I received an email today from a concerned pet parent, Lizzie, who’s got two 5-month-old kittens in need of taking oral medication for deworming for the next week.
The issue? Pretty obvious as I’m sure you all could guess – even if you hadn’t read the title of this post: these cats really don’t want to take the medication. All this led to a battle of wits, where the human (as we often do) folded and looked for a better option.
The rejection of the medication may be due to the fact that the medicine tastes terrible, or it could be due to the fact that the medicine’s going down with a syringe, and that the whole syringe experience is probably not the most comfortable experience for the two kittens.
Either way, let me show you Lizzie’s email before we get into some tricks for making the pill go down easier for her two kittens (and yes, the “pill” pun was obviously intended):
I’m a new cat owner to two very sweet 5-month-old kittens, sister and brother. Although they are both incredibly loving, they HATE getting their oral meds via syringe (sulfadimethoxine for some worms… the lady who rescued them gave it to me and I have one more week to go).
Either they despise the taste of it, or I’m just awful at administering it. After a battle of sorts, I’ll give up but both kitties stay mad at me for the next couple of hours. It’s so sad!
Any tips for doing this effectively? Can I put the oral med in their food? Water?
Now, Lizzie, you’re definitely on the right track when it comes to thinking up alternate ways to get your kittens to take that medication without having to use a syringe.
There are a few issues with the two options you’ve listed, which I’ll go over first. One of the two is viable if you do it in a specific way, but I’ll get into that in detail.
Right after I discuss which techniques you’ll want to avoid using for getting a kitty to take medication, I’ll discuss a bunch of tricks you can use to get your cats to hopefully gobble up that medicine without the use of a syringe anyway.
Hopefully at least one of these will work out – painlessly – for all of you, and you won’t have any more hours waiting for kittens to stop being mad at you to worry about!
Techniques for Administering Medicine You Should Avoid
1. Don’t: Mix Medication Into a Cat’s Water
Putting medication into a cat’s water is a really bad idea. At least I would think so. It’s the option that’s least likely to get your cats to ingest medication, and it could cause your cats, sadly, to dehydrate as well.
Cats are notoriously bad at drinking water. Many cats actually need encouraging to drink as much as they should.
So any change of flavour of the water, such as in the form of yucky medication going into their water supply, has a good chance of getting your cat to hate drinking to the point where he or she will stop drinking entirely, causing worse problems.
Not only that, but cats don’t typically drink a whole lot of water at once, so it’s unlikely if your cat drinks medication mixed with water that he or she will get the right dose before he or she’s done drinking.
Essentially this one is a no-go. But the next suggestion you have, is a solid could-work, under specific conditions. Let’s get into those.
2. Don’t: Mix Medication Into Your Cat’s Regular Food
The issue with mixing medication into your cat’s food really comes down to the way you do it.
If you’re placing the medication into a cat’s regular food meal and expecting he or she to eat the whole lot, medicine included, you might end up with your cat refusing to eat the food entirely (if he or she can smell the medicine or taste it, and doesn’t like the smell or taste).
This is obviously no good, as you don’t want any cat to go on a food strike.
A food strike is a game your cat can win. Cats are often picky eaters, and will usually not conform to your wishes and finally “give up and eat” when they’re hungry.
Since they’re such picky eaters to begin with, altering the taste of their regular meal with medicine means you chance the entire meal going to waste.
Another bad alternative? Your cat might end up eating part of the food/medicine, but not ingesting the entire lot, and thus not getting all the medication he or she needs.
After a nibble or two, your cat might walk away from the meal dissatisfied with the taste, and you’ll never know how much medicine he or she actually consumed.
Or, if the medicine’s not mixed in evenly, you never know, your cat could eat around the medicine entirely. Cats are clever.
The trick to making the mix of food and medicine work is masking the medicine into a snack, rather than a full fledged meal.
How you deal with this if you’re trying to use your cat’s regular food: take away the food for a few hours (if you open feed), wait until your cat is good and hungry, then play with your cat quite a bit until he or she is tired.
Finally, hand over just a bite of food, mixed in with the medication. And watch to make sure your kitty eats it all. If it all goes down no problems, do this again the next time. If your cat refuses to eat, try one of the alternate solutions I have.
I can see this working phenomenally well, and it’s what I’d recommend doing in most cases.
