They give me cat scratch fever, cat scratch fever
January 8, 2010 8:34 PM   Subscribe

All advice for giving my cat his oral medicine has failed, and I have 19 more days of suffering. Help!

After a year and a half of owning my cat, I just learned he's a major potential source of cat scratch fever (insert Ted Nugent joke here). The vet prescribed me a cherry-scented goo which needs to be administered orally via plunger for 20 days.

Today was Day One. I was already profoundly late for work when I tried to give him his goo, and he added to the frustration by escaping his treatment like a magician. Nothing I tried from personal experience or Internet advice worked. The problem isn't really with the claws and torso: I can demobilise him pretty well by shoving him against the back of my couch and pressing a pillow on him. The trouble lies with his crazy neck action: no matter how tightly he might be constrained, he will always have a place to move his head to avoid the goo plunger. This might be easier with two people, but I never have anyone around when I administer the meds in the morning.

He has 19 more days left of treatment, and I'll go mad if I don't get some Ask MeFi schooling quickly!
posted by spamguy to Pets & Animals (34 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've only used plungers to administer pills to cats, never goo. But for the wilder kitties, I found the best method was to wrap them up tightly, like a mummy, in a blanket or towel, right up to the ears. Squeeze this bundle against your body with an elbow and you've got one hand for the plunger and the other for squirm-control. (Hint: Try holding his head, not his neck.)

You probably know this, but you'd save yourself a lot of frustration if you gave yourself adequate time to administer the goo, even if it means getting up a little earlier. Good luck!
posted by Paris Elk at 2:50 AM on January 9, 2010

You could check with your vet if it's ok to mix it in with food. If you mix it well enough with wet food, or mush it with chicken or something, he might take it fine if it doesn't taste bad. Especially if it's first thing in the morning and he's really hungry.
posted by Dali Atomicus at 4:17 AM on January 9, 2010

The key to open a cat's mouth and insert something into it is to make it point upwards. The bone structure prevents a cat from closing its jaw in that position.

Instructions here.
posted by knz at 4:17 AM on January 9, 2010

2nding putting it in food (if you can) - this always works for my dog.
posted by melissasaurus at 4:36 AM on January 9, 2010

As a last resort, smear it on his fur. He will lick himself clean.
posted by Jubey at 4:45 AM on January 9, 2010

I had a cat like that. Even tightly wrapped up she had the same ridiculously agile neck movements that made dispensing liquids a two-person job. She wasn't fooled by pill pockets either, and could detect medicines in the stinkiest, most desirable cat foods and wouldn't take the bait.

I don't know if you're squeamish about needles, but giving a cat a shot is really very easy. If the medication is available in that form, the vet will walk you through the process and you'll be surprised how easy it is.

If that's not an option, can you change the medication time to later in the day when someone else is likely to be around to help you? That was always my best bet for making sure that the medication wound up inside the cat and not all over her, the furniture and me. Good luck!
posted by contrariwise at 5:34 AM on January 9, 2010

You might take the cat back to the vet for a demonstration -- this is something where expertise (i.e. developing your own expertise) helps.

Also: plan whatever approach you use carefully, so that you can get the deed done quickly. Cats generally hate being restrained, so the shorter the period of restraint, the less violent the thrashing / neck action.

In fact, a gentler approach might actually help, but this may or may not work depending on your cat's temperament and previous experience.

I used to think that I had to really grab and completely immobilize the cat, pry the mouth open, shove medication in the mouth as quickly and as far back in the mouth as possible, then hold the mouth closed afterward to make sure he swallowed.

Now I know that if I gently hold the cat's head in position - but only for a moment - and put the syringe in the side of his jaws, then shoot the medication in at a moderate but efficient rate, the cat will swallow it with no trauma - this is just for .1 ml of medication and with fairly tame cats, though.
posted by amtho at 5:45 AM on January 9, 2010

Nthing towel
posted by filmgeek at 5:56 AM on January 9, 2010

Have you tried grabbing the scruff of his neck with one hand?
posted by cabingirl at 8:38 PM on January 8, 2010

The only thing that has ever worked for me is a big thick blanket with which I create a wiggly but mostly stable cat burrito. I firmly clutch the burrito (while singing about baby cat Jesus in swaddling clothes) with my elbow, use one hand to pinch the cat's mouth open and the other hand to squirt the syringe. Then I chase the cat around for ten minutes cleaning up mouth drippings while he gags and looks at me rudely.

