URGENT: Ideas for pilling a cat with a missing lower jaw & no appetite?
March 15, 2014 7:15 PM   Subscribe

I can't figure out how to get my cat to swallow his pills and normal cat-pilling methods are failing me.

My cat is missing most of his lower jaw from being shot in the face as a kitten ~17 years ago. Requisite pictures here.

He's been prescribed some antibiotics -- which he already started taking yesterday and today at the vet's, so skipping/delaying doses until they reopen Monday isn't an option -- and I didn't think to ask how to get the pills into him when I picked him up earlier today.

I've tried putting the pills in some cooked ground beef, but his appetite is poor and he's not interested in the food. I tried the usual cat-pilling method of putting the pill in his mouth and holding his jaw shut, but he's missing so much of his lower jaw that he just needs to move his tongue and the pill falls out into my hand. And based on what just happened when I tried to give him his liquid iron supplement, I now know that squirting liquid into his mouth with an eyedropper just results in most of it being immediately drooled back out.

I now have a squishy, mutilated antibiotic pill and a very pissed-off cat. I'd rather not drive an hour round-trip to the expensive 24/7 emergency vet in the city just to get them to make my cat take his pills, especially given that I need to dose him 3 times before his regular vet opens on Monday morning. Hope me, please!
posted by Jacqueline to Pets & Animals (28 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: We always opened their mouth and put it as far back on the tongue as we could, then close it holding the head up and rub their throat up and down until they swallow. What a sweet face!
posted by cecic at 7:24 PM on March 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yeah, you can push it much further back than you think. You could try your local pet supply store (or maybe even Walmart/Target) for a pet piller, which will really help.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:33 PM on March 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My vet gave me a stick - like thing with rubber claws on the end that holds a pill that you stick in the cats mouth. The end is like a syringe and when you depress it the thing blasts the pill farther down kitty's throat. Google reveals is called a pill gun (sorry for that, given kitty's history!). Maybe the pet store has it, too?

What a precious kitty!
posted by gatorae at 7:37 PM on March 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you can get a small syringe without a needle, that can work like a mini squirtgun. When we had to give our cats meds, we crushed it up in water, sucked it up with the syringe, then placed that far far back into her mouth and quickly plunged it. Some of it ended up drooled out, but the majority was injested.

Good luck, I hope your handsome cat feels better soon!
posted by Fig at 7:37 PM on March 15, 2014

Best answer: I used to pill a lot of cats - the trick for me was always to get it as far back as possible - think of getting it over the back of his tongue, close to the back of his throat. That's a good technique for the liquid iron, too.

The piller tool Rock Steady mentions is really helpful if you're worried about your kitty chomping your finger while you're pushing the pill back. Here's a video of someone using one. That's a pretty compliant cat in the video, though - for more resistant cats, it sometimes helps to wrap them in a towel like this.

I hope Jimmy feels better soon!
posted by fussbudget at 7:41 PM on March 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've used cream cheese, but friends' cats have eventually caught on to that. For some antibiotics, they may have an injectable form (one shot for the entire course of antibiotics) but when my vet has given it it's been because I specifically asked, not because they volunteered it.
posted by dilettante at 7:43 PM on March 15, 2014

Can you get liquid antibiotics instead, and do a syringe into the back of his throat?
posted by Mizu at 7:56 PM on March 15, 2014

Response by poster: I'm definitely going to order a pet piller for the future. If anyone can recommend a SPECIFIC pet piller that you've successfully used to get SMALL pills into your CAT, please advise. (I'm reading pet piller / pill gun reviews on Amazon and it seems that a lot of them are too big for cats or only work with large pills.)

Meanwhile, please keep the suggestions coming as I've still got to get pills into the cat until the piller arrives.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:01 PM on March 15, 2014

Open his piehole, get the pill as far back as you can, blow on his nose to make him swallow...do all of this with his head back making him look skyward.

Monday see if the vet has an antibiotic shot available.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 8:02 PM on March 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Was coming in to tell you the blow in the nose method as well. No cats but two, small, pill-adverse dogs that it works wonders with. Good luck!!
posted by pearlybob at 8:11 PM on March 15, 2014

I know he's not interested in ground beef, but have you tried ice cream? My cat goes NUTS for vanilla ice cream, he would swallow just about anything if it came with ice cream. Even if he's not feeling well, ice cream gets his attention.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 8:12 PM on March 15, 2014

Best answer: You need to push the pill in farther. You can go much farther than you think.
posted by jeather at 8:13 PM on March 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wait till he's calm instead of chasing him down. If you for example depend on a timer or alarm and then grab him for the medicine he'll be on edge before you even start giving him the pill. If you go up to him when he's lounging and pet him and then give him the pill it can go smoother. Basically the process of getting him ready for the pill is the stressful part, so if you can seamlessly get to that second where you are actually giving the pill it can become super easy and he won't know what hit him.

