Ask Ms. Kitty: Medicating your cat not as daunting as you think

MarmaladeYawnsTalksBy Carole Galloway

Dear Ms. Kitty,
We just found out Muffin, our cat of 12 years, needs medication. Everything written about medicating a cat sounds very difficult and frustrating. Muffin is usually pretty chill, but there is no possibility of shoving a pill her down her throat or sneaking it in her food. Help!
Helpless in Hartsel

Dear Helpless,
First of all, take a deep breath, think positive, and feel confident that you can medicate your finicky feline. Cats have long had the upper paw in beating us in the battle to medicate them. Their reputation is well earned; however a more thorough understanding of them has led us to novel ideas. We humans have come up with new and clever tricks to outwit our furry friends.

Make Sure Muffin is motivated
Don’t free feed.  Many cat owners leave food out all day and night for their cat. While it is easier to feed this way, it undermines the possibility of medicating without force. If Muffin eats 24/7, she has no motivation to try something new and possibly yucky. She needs to be hungry!

Don’t overfeed. Whether you feed dry kibble, wet food, or both, always measure the amount of food she actually needs. If you are unsure about the amount, read the back of the food package, talk with your veterinarian, or work with an experienced behaviorist. Measure out her meals for the day, and feed in 2 or 3 feedings.

Have a routine. Cats respond very well to routine. Feed them at the same time every day and make it a positive time for you and them. Medicate with the first feeding of the day if possible. Your cat will be hungriest at this time and less likely to detect the medication.

Medication comes in many forms
Compounded medications. Pharmacies can now compound many medicines into liquids, transdermal gels, or even treats! For example, thyroid medication can be changed to an ear cream that is easy to apply and many cats tolerate this well.  Some antibiotics and certain steroids can be changed to tuna or chicken flavored liquids that entice the cat.

Injectable medications. Veterinarians can also give your cat injectable anti-nausea meds, steroids, and certain antibiotics. Many cats do better with injections than any other form of medication.

When a pill is necessary
Disguising pills in wet food. Pate’ textures work the best because you can mound a spoonful together and it holds its shape. The pill can then be hidden in the food. Slices, grilled, chunks, and gravies don’t work well because they don’t mound together and the pill can be easily detected.

Use just a small portion of food (a spoon to 1/4 of a can) and put the pill in the very first bite of food so your cat will be less likely to sniff it out. If needed, use a different flavor of wet food or even a different brand to entice your kitty. Rotate flavors to further disguise the medicine.

Pill Pockets and paste. Some cats will take the pill if it is in a Greenie Pill Pocket. The pockets come in different flavors including salmon and chicken. Pick your cat’s favorite or even alternate flavors.

You can also disguise the pill by using Tomlyn Paste. The pill is wrapped in a tiny piece of the paste. Be sure to cover the entire pill so it can’t be detected and don’t get the flavor of the pill on the outside of the paste. As discussed above, then hide the paste covered pill in the very first bite of the wet food. Tomlyn Paste comes in several flavors including bacon, which is a new flavor to most cats and can lure them to the food.

Finally, keep an emergency treat on hand if your kitty refuses the hidden pill. Add a small piece of turkey lunch meat, a few bonita flakes, or even a pinch of tuna right on top of the wet food that is covering the paste to lure her back.

So, you are not helpless at all. You just have to be determined, creative, and resourceful to outsmart your cat!

Ask Ms Kitty is a free helpline offered by Happy Cats Haven, managed by Colorado CATS, and sponsored by Maddies’s Fund. If you need help with your cat’s behavior, go to HappyCatsHaven.org/helpline/.

Carole Galloway is the owner of Colorado CATS, a luxury cat only boarding facility in Colorado Springs that opened in 1995. Carole has cared for thousands of cats over the years and has worked as a professional Cat Behavior Consultant for the past 15 years.

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