Pilling a cat is serious business although I will end this section with a hilarious email I received a long time ago that actually told the scenario that most of us experience when trying to give a cat a pill. Unfortunately, how to give a cat a pill is not just for supplementing your cat’s diet with vitamins.
When your cat needs medications it is oftentimes when the poor cat is feeling ill and irritable. Your cat is also frightened when it sees you approaching with medications or just senses you are hiding something in your hand.
One method of pilling a cat is to grasp his head gently, but firmly, to tilt it back. If his mouth doesn’t drop open automatically, use a finger. Then try to pop the pill as far back as possible. Rubbing his throat will encourage him to swallow it…but remember that patience and calm behavior on your part will help your cat tolerate the stressful experience more easily. Follow up with a small amount of water to help ensure that the pill has gone down properly. I found this video on the internet that shows you how to do it. Pilling a Cat
Some cat owners struggle futilely to learn this technique, while others have cats that simply refuse to be pilled. And although some feline medications are available as a liquid, oral gel, transdermal gel or by injection, the pill is the most widely used formulation. If you consider camouflaging the medication in a bowl of food you encounter several problems.
The main problem with this approach is that some medications are better absorbed on a full stomach, while others are most effective if taken on an empty stomach so you have to have your vet specify when the meds should be given. Another problem you will discover rather quickly when you grind up the pills and mix them into his food…is that cats are not easy to fool.
Cats have very sensitive taste buds and a finicky feline will balk…and leave you with the uneaten dose. Moreover, once your cat has caught on to your hoax, he will likely double-check every future meal to make sure you haven’t snuck pharmaceuticals into it.
Another issue with the grind-and-mix method is that when a ground pill is mixed with food you don’t know if he has ingested the entire prescribed dosage if he doesn’t lick his plate clean. Plus, many pharmaceutical companies do not conduct tests to study the effectiveness of their medications when food is mixed with their product. Pilling a cat is challenging.
Also, pilling a cat involves some pills that are formulated with a coating that protects the active ingredients from digestive acids in the cat’s stomach. If this protective coating is destroyed through grinding, the active ingredient may be rendered inert by stomach acids, or may bond with food particles in the stomach before reaching the small intestine where it can be absorbed.
However, although the most widely used formulation for cat medications is the pill, (resulting in pilling a cat) certain meds are available as a liquid, oral gel, transdermal gel, or an injectable. A frequently prescribed antibiotic called amoxicillin is dispensed as a pink liquid, in a bottle with an eyedropper.
The instructions tell you to squirt the liquid into the cat’s mouth. Petroleum-based gels are available to treat hairballs and/or to soften stools. You squeeze the gel over the cat’s food, or onto his paws to be licked off.
A number of pharmaceutical products…including insecticides used for flea treatments…are available as transdermal gels. The gel is placed onto the cats’ skin in a difficult-to-lick location, and is absorbed through the skin. The gel can also be absorbed through your skin, so be sure to wash your hands after applying a transdermal gel medication.
Transdermal gels may be the simplest method of dosing, and if a medication that your cat needs regularly is not available in this form, you can have it custom made at a compounding pharmacy. However, again, there may not be sufficient data to back up the effectiveness of a drug delivered in gel form if that’s not the normal prescribed delivery method.
Pilling a cat can be challenging and after several unsuccessful attempts you might wonder why your vet can’t just five your cat a needle. Injections are no always a good idea. Medications given this way are an unpleasant experience for the cat, and not all medications are available by injection. With the exception of insulin injections for diabetes, the injection alternative is not a first choice, especially when you are dealing with long term and chronic conditions.
Injections can be dangerous when used for steroidal medications like cortisone, which is prescribed for inflammatory bowel disease and other allergy-related conditions. Some cats are very sensitive to these drugs. When given orally, the medication can be stopped immediately if a reaction occurs, but there is no way to stop the effects of the drug if administered by injection.
Sometimes there are alternative ways to treat the animal, for instance, cats with the chronic condition of hyperthyroidism are usually given Tapazole (methimazole), but they can be treated with surgery and radiation instead of medication.
Pilling a cat that is a pill-resistant cat but requires long-term medication for the management of a chronic problem such as a behavioral, heart, thyroid, intestinal or liver condition, then a compounding pharmacy might offer a solution. Compounding pharmacies work with a veterinarian and cat owner to compound a medication in a format that will be acceptable to the cat while remaining active and stable.
They might be able to compound your medication in a liquid format, and then cover the bad taste by flavoring it with shrimp, fish, liver or chicken. While this may prove to be an answer for many frustrated cat owners who have failed in their pilling a cat attempts, this service is not well suited to emergency or short-term prescription requirements.
Not all medications can be compounded at all, and others are not stable in a liquid state. Plus, since there is no data from testing by the manufacturers, the shelf life is unknown and can only be guessed at. Refrigeration will sometimes increase usability, but they cannot predict long term stability.
Compounded medications are custom designed and made by hand so they are always more costly but by the time some people get to this point, it is usually a last ditch effort, and they want to do what they can for their animal.
When all else fails, consult with your veterinarian and a compounding pharmacy about pilling a cat. They might be able to customize a medication into a more easily administered form.
I had saved this email a few years ago because it was so funny. I do not endorse the crazy methods...do not try this at home...but this version of pilling a cat will give you a few laughs. If you know who wrote this, let me know and I will add their name.
How to Give a Cat a Pill (Pilling a Cat)