Start with pill between left thumb and index finger. I use one hand (right) over his head with thumb on one side of the mouth and index finger on the other. My palm is facing his eyes but not touching his head. Use a finger not holding the pill on the left hand to pop the bottom jaw open (here is where you'll have to improvise) and then with the right hand open up the mouth wide, and then pop the pill in. If you get it centered and fairly far back on the tongue he'll swallow it right away. Getting it on the sides of the mouth can lead to him working it out. Once it's in a hand on the throat can force him into swallowing if he hasn't already, and prevents opening his mouth and spitting it out. If it's a very small pill you might have good luck by placing it on the tongue with the left hand instead of the toss.
posted by ridogi at 8:14 PM on March 15, 2014

Response by poster: THE PILLS ARE IN THE CAT! THANK YOU!

What finally worked: I wrapped the cat in a towel and had my husband hold him down and hold his head still by the scruff while I shoved a butter-coated pill in as far back as I could. I then held what's left of his jaw closed and rubbed his throat until he swallowed. It took about half a dozen attempts per pill, but they're in him and he hasn't spit them back up yet.

I'm still looking for specific pill gun recommendations as he bit me a few times during the process. He doesn't have enough teeth left to do much damage, but it still hurt so I'd rather not keep sticking my fingers in his mouth twice a day.

I'm also going to talk with his vet on Monday about whether it's possible to get the rest of his course of antibiotics and his pain medication compounded into a transdermal gel that I can rub in his ear as per Eyebrows McGee's suggestion in the chat room.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:25 PM on March 15, 2014 [8 favorites]

The easiest thing by far for my cat was to buy an oral syringe. You mash the pill and mix it with tuna fish juice (or whatever treat, to disguise the taste), suck it up in the syringe, and squirt it toward the back of her throat. It was always easier than trying to give a pill, and the syringe works WAY better than an eyedropper.
posted by zug at 8:28 PM on March 15, 2014

I made my own pill pusher thingie. I got an ordinary drinking straw, and cut it in half. To hold the pill I made about a 1/4 inch slit on one end. I could put the pill in that end and it would hold. I took the other piece and made a crease along the length so that I could kinda fold it in half (same length, reduced diameter) and put that inside the pill holding piece to act as a plunger.
posted by Sophont at 8:33 PM on March 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: My cat has asthma. The pills they give me for her are miniscule. I am to split them in half. This makes them almost invisible. I got a pill thing from the vet that works great. If you have someone to hold the cat, that is excellent. If not, try with the cat on your lap facing away from you and kind of wrap your legs around the cat to hold it still. Then hold the mouth open with one hand and put the pill thing as far back as you can manage, then push the plunger, drop it, and hold the mouth shut until they swallow.

Mine looks exactly like this one here: http://www.amazon.com/Mikki-Pill-Gun/dp/B00076HUB4/

It has a rubber tip that will hold the pill. The pill for my cat is about a quarter inch across. Giving her half that pill still worked in this gadget.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 8:39 PM on March 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ordered. Thanks!
posted by Jacqueline at 8:47 PM on March 15, 2014

Have you already tried Pill Pockets? If your cat isn't eating at all, of course they might not work, but many cats really love them. Here's my technique for tiny bitter pill + difficult cat:

I cut the pills into even smaller pieces (halves, I think), washed my hands, then separated a single pill pockets to make it into smaller blobs -- it's moldable, like Play-Doh.

Pill pockets are readily available at pet supply stores and some grocery stores (I think Harris Teeter has them), and are apparently delicious. You probably know what your cat likes already, but it's possible that he'll be more interested in the bready/chickeny flavor of the pill pockets than he is in ground beef.

Advanced Pill Pocket Technique

The goal is a pill-containing round blob that's small enough for the cat to swallow whole, maybe kitty kibble size.

Washing hands between handling pills and working with pill pockets is important, to avoid getting the bitter taste on the outside of the pill pocket blobs.