Granted, I usually have a second person, but the above can be done with one person.
posted by theraflu at 8:38 PM on January 8, 2010

Like amtho said, I go in through the side of the mouth near the jaw - going in through the front where you're at the arc of his pivot is really hard to do.

Right-hander approach: I stand/sit next to him on his right and put my left hand over his neck/back of head as if I'm about to grab his scruff. Thumb goes under the ear on my side (and you can pull back a little bit to make that side of his mouth "smile"), rest of fingers go under ear on other side so his head can't go in that direction, put syringe into corner of mouth and press. Their teeth are gappy enough back there that it will squirt through if he absolutely refuses to open, but mine generally does open his in protest. The medicine goes in so far back in the mouth that spitting isn't a very good option, and we've never lost a drop.

He generally barely realizes what's happened until it's done, and then he runs away from me before coming straight back for the treat I give him afterwards.

This method has only presented problems when I had a cat with a head the size of a softball and 20 pounds of offended cat body to deal with. I had to use my entire arm down his left side and hold him against my leg (which has something of the effect of the vaccination "squeeze machines" used on livestock to calm and still them) to get at him.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:28 AM on January 9, 2010

Can you switch to giving the meds in the evening and get someone to help you out?
posted by chiababe at 8:39 PM on January 8, 2010

theraflu: wow. I thought I was the only one who called it a kitty burrito.

Anyway - do what theraflu said - it works.
posted by deadmessenger at 8:41 PM on January 8, 2010

Control the head. (yeah, right)

With you palm over the top of his head, fingers towards the nose, and heel at the back, between his ears.
Pull the upper jaw up, opening his mouth. Squirt.

Additionally: I hold kitty on my lap, facing to my right. Left elbow braced up against a wall, behind her butt, wedging her inbetween me and the wall sort of. Left hand on top of her head.

Now that we have that figured out, she has learned how to spit.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:42 PM on January 8, 2010

0. Put cat somewhere he can't back up (but you've figured that out already)
1. Rest your palm on top of his head, fingers pointing towards his nose
2. Get a firm grip on the underside of his cheek bones with your thumb and middle finger
3. Gently but forcefully tilt his head backwards. This will force him to open his mouth a little and gives your plunger a clear shot at the esophagus.
4. Squirt in the medicine and then hold his jaws shut until he swallows.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:42 PM on January 8, 2010

Adding to all the advice above, rubbing my cat's throat makes him swallow his meds as well. (Once you can actually get them in there.)
posted by Kloryne at 8:48 PM on January 8, 2010

My experience with this has been very frustrating - especially as I am sure my cat thought I was trying to torture her when I tried to use a dropper or syringe in the side of her mouth(I had to feed her this way for weeks when I got her as her mother had been hit by a car). But after a while she got with the program.

My older cat needed medication for 10 days and was far more difficult than the above kitten. I finally mixed the medicine with the smallest amount of food I could get away with (so that I could be certain he got all of the medicine) - and put him in a room with the door closed until he was done. Then I fed him the remainder of his food (which functioned as a reward). He definitely knew there was something up with the food.

Also, it helped that I did this first thing in the morning when he was hungry.

Good luck!
posted by marimeko at 6:53 AM on January 9, 2010

How much goo is it, and how viscous? If the answers are "not much", and "fairly so", try this:

A way to give cats their medication is to rub it on their forepaws. They will ingest it during their grooming.
posted by kandinski at 7:11 AM on January 9, 2010

If you can mix it with food, do it. It's so much easier and less frustrating. And the pro tip I learned from the Internet was to mix it with baby food. My cats will sometimes balk at the smell of medicine in their regular food, but put it with just a little bit of meat baby food and it becomes well-nigh irresistable.
posted by MsMolly at 9:13 AM on January 9, 2010

There is good advice here. I suggest the kitty burrito too. Also, try sticking the opening of the plunger in the pocket between the cheek and back teeth. It may be easier than trying to pry the cat's mouth open. I do suggest you get a stout-hearted friend to help you out. But, I have done this by myself.
posted by fifilaru at 11:51 PM on January 8, 2010

You've got all the bases covered with the answers above, but I just want to add that I do this on my kitchen counter. It's higher, thus more convenient for me, and the hard surface is less prone to kitty sneak-outs than soft pillows and sofas.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:57 PM on January 8, 2010

Towels have more traction, i find, than a blanket, to hold a squiggly cat wishing to escape.

