Cats are notoriously finicky eaters. In the case of medications, specifically how to give a cat liquid medicine in food, this can be a problem.
To give liquid medicine with cat food, measure out the dosage prescribed by your vet and mix it with half a can of their favorite food.
It’s not easy to give your kitty medication, so if this doesn’t work, we’ve got you covered!
Here’s what you need to know about giving you cat liquid medicine, including:
- Common liquid medicines cat need
- If cats can taste medicine
- If mixing liquid medicine into your cat’s food is bad
- Alternatives to liquid medicine
- Tips and tricks for medicating difficult cats
- And more!
What liquid oral medicines do some cats need?
A few of the most common oral medications cats need include:
An antibiotic that treats bacterial infections like urinary tract infections, respiratory infections, and ear infections.
An antifungal medication that treats the highly contagious ringworm.
Is a steroid and anti-inflammatory that helps manage asthma, lymphoma, IBD, and other conditions.
Chlorambucil an immunosuppressant used to treat Inflammatory Bowel Disease and some types of cancer.
More commonly known by its brand name, Prozac, Fluoxetine is an antidepressant and SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) used to treat anxiety and behavioral issues in cats. It typically comes in liquid, tablet, and capsule form.
Can cats taste medicine?
Yes, cats can taste medicine even though they have a mere 473 taste buds compared to the 9,000 in humans.
In some ways, the taste of medicine is slightly less gross for cats, because cats don’t have the proper taste receptors in their mouth and tongue to taste sweet foods. This comes down to feline genetics and DNA they inherited from their wild ancestors. Namely, a lack of the gene Tas1r2, which determines the ability to taste sweet flavors.
Since many medicines have a sickly sweet taste, this works in favor of our feline friends!
Still, many cats aren’t a fan.
Can cats smell medicine in their food?
Yes, cats can smell medicine in their food!
Let’s put it this way. Cats can have up to 200 million scent or olfactory receptors in their nose. Compared to a modest 5 million in humans like us. Their sense of smell is 40 times stronger than ours!
Cats also have what’s known as a vomeronasal organ, or Jacobson’s organ, inside their nasal cavity stretching to the roof of their mouth. This highly sensitive organ is anything but ordinary. It’s even sharp enough to pick up on chemicals that may have no odor at all.
So if you think you can dupe your cat into taking liquid medicine by hiding it a particularly pungent can of wet food, think again!
How to mix liquid medicine with cat food
To mix liquid medicine with cat food, take the dosage your veterinarian prescribed and squeeze it into a bowl of your cat’s favorite wet food, mixing it in until combined. This can be a supplementary, appetizer-sized portion of food or their breakfast or dinner meal.
Give the medicine-infused wet food to your cat right away, making sure to keep other cats or animals in your household away from their food. Stay with them to make sure they eat all of the medicated food.
Once your kitty is done, quickly remove the bowl and wash it and the syringe used to dose out the liquid medication in warm, soapy water.
Is mixing liquid medicine with cat food bad?
Some veterinarians don’t recommend adding liquid medicine to your cat’s food. There are a few reasons for this.
Even though some have flavors like salmon, chicken, or tuna added, those additives don’t entirely mask the strong medicinal taste or smell.
Veterinarians warn that mixing liquid medicine with cat food can lead to three problems.
Your cat won’t get the proper dose of medication
Some cats lose their appetite when they’re ill, or experience it as a side effect of the medicine. If your cat is already struggling to eat, they’re not likely to get the proper dosage they need from food loaded with off-putting liquid medicine.
Not getting the dose they need can seriously impact their recovery process and prolong the time they need to take medicine, especially for cats with UTIs.
Your cat won’t get enough nutrients
If your cat refuses to eat their medicated food, this can directly lead to deficiencies. Not eating their medicated food means your cat isn’t getting the protein, calories, and fat they need. Being deprived of these crucial nutrients can cause your cat’s condition to worsen and put unnecessary strain on their bodies.
Your cat may develop a food aversion
Much like when you eat food that doesn’t sit well with your stomach, cats can also be turned off by an unappetizing meal.
Strongly flavored and off-putting medications in their pet food can cause your cat to create a negative relationship with that food. Also known as food aversion, this often leads to a long-term loss of appetite, and it can be difficult to coax your cat into eating regularly again.
Alternatives to liquid medicine
If it’s very challenging to give your cat liquid medication, contact your veterinarian to figure out a better plan. There are alternatives to liquid medicine. Here are three others you can consider.
Ok, so at first, “pilling” a cat can seem just as challenging as squirting liquid medicine into their mouth. It’s only too easy for a struggling cat to gnash into your hands with their sharp teeth and leave deep puncture wounds that could get infected.
But, that’s not always the case. Pilling can be easier than giving some cats liquid medicine! There are some techniques and tools that can help with pilling cats.
