Cats are notorious for not wanting to take their medicine. But no matter how feisty your cat may be, he still needs his medication. If you're wondering how to give a difficult cat liquid medicine, a popular strategy is to try hiding the medicine in food he likes. But there's more than one way to help your cat if that approach doesn't work.
Mix the Medicine with Canned Food
Like children, your cat can sometimes be distracted from realizing he's getting medicine if you hide it in his food. If your veterinarian gives the okay, consider mixing your cat's medicine with wet food.1 Be sure to tell your vet if your cat is on any other medication, including flea and tick shampoo or topical treatment.
If you try mixing it with food, make sure you use just a little bit of food mixed with the medicine, so your cat eats all the food and doesn't leave any leftovers.
For some cats, this is really all you need to do, especially if the food is tasty enough to entice him. Consider AvoDerm Natural Wild By Nature Salmon Entreé in Salmon Consommé for an especially tasty option.
How to Give Liquid Medicine in a Syringe
If you can't get your kitty to take medicine mixed with canned food, you're going to have to give your cat the liquid medicine with a syringe. This can be a little more difficult, so follow these steps to make sure it's done right.2
1. Gather your medication. You want everything ready and the syringe filled before you involve your cat.
2. Position your cat so he's facing away from you. Hold the syringe with your dominant hand and hold your cat with the other hand. Make sure he's facing away from you and is tucked into your arm so he can't wriggle free.
3. Some very difficult cats might need to be wrapped in a towel. Sometimes an especially difficult cat might need to be wrapped in a towel for this step with just his head exposed. This can cause a little extra stress, so try giving medication without wrapping your cat. For the most difficult cats, you may have to wrap him in a blanket and let a trusted caretaker hold him while you administer the medicine.
4. Point his head to look up at the ceiling. Gently hold your cat with your fingers near his top lip and push his whiskers back. Position his head so he's looking up at the ceiling.
It's worth noting that some veterinarians suggest trying to give liquid medicine without tilting your cat's head up.3 Others suggest letting the cat lick the tip of the syringe first if the taste doesn't scare him off.4 If you're not sure which technique to use, talk to your veterinarian.
5. Gently insert the syringe at the side of his mouth. This will encourage him to open his mouth. Make sure you have the syringe positioned to squirt onto the back of your cat's tongue from the side and not directly down his throat, which can cause gagging.
6. Squirt the medication slowly into his mouth. He might spit some of it out if you squirt too quickly or too close to the front of his tongue.
7. Continue to hold his head and count to three. It can help to gently stroke beneath his chin while doing this step. Stroking his chin can encourage him to swallow. His throat is tender, so tread lightly!
Especially difficult cats might need a different kind of medicine, like an IV or injection from the veterinarian or a transdermal medicine. But for most cats, these techniques will work just fine.
What If Your Cat Is Foaming at the Mouth?
Sometimes your kitty might have an unexpected reaction, like foaming at the mouth, after getting his medication. This doesn't mean the medicine is harming him. Cats may foam at the mouth just because they don't like the taste of something. If you place the medication on the back third of his tongue, he is less likely to taste it and won't foam at the mouth. If you're worried, you can always ask your vet.
Don't expect perfect results when you first start to give liquid medicine to your cat. This is one of those situations where you and your fur baby will get better with practice. If you're having difficulty, don't hesitate to talk to your veterinarian for additional advice.
1. Ward, Ernest. "Giving Liquid Medication to Cats." VCA Hospitals, https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/giving-liquid-medication-to-cats#.
2. Helpful Vancouver Vet. "How to Give Liquid Medication to a Cat." YouTube.com, 7 June 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3meUkY2e4Y.
3. Lichtenberg, Debora. "How to Give Medicine to a Cat (Yes, Even to a Difficult Cat.)" Petful, 30 July 2019, https://www.petful.com/pet-health/how-to-give-medicine-to-a-cat/.
4. Buckeye Veterinary Clinic. "Giving Liquid Medication to Your Cat." BuckeyeVetClinic.com, https://buckeyevetclinic.com/videos/giving-liquid-medication-to-your-cat/.