Try some salmon or something you KNOW he will eat, and make a salmon canape with the goo. shove THAT into his mouth. He will eventually learn to eat the salmon and spit out the goo but that'll get you a week. Then try tuna. :)

If all else fails call the vet and ask for some other advice or take him in and ask them to watch you administer the medicine and coach you. don't take him there and let them 'show' you because THAT'S THEIR JOB. you do it and let them advise you.
posted by micawber at 12:06 PM on January 8, 2010

We have a wriggly cat that needs several different pills each day, at least one of which is sticky and really doesn't want to be swallowed. She's somehow able to get out of the most well crafted burrito. You think you're set and this paw magically appears, the and it's all over.

So instead the sucker trying to pill her sits on the couch and lays her on her back along their thighs, her head resting on their knee. Then a cushion is placed on the cat to cover all the legs and the piller leans forward, cat is now pinned. Sure paws sneak out occasionally but being held upside down in the v-shaped gap where your legs meet really does keep her pinned, leaving a little grumpy face sticking out the end ready for manipulation. I think being upside also puts her a little off guard so she wriggles less, but I could be projecting.

Since the cat is pinned both hands are free. Now said sucker uses one hand to grab her chin and open the mouth (or grab from behind at the corners of her mouth as mentioned above, depends on your technique) and the other hand guides the medication into the mouth. If necessary you can slide her along a bit so her head hangs over the edge a little tilting it back, again depends on technique (also leg length, this whole thing works much better for my boyfriend with longer thighs than it does for me).

Since you only have to squirt goo optimal head placement and finger biting aren't an issue, you just need to get that mouth open long enough to squirt in. Let your cat chew the syringe if they want, just get it in there and shoot. The other trick with a syringe is to practise the best way to hold the body and plunger so you can work it quickly with one hand. There are different ways to do it (e.g. thumb on the plunger? thumb on the barrel and plunge with your palm?), your aim is to be able to quickly press the plunger without moving your fingers from where they are. Sometimes this makes it feel awkward holding the syringe before you do the squirt so practise with water until it feels natural.

My wriggly cat has arthritis so having her immobilised but not squashed or cramped or twisted is pretty important. The upside down cushion pin fulfils these criteria and our vet is happy with the technique.
posted by shelleycat at 12:15 PM on January 8, 2010

I never managed to get the towel burrito thing to work. I did recently spend three straight weeks giving my cat liquid medication morning and night, and here was the routine I settled into:

1. Make sure you have your syringe filled and ready to go before you try grabbing him.
2. Before breakfast/dinner, when he's following you around demanding food, get him to follow you into a bathroom or other small room where he can't escape or hide.
3. Pick him up. Sit down on the floor (or a chair if you're in a room with furniture) with your legs bent in front of you and the cat kind of plopped on his butt, his lower body wedged between your thighs, facing away from you. I usually had his feet sticking up in the air, as if he were sitting down like a person. You'll have better luck with this if your cat is too gentle and/or stupid to squirm out.
4. With your non-dominant hand, gently reach under his chin and tilt his face up towards you.
5. With your free hand, gently wedge the syringe in the side of his mouth a little, behind his fang tooth, point it toward the back of his mouth as best you can, and squirt away - quickly. If you have under half a milliliter to administer, you can probably get it in with one shot. More than that, and it's best to give it in two or three squirts: squirt a bit in, let him do that tongue-smacking thing, continue. The longer/bigger the squirt, the less likely it'll all get in his mouth and down his throat (hurr hurr eww).