You could get your hands on a pet piller, also known as a “pill gun.” This syringe like the tool has a plunger that helps you eject a pill capsule straight into your cat’s mouth, reducing the likelihood of your cat wrongly swallowing the pill and getting hurt and risks of you getting bitten. This also ensures they get the correct dose.
Also known as transdermal medications, these drugs are rubbed directly onto your cat’s skin, where they’re absorbed into their bloodstream.
This makes gels one of the easiest medications to give your cat and one of the most effective! There’s no worrying about your cat not getting a proper dosage like liquid medicine or choking hazards from pills or capsules.
The only drawbacks to gel medications are that they aren’t available for all illnesses and health conditions. Some may also irritate the skin of some cats, and their absorption rate can vary among cats.
There are some medications your vet can inject directly into your cat’s body. Corticosteroids like Methylprednisone, pain relievers like buprenorphine, anti-inflammatories like Vetalog, and antibiotics like Convenia are all examples of medicines that can be administered via a shot.
This can be done in mere seconds without unintentionally harming your cat or putting them through unnecessary stress.
How to give a cat liquid medicine directly
The most important thing you need to know about giving your cat liquid medicine directly is do not tilt their head back when you squirt the liquid into their mouth. This can cause the liquid to go straight into their windpipe and can cause choking.
Hold your cat tucked in the crook of your arm with them facing away from you. The back end of their body should be against your chest so they can’t back out.
You could also approach your cat from the side. If you do this, place your hand gently on top of their head and let your thumb and index finger fall to the sides of their cheekbones.
Once they’re in position, lightly tip your cat’s head up, so their jaw opens enough for you to inject the liquid into their cheek. You can also wiggle the end of the syringe into the corner of their mouth to get them to open up.
The ideal place to squirt liquid medicine into your cat’s mouth is right behind their first canine (not their front incisors) in the tiny “pouched” area between their cheek and teeth. After doing that, you want to gently hold your cat’s mouth closed and run your fingers down their neck to encourage swallowing.
For kittens, it’s a bit different. Because they’re much smaller, you may need to adjust your technique and how you care for them before, during, and after administering medications in their treatment plan. Kitten Lady demonstrates it best in her helpful video!
After you’ve given your cat their medicine, be sure to give them praise and speak to them encouragingly. If your cat enjoys treats, this an excellent time to give them one, as it turns a negative experience into a more positive one. We love Tiki Cat Stix and Nulo Perfect Purees. Tuna juice is also an option!
How to medicate an uncooperative cat
Medicating your cat can be a Herculean challenge. There are plenty of hilarious and iconic memes out there that poke fun at just how seemingly impossible it can be to give your cat a pill!
There are a few techniques that can make medicating your cat more manageable and less stressful for you and your feline friend.
Who hasn’t “awwwed” over the adorable photos of tiny kittens wrapped up in a blanket or towel like a little burrito!? You could use the “scarf” style towel technique to make medicating your adult cat less of a struggle. Swaddling their body, especially their paws, in a towel keeps you both safe from injury and makes the dosing process much quicker.
If the toweling restraint doesn’t work, you could try the scruffing tactic. When you grasp your cat by the loose skin at the back of their neck with one hand, or scruff them, many cats have the same reaction. Their bodies involuntarily freeze, and they go into a stage of slight paralysis. Scruffing helps you get a grip on your cat and stops particularly squirmy cats from thrashing around.
Reward with treats
Many vets recommend “chasing” liquid medicine or pills down with a tasty treat or a cat food your kitty enjoys. The little stick-like pouches of pureed cat food, like Tiki Cat’s and Nulo’s wet cat food treats, are great “chasers” for medication. You could also use tuna juice or crunchy or freeze-dried treats if they prefer those instead.
How to handle cat medications
How to handle cat medicine varies from drug to drug. It’s crucial to discuss the medication with your vet and carefully read the instructions before starting treatment.
Like human meds, cat medications often need to be stored in a particular way to ensure they work as effectively as possible.
This could mean they need to be kept in the refrigerator or stay at room temperature. Some liquid medications even come in powdered form and need to be mixed with water, shaken up, and stored in the refrigerator.
Your veterinarian will go over the best way to store medications as well as the proper dosage to give your cat and the length of time they’ll need to take the medicine. Your vet will also go over how to best dispose of the medication if you have any left over.
Key takeaways on giving your cat liquid medicine
Giving your kitty companion liquid medicine is a lot less daunting now that we’ve covered these basics!
Whether they need a short-term round of antifungal medication to knock out a bad case of ringworm or a longer-term dose of immunosuppressants to help manage chronic conditions like Inflammatory Bowel Disease, now you have some tips and tricks to make sure your cat gets the meds they need to be at their healthiest!