anything to him. Having said that, he does have built in razor blades and he is a cat, so I’m well aware he could turn on me at any moment. When I found out Sparrow would need some form of medicine daily for the rest of his life, I figured I should learn how to medicate a cat without getting my face scratched off.
First, Prepare Your Cat
Ideally, this will happen long before your cat needs to be medicated, but if you’ve just received an out of the blue asthma diagnosis this may not be possible. Do it anyway, it’s all about training. Basically, the idea is to get the little kitty used to having his face and mouth touched, and you do this by…touching his face and mouth. Keep these face fondling sessions short and fun, and follow up with a meal, playtime or treats.
As your cat gets used to having his face and mouth touched, you can begin to introduce the next phase, which is getting him used to the action of taking a pill. To do this, place your hand over your cat’s face and using your thumb and middle finger, gently lift up slightly on the mouth. Your cat will likely hate this, so to make the experience more pleasant place a special treat into your cat’s mouth. Something soft like a small morsel of meat that doesn’t need to be chewed is ideal. Follow up with lots of praise and more treats – the idea is to get your cat used to the pilling motion and associate it with something tasty.
Cat, Meet Aerokat
Getting your cat used to the Aerokat Feline Inhaler is somewhat of a similar process. The goal here is to get your cat used to both the chamber and the face mask. I started by pulling the device apart, putting a couple of hard treats inside the chamber and rolling it across the kitchen floor for Sparrow to chase. Then I would attach the face mask and gently hold it over his face for a couple of seconds before tipping the treats out and letting him have them, all while piling on the praise. Again, I’m talking about the most un-catlike cat in the whole world, so I had an easy time and he had a ball. You might need to get creative if yours is an argumentative creature. Letting him lick some food off the mask, or using it to pet his face and head will help to get a familiar scent onto the device and make the whole thing seem like something fun.
The Rehearsal is Over
Now that you’ve been pretend pilling your cat and playing fun and games with the Aerokat, it’s time for the real thing.
How to Medicate a Cat With Pills
I’ve laid out these instructions for right handed people, if you’re a leftie you’ll need to adjust accordingly.
- Most advice will suggest you put your cat on a flat surface, like a table or countertop and tuck him under your right arm. Personally, I prefer to sit myself down comfortably and invite (or entice) Sparrow to come snuggle on my lap. Either way, you will want your body behind the cat. If you try to approach him from the front he will back away.
- Hold the pill in your left hand.
- Hold your cat’s face with your right hand, thumb and index finger along his cheeks and gently lift his nose towards the ceiling. This will naturally make his mouth open a bit.
- Use one of your left fingers to open his lower jaw. This effectively prevents him from being able to bite you as he can’t control his lower jaw.
- Place the pill as far back in his mouth as you can and release his face, but keep him tucked under your elbow or on your lap. If he licks his lips, that means the pill has gone down. Now is a good time to heap on the praise.
Cats are crafty creatures and have been known to lick their lips and pretend they’ve swallowed the pill when really they haven’t. Don’t let go of your cat before you’ve checked inside his mouth – if you can still see the pill, reach in with a finger and move the pill further back on the tongue. If that doesn’t work, you might have to let him spit it out and start over.
How to Medicate a Cat – The Inhaler
I’ve read all kinds of horror stories about asthmatic cats not dealing with their inhaled medication, which is understandable. I wouldn’t enjoy having a giant holding something over my face and making me breathe, either. It’s important that you remain calm, make it as fun as possible and keep it routine – medicine time is right before meal time at our place, so when I say “food” to Sparrow, he knows he has to get through the puffer first, which leads me to my first point.
- Keep it routine. If your vet has prescribed inhaled medication twice a day, try to keep it to the same time and the same place in your house.
- As with giving your cat pills, if you approach him from the front he will likely back away. You can use the same method of holding your cat on a table or countertop, but personally, I prefer to get him snuggled into my lap.
- Once your cat is in position and you’re having a nice fun little chat, give the metered dose inhaler (MDI) a good shake, according to the instructions.
- Keeping a firm but gentle grip on your cat, attach the MDI to the Aerokat Feline Inhaler and puff out a dose into the chamber. Some cats freak out at the sound of the puffer, so you could try talking over the sound until he gets used to it.
- Immediately hold the mask over kitty’s face, making sure it’s fitting snugly and hold it there for 10-15 breaths. The Aerokat has a little flappy valve so you can see if your cat is breathing.
- If your vet has prescribed two ‘puffs’ or two different inhaled medications, these must be released into the chamber one at at time, ie repeat steps 3-5 for each ‘puff’ of medication.
- You’re done! Release the mask from the cat, release the cat then do something fun like meal time or a treat.
The Most Important Part
None of these things are pleasant for your cat, or for you. The best way you can help the situation is to remain calm and make it fun. If you dread the process, your cat will pick up on that and run with it. The idea here is to not give your cat any stress and not get your face bitten off. Follow the nasty medication part of your day with something pleasant and life will be much easier for everyone involved.
How do you trick your cat into enjoying medicine time? Let us know in the comments below…