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How To Administer Medication to Your Cat

iStock_stpat1Giving or applying medications to a cat can be daunting. Here are some tips for giving certain types of medications to cats. Be sure to have your cat's veterinary staff to demonstrate how to use any new medication that is prescribed.

Applying Ear Medications to Cats

Avoid pinching the ears since they are very sensitive. It's best also to avoid pulling on the flap. The hairs surrounding the ear canal are very sensitive also, so try to avoid touching them. The cat will shake the ears if these hairs are brushed, which may make it harder for you to apply medication. Your kitty will shake his head after medication is instilled, so perform the procedure in a bathroom or kitchen so that if medication is shaken out, it does not land on your expensive custom Persian rug. You can learn more here: "Medicating Ears."

Oral Medications for Cats

Cats are notorious for not taking their pills. Some cats will take the pill to the back of the throat and then quietly go to the next room behind the comfy chair and spit it up. Others just might find a distant quiet corner of the home and hide out when treatment time approaches.

Here are a few tips that just might help you get a little cooperation during your cat's pill time:

  • Rinse pills down with a teaspoon of cool tap water. Research has shown that cats do not move pills down their food pipe (esophagus) very effectively, and if they get stuck, it is not only very uncomfortable, it can lead to erosions and ulcers in the esophagus.
  • Another helpful way to get the pills to slide down a cat's throat easier is to coat them with butter. This is slippery and as a bonus, quite tasty, so your kitty may be much more willing to swallow. Some people use peanut butter, but sometimes just like with us, it gets stuck to the roof of the mouth, so is not particularly helpful.
  • Praise your kitty for taking her therapy. Cats do not respond to punishment, but they do respond well to praise.
  • If she tends to try to run off, wrapping your cat in a soft bath towel will keep her from using your leg as a springboard for a long distance dive away. An assistant is helpful, so if you have a family member or friend who can help to keep your cat's attention, that might be useful.
  • When you grasp the upper jaw of the cat on each side just behind the corner fang (canine) teeth, be firm but not excessive in pressure. This gentle but firm grip will help you steady the head while the other hand opens the mouth by using the fingers on your other hand to gently pull down on the small front teeth (incisors) of the lower jaw. Make sure to have the staff at your hospital review the correct technique first. If your kitty is not cooperative, they may recommend you use a pill gun, which is a plastic tube in which you place the pill. This means your fingers don’t need to go into the mouth to place the pill at the junction of the tongue and the roof of the mouth. This can be a real finger saver.
  • Hold the head steady until you see or feel a little swallow going down the neck. This is your cue that medicine is on the way and not going to meet you next time you vacuum behind that chair. Do not hold the head up in too extreme of a position. If you have ever tried to chug a soda in that position, you will know that a slight head elevation is much easier to deal with.

Other Medication Routes for Cats

Here are a few tips for other medication types for cats:


Cats are so fastidious that topical treatments often end up being carefully groomed out of the coat. Don’t count on wound powders, creams, or lotions to stay there for long. If bandages have been applied at the hospital or topical treatment must be used, frequently an Elizabethan collar or similar structure will be applied to physically interfere with the kitty’s ability to turn around and lick or chew the offending substance off.


For certain diseases, injections may need to be given regularly. Insulin injections may need to be given under the skin on a regular schedule or for a kitty with failing kidneys, fluid therapy under the skin may be prescribed. Make sure you are comfortable with the technique and ask to have the injection demonstrated at least once to you at the hospital. Ideally, do it yourself there and have the trained staff give you feedback on your technique. If fluids are being prescribed for a cat with chronic renal failure, make sure you carefully warm them to room temperature before administration to avoid cold shock to the tissues around the needle. Always use a fresh needle for each treatment because dull or dirty needles are not a cat’s best friend. Avoid air in the administration line or insulin needle. Offering a treat at the time of injection may keep attention off of your manipulations to the point that a happy cat will not even notice your gentle administration.

Remember that cats remember a bad experience like the elephants. Never lose your patience when giving medications. It may take a few extra minutes to take time for praise and attention around treatment time, but this is time well spent to prevent a therapy-shy kitty.

You May Also Like These Articles:

Tips for Giving a Cat a Pill

How To Give Liquid Medications

Kidney Disease in Cats

Feline Diabetes Mellitus

Subcutaneous Fluid Therapy: Giving Your Cat Fluids at Home

Why Should I Take My Cat to the Vet?

How To Clean Cat Ears

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