3. Don’t: Use Milk or Cheese to Get Your Cat to Ingest Medication
Still, you shouldn’t ever give cats milk or cheese to mask medicine, because, as Dr. Tawnia Shaw, DVM pointed out in an interview with PetMD: “some medicines do not do well if taken with high calcium foods. Doxycycline, an antibiotic, for example, gets bound to the calcium and then does not get absorbed.”
Is it possible your particular medication is fine if it’s taken with milk or cheese? Yes – but I don’t think it’s ever worth the risk.
There are other snacks (some made for cats, some “human foods”) that are a lot better options if you really need to try something besides your cat’s main meal.
How to Easily Give Liquid or Solid Medicine to a Cat Using Snacks
1. Using Kitten Pate to Get Cats to Ingest Medicine
Now, you already have kittens so you likely are feeding them kitten pate to begin with, but if you’re not and you’re using kibble, try a teensy bit of kitten pate (a few licks worth, to make sure they eat all of it) with the medicine instead.
For those reading who have adult cats: I’d encourage you to try grabbing kitten pate to use as a snack to mask the taste of medicine.
Kitten pate is specially formulated to be ridiculously tasty to cats, and in my experience, all my adult cats go absolutely bananas for it.
It’s a lot harder to get a cat to eat medication-mixed-in-with-cat-food when your cat isn’t the most fond of that cat food, and kitten pates typically are irresistible, getting rid of that hurdle.
2. Pill Pockets for Getting Cats to Eat Medicine
Ah, pill pockets. Those tasty, kibble-lookalike products you can open up, pop a pill into, seal up, then hand over to your pet and watch as both you and your kitty get a treat at the same time.
If you’ve got quite a lot of medicine to be delving over, and don’t want any fuss or hassle, you just want to see that medication go down, pill pockets are where it’s at.
I can’t imagine a more convenient thing to have on hand for cats who take medication regularly.
3. Using a Wet Food to Get Cats to Eat Medication
You can use regular wet food to get cats to eat medication. Again, just make sure to give a very small amount with the medication, so it all goes down in a few licks.
If you have a cat who eats wet food already, and he or she just isn’t eating the food if the medications in it, you might want to get something like a salmon based wet food, as maybe the strong smell and taste will help cover up the smell and taste of the medicine.
4. Petroleum Jelly as a Snack to Get Cats to Ingest Medication
Okay this might be a weird one, but I’m going to list it anyway. I use petroleum jelly to prevent hairballs, and a few of my cats absolutely go crazy for the stuff.
I don’t use much, a blob the size of two pieces of kibble once a month to once a week if the cats are coughing a lot, and things all go down a lot easier that way.
I know if I had to, I could use petroleum jelly to mask medicine because of how much my cats like it.
It wouldn’t do a good job of masking bad tastes, however, so I do think there others are better alternatives. Especially if you don’t know if your cat likes petroleum jelly.
5. Using Peanut Butter to Get Cats to Eat Medicine
Some people have cats who absolutely love peanut butter and will eat it as a snack any chance they get.
If you know this to be true of your pet – and you know your pet has no allergies to peanuts (yes, cats can have allergies to peanuts, although it’s rare) – this is a great option for masking the taste of medicine so your cat will ingest it.
Just don’t give too much! You don’t want your cat over-eating this snack, or eating it in lieu of his or her main meal.
6. Use Another Well-Loved Snack to Get Cats to Eat Medicine
So long as it has no dairy and you know whatever’s on the menu is fine fr a cat to eat – like cooked chicken, for instance – you can give a small bit of that mixed with medicine a go to see if your cat will eat the medication on his or her own happily.
I would definitely stay away from liquid snacks, and go for pastes or more solid alternatives, because sometimes cats can be fickle about drinking. But you know your cat best, so you’d know what he or she’d likely gobble up happily.
Just make sure it won’t conflict with the medication and make sure all you offer can easily be eaten in a few licks, so you don’t end up with a case of not-all-the-medicine being ingested as it should be.
Your Thoughts on Giving Medicine to Cats?
Have you ever had to give medicine to cats before? How did you do it? Would you do it differently in the future?
Do you have any advice for Lizzie or anyone else who’s in the same boat, or a similar one, as her?
Do you have any stories to share about cats accepting or refusing to take medication? Do you have any solutions up your sleeve that weren’t listed here?
Love to hear your thoughts and experiences on the topic in the comments down below!