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Giving Medical Treatments to Cats

There’s no reason to struggle after the veterinarian sends you home with some unpleasant instructions and medication for your cat. In this section you’ll get tips to help deal with giving pills, applying eye ointments, cleaning ears, and taking her temperature.

Treatment Tips

  • The best time to give treatments is when your cat is tired or hungry; cats tend to be least resistant then.
  • Have the medicine and a special treat ready in your pocket, and all the supplies (pills, swabs, drops, etc.) ready at hand before you get your cat and start treatment.
  • Never sound or act angry. While you’re giving the cat his treatment, talk softly to him. Handle him firmly enough for him to know that you mean business, but gently and compassionately enough for him to trust you.
  • If he resists, comfort him with petting or distract him with a toy and then try again. If you still don’t succeed, wait until he’s been still for a second or two and then let him go. Try again in a few minutes.
  • After any treatment, give him praise and a treat. Try to make him forget the awful injustices done to his body!
  • Pet him and pay attention to him several times a day other than just when giving him his treatment. Don’t let him think that every time you approach him it’s to give him medicine.


If the doctor says your cat’s pills can be crushed and given with food, you’re in luck. Simply mash the pill into little bits and stir into a bit of wet food.
If the pill must go down whole, coat it with butter or oil. Hide it in your hand. Approach the cat gently while she’s still in bed and sleepy. Hold the pill between your thumb and forefinger. Pry her mouth open and quickly drop the pill as far back on her tongue as you can. If it sticks on her tongue, use a pencil to knock the pill to the back of her throat. Close her mouth; this forces her to swallow the pill.

If the pill pops out, pick it up right away and try again. Don’t hesitate, or she will start to squirm and fight. As soon as the event is over, distract her with the usual praise, petting, and treats.

Eye Ointments

It’s easiest if you start while your cat is sleeping. After washing your hands, gently hold her head. With the ointment in your right hand, pull the upper lid up with your left thumb and pull the lower lid down with the little finger of your right hand. Slowly squeeze the recommended dosage along the inside of the lower lid. Let her blink to spread the ointment along her eyelids. Then offer endless praise and a treat.

Cleaning Ears

If your cat has ear mites, your veterinarian will give you a solution to use to clean her ears. This will take a couple of treatments per day, during which your cat must be still for longer than most cats are comfortable with.
Because drops fling out when a cat shakes its head, clean her ears in the bathroom. Before you begin, have a towel for your cat to sit on, cotton swabs, the ear medication, and some treats. Take the cat into the bathroom and shut the door.

Clean her ears as recommended by the veterinarian, usually by putting a few drops of the solution into the ears, massaging with your finger, and then swabbing the excess out with cotton swabs. Be very careful not to insert the swab too far into her ear canal.
She’ll instinctively try to scratch her ears while you’re cleaning them. You can go ahead and let her do that while you continue to clean. Just be careful to stay away from her claws.

If she starts to squirm, stop for a second or two and start again. Cleaning really dirty ears can take quite a while, so you might plan on cleaning just one ear at a time. Her ears are done when the swab comes out clean. If she starts to struggle too much, you can quit for now and continue later. Do not wrap-up your cat in a blanket to clean her ears. This will cause her to struggle even more and might cause her to stop trusting you.

Taking Your Cat’s Temperature

A cat’s temperature is taken using a rectal thermometer. Flexible, digital thermometers provide a fast and accurate reading. They even beep to let you know when you can take them out. Conventional mercury thermometers aren’t very good for use on cats because they require about five minutes of insertion before reading, and if it should break, the glass presents danger to both person and cat.

Apply a bit of Vaseline, KY jelly, or massage oil to the thermometer before insertion. Tell her she’s being good while you massage her body and work your way toward her hip area. Gently insert the thermometer. Stroke her and say her name as long as she isn’t resisting. If she starts to struggle, hold her firmly and speak in a tone that makes her understand that she’s not going anywhere until you’re done.

Swab the thermometer with rubbing alcohol afterward. Whatever type of thermometer you use, write “Cat Use Only” on it, and restrict its use accordingly.

Shopping List

  • Special food treats or a wet meal for afterward
  • Towel or blanket for your cat to sit on
  • KY jelly, Vaseline, or massage oil for thermometer
  • Flexible digital thermometer
  • Cotton swabs for ear cleaning
  • Butter or oil for pill
  • Alcohol to clean thermometer
  • Aand don’t forget the medicine!

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