Cat needs allergy shots. Now what?
September 14, 2008 3:06 PM   Subscribe

My cat is allergic to, well, everything. Pine, wool, insects, dogs, dust mites, grasses, you name it. So I've ordered her some allergy shots, which I will have to give to her daily. How do I make this as painless as possible for both me and the cat?

Seriously, my vet says that there's no way to eliminate all of her allergens from her environment, and since the allergies aren't temporary/seasonal, shots are the way to go. (My cat's been licking a lot of her fur off, which is what started this whole ordeal. The limited diet had no effect.) My vet was unclear as to how long my cat will need to get the shots -- it sounds like it'll be once daily for four months, but I might be getting the "four months" from her explaining that it will take that long to see if the shots even work. And if they do work, ideally we will taper the frequency down until she gets one shot every 3 weeks (that's the bare minimum; she will never be shot-free). Am I correct?

Have you dealt with an allergic cat? How did you treat the cat? How can I make the shot-getting less horrible for her? Give her special food treats before, or after? (I have 2 other cats who will make giving her a treat difficult, though not impossible...) I cut my cats' claws and have given them medication and stuff, but they don't like it, to put it mildly. I'd like it if my cat didn't end up running from me in fear whenever I see her. Any advice is welcome.
posted by chowflap to Pets & Animals (14 answers total)
I've had a diabetic cat that I had to give shots to daily. She didn't feel a thing, and she knew that every morning and evening when I called her to jump up on the table, she got a kitty treat. Your vet should take the time to show you how to do this.
posted by at 3:13 PM on September 14, 2008

Second unless the cat has to receive the injection in a sensitive area, giving her shots will be painless, literally. If anything, it should be a heck of a lot easier to give her an injection than to give her pills or liquid medication.
posted by thomas j wise at 4:06 PM on September 14, 2008

Your vet or vet tech will demonstrate how to give the injections, and offer some helpful advice.

We've had to give our cat subcutaneous fluids (60 CCs) twice a week for a few years now, and it took a while to find the method that worked, but after a while it became just like any other routine. Our cat has to stand in place for a few minutes with the needle in the scruff of her neck while I push the fluids in. At first it took two people to hold her. Yours should be a little easier, since the injection will be quicker.

If possible get one person to hold her in place on a table and distract her with skritches and soothing words, while you pinch the loose skin at the scruff of the neck and pull it up slightly. Hold the needle parallel to the back, and insert it into the "tent" of skin that you've pulled up. Kitty might flinch a little, but don't worry, it's no more than a pinch. Push in the plunger and pull out the needle and you're done. Give plenty of praise and feed her right away afterwards.

It might be easier for the other person to hold kitty in his lap, or if kitty gets too wriggly, she can be wrapped up in a towel like a baby, with just her head sticking out. Pull the towel back a little to expose the scruff. Keep trying different things until you find something that works. But above all, stay calm at all times, especially if kitty flinches or even hollers. You getting upset will make kitty upset. You need to make Needle Time as much of a non-event as possible.
posted by Koko at 4:44 PM on September 14, 2008

Paging Biscotti . . . .but seriously, Koko has it pretty right - as long as the cat is not freaking out, giving a shot in the scruff, especially if you are a trusted person and the cat is at home (not freaking out in the vet's office) then you should be OK. And the cat will be perfectly fine.
posted by Medieval Maven at 4:48 PM on September 14, 2008

Yes, the cat will pick up on nervous people giving it shots. My husband could not give our cat her shots because he was terrified, which in turn made the cat terrified. I on the other hand had no problems at all because I was confident doing it. It might just take some practice, but it really is very easy.
posted by at 4:52 PM on September 14, 2008

Practice with saline in front of the vet until you feel comfortable. The needles are so thin that if you do it swiftly and confidently, it really is painless for the cat. I don't know if allergy shots have to go in a specific spot, but for insulin, I bunched up the scruff between his shoulder blades, and gave the shot in the pocket it made. I know he felt me holding the scruff, but I honestly don't think he felt the shot. And neither hurt.
posted by agentwills at 5:22 PM on September 14, 2008

Oh, and always follow with a treat. Pretty soon cat will be waiting for you at shot place at shot time!
posted by agentwills at 5:23 PM on September 14, 2008

In animal training, the timing of the treat is everything. If you give your cat a treat before or during the injection, it won't teach your cat to think of the injection as a good thing. You want your cat to learn that when you give her an injection, it means that a treat is coming. is right when she says that your attitude makes all the difference. A little practice beforehand will help you to be confident. The first few times, you'll be surprised at how thick your cat's skin is, and you'll probably make the mistake of being too gentle. Practice on an orange or a rolled-up paper towel until you can jab quickly and confidently.

Koko is right about wrapping up the cat - I call it kitty burrito, because that's kind of what they look like when it's done right. Before you even approach her with a needle, you can teach her that getting wrapped up in a towel is a good thing. Make a kitty burrito, hold her firmly but gently until she stops struggling, then give her a treat. If you can get the kitty burrito technique down, and make your cat comfortable, she might not even react to the injection once you introduce it.

In any routine medical procedure like pill-administration or injections, the most traumatic thing for the animal, by far, is the struggling to get away. The more you can minimize it, the happier your cat will be.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 5:34 PM on September 14, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. My vet is pretty great and I'm sure she'll make sure I know how to give the shot before she sets me free to do it on my own. My cat hasn't been especially "food motivated" so far but maybe I haven't found just the right treat for her. My vet told me that the allergy shots are with a slightly bigger needle than the insulin ones... Not sure if that'll make a difference. I guess I'll find out!

Those who do/did have to give their cats shots: What do you do when you go away on vacation? I am dreading expensive specialist cat-sitter bills...
posted by chowflap at 8:23 PM on September 14, 2008

Once I left my cats at a kennel - quite expensive. And they charged me an extra $1 for every injection they did - even though I supplied the needles.

Once I taught a trusted (and willing) friend how to give shots, had her practice for a few days, and then left her to house sit. I paid her of course, but it was way less expensive than a kennel.
posted by at 5:10 AM on September 15, 2008

Cats do not have very sensitive skin. As long as you use a treat the cat LOVES (I'm talking bacon or cheese or something extra-good) to make it less yucky, and follow the directions from your vet tech (techs are the ones who do the most injecting by far, they're the ones to learn from), and use the smallest needle you can, you shouldn't have a problem. Also be sure to rotate the injection sites, don't give it in the same area every day (keep note of which spot you use each day), you can't use the scruff every single time.
posted by biscotti at 7:25 AM on September 15, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, biscotti, and everyone else. I'm still nervous about this, but you've helped calm me down a bunch. After I've given my cat her shots for a couple of weeks I'll try to respond again with an update/closure post.
posted by chowflap at 8:32 AM on September 15, 2008

We left kitty at the vet's when we went away for 2 weeks; luckily our vet is cat-only and has special themed condos for boarding cats (huge carpeted rooms with toys and levels, Jerry, levels!). You might ask your vet if they have boarding options.

Alternatively, depending on how long your vacation is, you can do the needle right before you leave and as soon as you get back.
posted by Koko at 9:07 AM on September 15, 2008

My parents had a difficult cat who required daily medicine. They got one of the techs from their vet to catsit when they were away, because she was the only person besides my dad who could consistently get the medicine into that cat. She cost a bit more than a regular cat feeder, but it was cheaper than boarding (and easier on the cat). You might ask the tech who teaches you how to give the shots if they or someone else at the clinic might be interested in some skilled catsitting.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:17 AM on September 16, 2008

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