Made the tiny blobs into tiny cup shapes (maybe mold them around the end of a something small and rounded - fork tine? chop stick?), and set them up on a plate with the cup upward. Carefully drop pill pieces into the cups, wash hands again, close the tiny cups around the pill pieces, or cap them well with another piece of dough, to make sealed blobs.

Make make sure they're sealed smoothly and somewhat spherical, with no pill powder or residue on the outside; these medications can be really awful-tasting, and you want none of that on the outside. If you're feeling ambitious or desperate, you can then drizzle tuna juice (or the cat's gravy flavor of choice) on the little blobs.

ALSO make some non-medicated blobs of the same size.

Start by feeding the cat one or two non-medicated blobs. Ideally, once he sees how yummy they are, he'll scarf the next ones fast. Then give him the medicated blobs. With any luck, he'll barely taste them.

One more idea for something he might like: I had a very very sick cat (dying of cancer) only show interest in some freshly cooked crab. It just depends on the cat
posted by amtho at 11:09 PM on March 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

I just found the most interesting technique! It sounds like your cat isn't feeling very well, so this may not work for you, but user meerkat on this page on thenest.com said:
My vet taught me a trick to pill a cat. You give the cat a treat, praise it, give it another treat, repeat, get it to stand up on its hind legs if you can. Just as you're about to drop the snack into the cats' mouth drop the pill instead and wrap your hand around the cats' mouth to hold it closed. Then blow into the cats' nose with a pretty strong puff. The cat will blink its eyes and swallow as a reflex.
posted by amtho at 11:25 PM on March 15, 2014

About the transdermal gel: I have a cat who won't be pilled, and for his hypothyroid the vet finally remembered that they could do it. Thing is, it works very well for that one medication, but has not proven to be as effective with others (prednisolone in the ear not as effective as the same dose by mouth.) And many vets don't know how to write for it, or do it so seldom that they forget it is even a possibility. And you have to either find a local compounding pharmacy, or send away for it. And the minimum cost runs about $50 for a month's supply, if the med itself is cheap. For long term, if possible, try getting medi-melt pills. Still a bit expensive and not always available, but they are chicken flavored and designed to disintegrate fast. Even my cat will keep them down. The price is worth it not to have to battle with pill time every day.
posted by monopas at 12:08 AM on March 16, 2014

Regarding getting very small pills into your cat's mouth: my cat was also prescribed tiny pills -- at times he needed only half a tiny pill. I found it easiest to put the pill into a gelcap (I believe the smallest size is 000), and put that into a pill gun. This may be especially helpful if your cat ends up needing more than one medication -- you can make a little capsule-cocktail.
posted by Zenobi at 12:54 AM on March 16, 2014

Came in to also say that the blowing up the nose thing works with our cat. The throat rubbing thing doesn't work with her. It is worth a try if you haven't tried already.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:10 AM on March 16, 2014

Depending on the antibiotic, it might be crushable and you could put it in whatever favorite gravyish substance that he will eat. I did this with my cat when I just . . well. He was very ill and I couldn't face making him more miserable. So I crushed up his pill with a $7 mortar and pestle I got at Macy's (seriously) and supervised him while he ate it.

I just called and asked them if I could crush up his pills and they said it was fine. They also said it was fine to mix Clavamox (the pink dropper kind) with his food too. Fancy feast, while sort of terrible over all, is good for this as it's stinky and covers the smell/taste of the meds.

Good luck.
posted by Medieval Maven at 12:51 PM on March 16, 2014

Chasing pills with water from a syringe tends to help the pill to go down, and prevents throat irritation.

Also, I love your cat.
posted by analog at 4:28 PM on March 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have had the best luck with a piller + putting pills inside tiny gelcaps.
posted by meepmeow at 5:15 PM on March 16, 2014

My Siamese loves his pills in a little cream cheese ball.
posted by crw at 12:30 PM on March 17, 2014

Response by poster: Update: The butter trick didn't work a second time. :( Then we tried crushing and dissolving the pills in liquid and shooting that down his throat but he just drooled about half of it back out. So I took him back to the vet today and the vet replaced his antibiotic pills with an injection today and he'll have a follow-up injection in 10 days).

The vet replaced the other pills with powders (to be mixed in food) and liquids (to be squirted into his mouth) for his supplements and painkillers. While it's still difficult to get those into him, with those it's not as bad if he doesn't ingest the full dose every day.

Thanks again for all your help and advice!
posted by Jacqueline at 3:09 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

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