Giving a tablet to a cat can be daunting for anyone, if you are calm and appear confident it is often much easier than you first think.
Make sure you ask your vet so that you know whether the tablet can be divided or crushed and whether it can be administered with food.
Have a confident approach and keep calm at all times. If you run into difficulties or cannot manage, always contact your vet or vet nurse at your local practice – they are there to help.
Make sure you:
• Have everything you need prepared and ready in advance.
• Be gentle with your cat, keep calm, and avoid putting yourself at risk.
• If possible, always have a second person (preferably someone your cat knows) to help if you are going to administer the tablet rather than put it in with food.
Always try firstly giving the tablet with food. First ensure that the tablet can be given with food. Some tablets should always be given with food:
• Make sure your cat is hungry! Take all food away for six hours (or overnight) to make sure your cat will want to eat when the tablet is due.
• Some tablets are made specifically to be palatable to cats and you can try just feeding these tablets to your cat as a treat. However, often cats will not eat a tablet voluntarily on its own because (even if designed to be palatable) the flavour or texture may be unfamiliar to them.
• If the tablet is small, your cat may take it hidden in a small amount of a favourite food, such as soft cat food (or jelly from cat food) that your cat really likes, soft cheese, a small piece of soft meat or fish, or even butter (BUT a tiny amount only please)
• Make sure the tablet is completely in just a small amount of food that you offer to your cat.
• You can offer the food in the cat’s normal bowl or from your fingers as you prefer – ALWAYS wash your hands after handling medication.
• If your cat eats the food, check to make sure it has also eaten the tablet and not left it behind or spat it out, then feed them the rest of their meal.
• Some cats are clever at finding the tablet buried in food and spitting it out, or just eating the food around the tablet. If it is safe (check with your vet or the instructions that came with the tablets) you may be able to crush the tablet and mix it thoroughly in a small amount of very tasty food. This works best with palatable tablets, and with a strong-flavoured tasty treat that your cat really loves (such as some tinned fish in oil). A pill-crusher may help to crush the tablet thoroughly
Administering a tablet by hand:
If your cat will not take the tablet voluntarily or in with food, you will need to give the tablet by hand. Gentle, safe restraint of your cat is important, and it’s always easier with two people – one person to give the tablet and one to hold the cat.
Restraining your cat with your hands or wrapped in a towel:
• Make sure your cat is on a stable non-slippery surface such as the floor; otherwise a firm table or work surface with a non-slip surface
• Allow your cat to sit upright, in front of you, but facing away from you.
• Gently hold each front leg above the elbow with your hands pressed gently against the sides of your cat. This helps to prevent your cat running off, keeps your cat sitting upright, and controls the front legs, paws and claws.
• Having restrained your cat now with one of the above methods, again it’s much easier with two people. The one giving the tablet needs to hold the tablet between the thumb and forefinger in one hand.
• Place the other hand on the top of your cat’s head (it is best to approach the cat from the side rather than from above – this is less threatening for your cat).
• The head should be gently but firmly held between the thumb and fingers, with your thumb and forefinger extending downwards to either side of the jaw at the corner of the mouth.
• Gently tilt the head upwards, and use the middle finger of the hand holding the tablet to pull the lower jaw down and open the mouth.
• Keep the head tilted up and quickly place or drop the tablet as far back on your cat’s tongue as you can. Aim for the centre of the tongue as far back as you can see – the further back the tablet goes the harder it is for your cat to do anything other than swallow it!
• Hold the jaw closed for a few seconds and wait for your cat to swallow. Gently rubbing the throat under the chin may help. If your cat licks his lips or nose, you know he has swallowed.
• Sometimes your cat may not swallow the tablet on the first attempt and may spit it out. So long as your cat does not become distressed, you can try repeating the procedure. Always try to get the tablet as far back on the tongue as possible.
You can also us a ‘pillgiver’ (available from your vet):
• This is a little like a syringe with a plastic plunger and rubber tip. The tablet will fit in the soft nozzle at the end of the pillgiver, and it is released by pushing down on the plunger (practise this before using it with your cat). A pillgiver can help you administer the tablet right at the back of your cat’s tongue while avoiding any need to place your fingers in your cat’s mouth.