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7 Steps to Put the “Treat” in Treatment

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Posted on 05-24-2015

We all, pet owners and veterinarians alike, have had problems getting pills down a cat.  Here are seven steps and some further advice on how to get a cat to more willingly take those pills.  As the song says “a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down”.  Only in this case it may be a handful of treats.

  1.  First, confirm with your veterinarian that the medication can be given with food.  Then try out different types of treats to find out which works best with your cat.  Some suggestions are empty Greenies Pill Pockets, semi-moist treats, tuna (Trader Joe’s Tuna for Cats, not human), cream cheese, or melon balls.
  2. Have multiple precut portions or multiple treats laid out so that you can give them out quickly at treatment times.
  3. To hide the treat further and build excitement in the cat, vary the number of treats you give each time and the order of treats that the pill is in,  for example in the third treat one time and the second or fourth the next time.
  4. Use one hand to hide the pill in the treat and the other and to seal the pill into the treat so that there is no smell of medication on the outside of the food.
  5. Keep the portion size small or soft enough that the cat does not chew, only licks and swallows.  This prevents chewing up the pill so they do not get a “bad” taste in their mouth or an upset stomach from the medication.
  6. Get the cat used to the pilling motion.  Handle the cat around the head and mouth, holding its head back and touching the mouth, and then give a treat such as a small bite of turkey meat that does not need to be chewed.  Or follow up with something the cat enjoys, like dinner, brushing, or a game/toy that the cat enjoys.  Whatever you do, make the experience positive.
  7. Teach cats to eat broth or canned cat food from a spoon, syringe or pet piller.  Start by smearing a soft treat on the outside for the cat to lick off.  This gets them used to something near the face.  Then give the liquid broth from the syringe or the soft treat in the spoon or pet piller.  At this point it becomes easier to add medication to the treat.

        A cat can be trained to accept something less exciting like water from a syringe if it is followed   by a treat.

It is important to start this process at an early age or before the cat needs medication.  This will reduce stress on every one.  Even cats that have had bad experiences before can relearn with this process.  Just break it down into steps.  Build slowly.  Don’t try to do the whole training process in one sitting.  This takes time, but should make giving medication when they are needed much less stressful and scary.

If you have any questions, please contact us.

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