Two things that might make this easier:

-How big is your syringe? The 1 ml ones are nice and skinny and relatively easy to stick in a cat's mouth. The 2 ml ones, which are much thicker and have a short tip, are a pain in the butt. If you have one of the thick ones, ask your vet for a thin one.
-Liquid medications for cats/dogs can often be flavored with tuna, chicken, etc. Tuna-flavored medicine smells pretty foul, and didn't really make my cat happy, but it'd probably be less repellent to a cat than fake cherry. Probably too late for that now, but in the future see if you can get fish goo instead of fruit goo.

Your Cat May Vary, so you may have to try every answer here, but once you figure out what works it's likely to work for the entire course of treatment.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:17 PM on January 8, 2010

Give him a treat. The most delicious treat known to catdom. A treat he craves more than breathing.

Then, give him the medication.

Then, give him another helping of that same treat.

When I had to give my old cat meds, I did it this way - by the 4th day, she *wanted* to get dosed because she knew that she would get her treat afterwards.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:18 PM on January 8, 2010

MeFi ate my answer from last night, so here's my attempt to recreate it. I had to give my cat liquid medication morning and night for three weeks, and this is the routine I developed:

1. Before you even try to corner the kitty, make sure your syringe is filled and ready to go.
2. Get him in a bathroom or other small room where he can't escape. If he follows you around when he's hungry, schedule your dosing right before mealtime and get him to follow you into the small room.
3. Scoop him up, sit down on the floor or a chair, and plop him down on his butt/lower back so he's gently wedged between your thighs, facing away from you, with his feet in the air.
4. Use your non-dominant hand to gently tilt his face up.
5. Gently poke the syringe through the side of his mouth, right behind the fang teeth, angle it back towards the throat, and squirt. I found that it was easiest to squirt in increments under .5 ml - if you have to give him a larger dose, break it down into two or three squirts, removing the syringe from his mouth between shots so he can do his tongue-smacky thing. You might have to let him squirm away and re-grab him.

If you have a 1 ml or smaller syringe, those are nice and skinny and can get in a cat's mouth easily. The 2 ml syringes, however, are thick with a stupid short little tip and way way harder to use. If you do have the thick syringe, call your vet and see if you can exchange it for a smaller one.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:51 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

(what do you know, there's my answer from last night. Sorry for the double-commenting.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:52 AM on January 9, 2010

All good suggestions here and hopes are that there is at least one that will work for you. As an added bonus, if there is somewhere in your house that you don't want your cat to go (kitchen counter, piece of furniture, etc.), make THAT the spot to administer the goo.

I didn't like my cat on my kitchen counter so I used that as the place to administer his eardrops or something else similarly unpleasant for him. Wasn't long at all before he quit jumping up on that counter!
posted by ourroute at 11:28 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I actually just finished giving my kitty some medication. I go the cat burrito route making sure her front arms are against her sides that way they can't poke from her neck opening, then I lay her on her back in my lap and cradle her head in one hand while using the syringe to squirt the medicine in her mouth with my other. The only problem I have now is catching her in the first place. Oh the joys of cat mommy-hood.
posted by emmysue01 at 12:55 PM on January 9, 2010

Check for a lick button!
posted by soft and hardcore taters at 2:14 PM on January 9, 2010

Oh, I forgot. If the goo is runny, you can mix it with a little bit of peanut butter, then rub the mixture into the fur on their forepaws. Their grooming will take care of the ingestion.
posted by kandinski at 10:48 PM on January 9, 2010

The goo is refrigerated and probably can't spend any time out in the open, so spreading it on his paws/food isn't an option.

I've been using the kitty burrito technique the past few days. It's as functional as bodyslamming him on my couch. More importantly, it's omgthecutestthingever.

Tilting the head back sometimes works. Yesterday it was a flawless victory. Today, it took 20 minutes and couldn't get his jaw open. One squirt got all over my hand and I had to redo.

Day 20 is gonna suck.
posted by spamguy at 6:24 AM on January 11, 2010

When giving my cat medicine awhile ago, I found that a slippery surface and gloves were indispensable for the task so that she couldn't bite my fingers and cause pain or use a cloth surface to get away when I was trying to give her the pills.
posted by urbanlenny at 8:47 AM on January 11, 2010

Use non dominant hand to grab by scruff. Raise him up a tiny, tiny bit by the scruff and his mouth will automatically open.
posted by y6t5r4e3w2q1 at 3:49 PM on January 11, 2010

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