Sunday, November 9, 2008

Give the Cat a Pill

Pills and shots: both are a challenge when your patient is a cat. As a pet sitter, you will be called upon to do both. We could assume the owners have a tried and true method of pilling their cat. I wouldn’t count on it. You may end up training them! I had one client who auditioned me. I literally had to stand there on the consultation visit and give his cat a thyroid pill to prove I could really do it. Lucky for me, the cat cooperated and I got the job.


My method, or at least the first one I try, is to wrap my left hand over the cat’s head from the back, with my fingers on either side of his mouth. My index finger pokes his mouth open, and with the other hand, I drill the pill down his throat. Then I close his mouth and stroke his throat until I feel him swallow. This technique is illustrated above with a photo of my cat Sterling, who actually allows me to do it.

Not all cats are so cooperative, so be ready for anything. I have been known to wear a heavy jacket and garden gloves to protect myself from flying claws and well-aimed teeth.

My vet has a canvas bag that holds the entire cat with just his head sticking out. Zipped into this bag, Kitty can’t scratch you, so you have a little more control. At least that’s the theory!

Vets and pet supply stores sell treats called pill pockets that you wrap the medicine in and give to the cat. Cats are masters at eating the treat and spitting out the pill, but it is worth a try. Put butter on the pill to make it slip down easily. Another tool from the vet, a pill gun, holds the pill on the end, and you plunge it down the cat’s throat and release the pill. This way, your fingers are further away from the cat’s mouth.

I have a client who has me wrap the pill in a tiny piece of lunchmeat, and Kitty eats it right down. Another has me put it in some juice from a can of tuna or cat food. For other kitties I crush the pill in a spoon and mix it into a bit of his wet food. When he eats the medicated food, I give him the rest.

The pet’s veterinarian or a pharmacist may be able to mix the medication in a liquid to make it easier to administer. Ask about this; the ability to do this will vary by the type of medication it is.


I often have to give shots to diabetic cats. Your best chance is to move quickly. I reach in from behind while the cat eats and give him the shot before he even has time to react. Lift the skin between the shoulder blades with your left hand, put in the needle with your right and push the plunger quickly. For insulin, the amount is usually so small it goes in fast. You do have to be careful not to push the needle through and out the other side of the tented skin- you’ll squirt the shot into the air and do the cat no good at all. For other types of shots where there is more liquid, you have to push the syringe slowly and evenly.

Dogs are so much easier.

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