How do I Medicate a Cat?

Mary McMahon

At some point during your partnership with a cat, it may become necessary to medicate it. Feline medications are prescribed for a wide range of conditions, and they usually take the form of pills or liquids which must be ingested orally. In other cases, a vet may prescribe subcutaneous fluids or injections, in which case you will be carefully trained in the administration of these medications. However, when you are faced with a bottle of pills or sticky goo and a recalcitrant cat, you may forget some of your veterinarian's well meaning advice.

Remaining calm when medicating a cat will reduce the level of stress for the animal.
Remaining calm when medicating a cat will reduce the level of stress for the animal.

The most important thing to remember when you medicate a cat is that it is very important to remain calm. By staying relaxed and easygoing when you medicate a cat, you can reduce the stress to the animal while also accomplishing the task in a reasonably dignified fashion. The second things to keep in mind is that it is extremely important to get the cat medicated, but that stressing the animal out will not be productive.

Some oral medications can be hidden in a cat's food.
Some oral medications can be hidden in a cat's food.

Your first step in medicating a cat should be measuring out the medication. If you are administering an oral medication, draw it up into an oral syringe and place the syringe somewhere handy. If you are giving pills, measure out the number of pills you need. You may find it helpful to set up in an enclosed area to medicate a cat in, which will make it easier to handle the cat.

Your second step is to find the cat. Most cats are fully aware of your plans for them, so it's an excellent idea to draw up the medication well before you need it, lulling the cat into a false sense of security. Once the cat has relaxed and emerged from hiding, you can swoop in for the grab. Remember to stay calm and neutral while you handle the cat, so that you do not cause fright.

The best position to medicate a cat in is to sit on it, gently, with your feet crossed in the back to prevent the cat from backing out. You may also need to use one arm to lock the cat in place, but most cats stay still once they realize that they are pinned. If this restraining technique does not work, wrap the cat in a large towel to administer medication. Be aware, however, that wrapping a cat in a towel is not foolproof, and it will result in a very infuriated feline.

Once the cat is restrained, if you are giving it a pill, gently tilt the animal's head back, which will encourage the cat to open its jaw. Gently place the pill as far back on the cat's tongue as possible, and then lower the cat's head and stroke its throat to promote a swallowing response. You may want to continue holding the cat for a few moments to ensure that the pill is swallowed.

If you are giving oral medication to a cat, you do not want to tilt its head back, because the cat can choke. Instead, use one finger to gently open the cat's jaw, while inserting the oral syringe. Gently depress the plunger of the syringe, holding the cat's head so that the animal cannot pull away. Some dribbling will inevitably occur, and some medications also cause cats to foam at the mouth. Do not be unduly concerned, unless the cat manages to expectorate most of the medication instead of swallowing it.

Once you are done medicating a cat, offer a reward. The cat will grow to associate rewards with medication, and he or she may be more amenable to medication in the future. Petting the cat and offering a verbal affirmation is an excellent reward, or you can use cat treats. Make sure to ask your vet about cat treats, however, especially if your cat is on a restricted diet. After you medicate a cat, he or she will probably sulk; do not give the cat the satisfaction of knowing that this bothers you.

A vet may administer some medications but some may need to be administered at home.
A vet may administer some medications but some may need to be administered at home.

Discussion Comments


You are welcome Talentryto. I think you will find that the pill popper makes it much easier to give your kitty his medications when he needs them.


I'll have to give one of these pill poppers a try Heavanet. I have a cat that is temperamental, so I am always fearful that he will get a cat disease that requires medication. I have been able to gently restrain him, but putting the pill in his mouth is the hard part. Thanks for the information!


Some veterinarians and pet supply stores sell pill poppers for giving cats pills. You insert the medication in the plunger, and gently place it on your cat's tongue. This device makes it much easier to give a cat a pill than to put your fingers in his mouth.

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