Many of us have been there. You are coming home from the vet clinic, with a set of pills or liquid medication you have to put in your cat’s mouth. They might have done a demonstration of how to give it at the vet clinic, where your cat seemed to do ok with it. Now it’s your job to give it at home.
For some of you, it will go fine with a few clever tricks or when you disguise the taste of the medication. For just as many people and cats though, it’s a disaster! The pill is sticky and crumbling apart after your third attempt of pulling it off the side of your cat’s mouth. Half of the liquid medication is squirted onto your kitchen floor or bathroom walls when you try to aim it into your struggling cat’s mouth. With two people involved, a few scratches later, your are able to get the pill in. But by mid week your cat is running away from you. What are you supposed to do, especially if your cat has a chronic issue, and he’s supposed to be on this medication for life?
It’s so frustrating and disheartening.
You’d be surprised how little guidance there is for people in this situation. And even worse, the professionals who are supposed to help you often can’t. Beyond changing the flavour or trying an alternative type of medication, options seemingly dry up and the advice just doesn't work for your cat.
Mikel from catsandsquirrels.com recently sent me an article published by an expert for the humane treatment of animals, Dr. Bekoff. He describes an experience with his older dog Inuk, in which after trying and failing to give a pill to his dog, he decided that it was better for Inuk to live his final months without medication. His dog was declining fairly rapidly from a gastrointestinal problem. He tried the pills for 3 or 4 days, and says “because the pills weren't working and were causing him a good deal of unneeded and obvious emotional distress, Inuk should spend the last weeks of his life enjoying every single moment as much as possible. He loved ice cream, so that's what he got”. After all, “a tasty treat is far better than a nasty pill with major emotional side effects including extreme fear and anxiety”.
I want to make it very clear, that I’m not criticizing this individual’s choices for his dog. There is no blame for a person for not wanting their pet to experience anxiety, fear or to be in discomfort.
What I am saying, is we can do so much better than this for our cats. If we help each other, and approach medication in a way that respects the bond between you and your cat, you can rise above the difficulty of giving medications.
- If I ever prescribe something to be given by “shoving it down the throat” like it was for Inuk…I have failed you.
- If I don't have a list of alternative plans that enhance the bond between you and your cat, while addressing their medical issues all at the same time, I have failed you.
- If I can’t help you understand your cat’s true needs in order to give medication with minimal struggle, I have failed you.
Every cat (or dog) who rejects medication is communicating with you. He’s not saying give up on me. He’s saying if you could only learn my language, you will be far more successful in treating me.
Why? Because 80% of the success when medicating your cat comes from everything we do BEFORE giving them the medication. When we are not aware of what that is, our efforts are more likely to fail. For many cats, and dogs like Inuk, this almost never get’s talked about, and I will be discussing it a lot in 2016.
If you have a cat that has been in your life for any amount of time, then we honour that bond by electing to treat them. If we know what to do before that medication ever touches their body, then we can satisfy their physical and emotional needs.
Have you had bad experiences trying to give a medication or SQ fluids? What obstacles were in your way? Share your thoughts with me and we’ll talk in the comments below!