There will usually come a time in your cat's life where you will need to give them a tablet by mouth. Not all tablets are suitable for crushing or giving with a meal, as food in the gut may hinder proper absorption of the medication. In other circumstances, your cat may simply refuse to take the tablet no matter how much tasty food you try to disguise it in. Giving a tablet by mouth is often a daunting prospect, as cats are more likely than dogs to struggle constantly, scratch or even bite you in the process of escaping. By following the advice below, you should be able to successfully administer your cat's tablets.
- Find a non-slippery table or surface (the floor if required) to minimise scrabbling paws.
- When possible, ask someone the cat knows to help you. It will be their job to keep your cat still and prevent them from scratching you, by gently but firmly restraining them. The cat should have their hind quarters against the helper's chest and be facing away from them. Your helper should place their arms down the sides of the cat to prevent sideways movement, and hold the front legs.
- If you have trouble keeping them still, you can sit them on a soft towel then wrap the ends around, one side at a time, leaving just the head free. This method is very useful when you don't have a helper, as it keeps the front legs (and claws!) restrained.
- If you are right handed, use your left hand to hold the top of the head (or the other way around if left handed), and place your index finger and thumb roughly where the jaw hinge would be. Tilt their head back gently, and if their mouth doesn't open automatically, use a finger on your right hand to lower the bottom jaw.
- When you look in their mouth, their tongue will make a small 'V' shape and this is where you want to place your tablet. Pop the tablet onto the tongue and if you are sure your cat won't mind, use your finger to push it back a couple of centimetres, to the back of the 'V'. If you're worried about your fingers, carefully use the non-pointed end of a pen to push the tablet back. Be very gentle, as cats have very small mouths and it doesn't need to move far - only push as far as you can see.
- Once the tablet is at the back of the tongue, close the jaw and keep the head raised until the cat swallows. If they manage to spit the tablet out, you can try again until you succeed, unless they become clearly stressed.
The two main concerns are your safety and the wellbeing of your cat. Firstly, if you are at all unsure about your cat's temperament, you should ask your vet or vet nurse for help-sometimes it is just easier to watch someone do it first. Secondly, be gentle, remain calm and confident at all times and give lots of reassurance. Keep talking in a soothing voice while you get them in position and don't scold them if it takes a few tries. Sometimes going to an unfamilar area helps cats to accept that you are in charge there.
There are some handy tools available on the website which may help you give medication to your cat, such as pill-givers and pill-cutters (if the tablet is suitable for splitting but isn't accepted/cannot be given with food).
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If you have any tricks you use with your own cats, feel free to share them with other readers below!