How to give a cat a tablet August 07, 2017 14:31

Is this the most frequently asked question from a cat owner? I’m not sure but it’s certainly a common one! The problem is that by the time someone is asking me
this question, it’s already too late for the best option. What is the best option, you ask?
The best option is to train your cat when they are young to allow you to easily give them tablets. It’s not terribly hard! But you have to do it when you’ve got
time - as in BEFORE your cat needs a course of medication. Here’s a video demonstrating how I would go about training a kitty in this essential life skill. The
summary is to use high value rewards (in this case ham) to condition them to accept the restraint and mouth opening first:
 
 
Ok, now let’s assume you HAVEN’T done your preparatory homework, and are now, like most cat owners, faced with needing to give your untrained cat a worming tablet,
or a course of antibiotics.

Things to think about:
1.It’s going to be easier if you have a helper
2.It will also be easier and slightly safer if you have a pill popper
3.Restrain them so they can’t back off or wriggle sideways
4.Your first go is your best chance. Have everything ready and try to get it right the
first time!

What you will need:
1.The pill, placed ready into the pill popper
2.A helper and a chair OR a towel and a bench/table with a wall at the back of it
3.A very high value treat

Start with making sure your cat is in a calm chilled out mood. Don’t attempt this after or during a noisy extended family visit, don’t interrupt a rough and tumble
play session between multiple cats and don’t stare at your cat repeatedly telling them in a loud voice how you’re going to give them a tablet and they’d better
behave or else! If you have a helper, have them sit on a kitchen chair of other non slouchy spot, and have the cat on their lap facing out. The cat’s bottom should
be snug against the person’s belly, and their arms will come gently either side of their body and hands sit lightly around their shoulders, curving forwards towards
their chest.
Here is a quick demonstration:

If you don’t have a helper, you will probably be best to wrap your cat in a large towel. I would recommend using the “scarf wrap” technique, as shown in this previous post how to restrain your cat
Once wrapped securely, sit the wrapped cat bundle on a desk, bench or table, with their bottom sitting right up against a wall.

Once you have sorted out the holder or the towel wrap, place one hand over the top of the cats head and tilt it so the cat is looking at the ceiling. This will
loosen the lower jaw slightly. As soon as you have enough of a gap, pop the pet piller in, right down to the back and immediately press the release plunger. Keep
the cat’s head looking up, drop/get rid of the pill popper and use that hand to close the cats lower jaw and rub/massage their neck firmly in a downward motion. If a
cat’s tongue comes out to lick it’s nose it will almost always swallow so if you think your puss hasn’t swallowed the tablet yet, consider blowing on their nose, or
tickling it just slightly.

Finally, give the cat a super groovy treat of some sort. BBQ chicken, sardines, tuna juice –whatever is your cat’s “ultimate”. You should do this absolutely as soon
as possible after the tablet, preferably before you let go with the hand that’s holding the cat’s head.
If you don’t have a pet piller, hold the tablet between the tips of your index and middle fingers and poke them down, the same way you would a pill popper. Or, pull
the lower jaw open and drop the tablet right to the back of the tongue and IMMEDIATELY use you index finger to push it over the hump of the tongue. All other steps
should be the same as outlined above. Some cats wriggle their heads from side to side when you try to give tablets though, and if you are using your fingers it is easy
for a sharp canine or premolar tooth to injure you. The actual time of putting the tablet down the cat’s throat, whether using fingers or a pill popper, needs to be
about 1 second. So... pretty lightening fast!

Common mistakes to avoid:
1.Making the whole procedure a loud tense fight. You get one, maybe two goes, then you stop.
2.Inadequate restraint – you really don’t want to be hanging onto the head of a cat that is wriggling backwards and sideways and twisting up to scratch you with
their hind claws. You need secure but gentle restraint. So don’t squash the cat, have the boundaries in place without pressure, have the towel snug. If you try to
give a tablet with a holder and fail, the next time (at least a few hours, preferably a day or two later), use the scarf wrap technique and have them all wrapped in
that on the holders lap.
3.Taking a long time – you have to be prepared with everything at hand and not muck around.
4.Using your thumb to push the tablet down – it can be done that way, but your thumb is much thicker than other fingers and it’s short too so your whole hand ends up
in the way of the teeth and they have to open their mouth much wider.
Let us know how you go!
Dr Amy Coles