How to Give Your Cat Medicine

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

When I noticed that my beloved Kudzu seemed to be dropping weight in an effort to get high-school skinny, I took him to the vet like any overanxious hypochondriac pet owner would. Except his high-school skinny turned out to be a four-pound weight loss in as many months. The chub lovingly concealed under soft gray belly fur had been melting away a little at a time. This alarming reduction in size led to a blood test that led to...well, a whole mess of trips to the vet hospital. I now know far more about my cat's anatomy than my own. And now, a month - and a gajillion diagnostic tests later - we still aren't clear on what's wrong. But we are clear that prednisone must be administered orally twice daily for the foreseeable future.

Dog owners, you have no idea how easy you have it. Sure, maybe Fido isn't so dense that he'll scarf down the carefully disguised medicine-as-treat. Perhaps you have to hide it in cheese. A slice of deli ham. Wrap it in bacon. Or maybe you can mix it in with the Pedigree that he eats just the same.

But a cat? Oh no. No, no, no. He is not so unsophisticated as to be tempted by that dull brown chunk of chicken flavored medicine. And he will not be sweet-talked. Or cajoled. Or silently overcome in a standoff of wills. He'd rather go hungry. He'd rather turn aside in exasperation, settle on his behind and delicately lick his fore-paw as though he might as well take a bath if he's going to be in the presence of such a repulsive, inedible monstrosity. He will note the shape and texture of the offending capsule and detect with razor-sharp precision even the tiniest granules of it hidden among his regular gravy-rich Fancy Feast, chunks of rotisserie chicken, strips of bacon. And you will have to concede - wave the white flag of defeat and devise another way. Like the syringe. Oh blessed syringe.

So, feline fanciers, please, take note, and save yourself some unpleasant flesh wounds.

You must carefully choose an enclosed space - a space of a size that you have room to maneuver but limit his ability to escape. Select a cohort and rock-paper-scissors for the jobs of holder or injector. The holder must assume the immobilizing position: on the ground, on your knees, hands outstretched holding the corners of two towels. (Please note: one is wholly insufficient.) The injector must capture the cat and report to the enclosed space. The cat should be placed hindquarters toward the knees of the holder. Before the injector fully releases, the holder must encircle the cat in the towels, keeping the knees locked together to prevent the "backdoor" escape route. It is recommended that the holder apply gentle body weight to the cat by leaning forward. This seems to encourage submission (however half-hearted). Secure the front legs by closing the edges of the towels, keeping the opening for the head only as large as absolutely necessary to prevent the "duck in the cover" maneuver.

You may now be operating under the misapprehension that the injector gets off easy, but let me assure you, her time is coming. Now that the holder has the cat sufficiently immobilized, the injector must grasp the cat firmly by the jaws in such a manner as to force the mouth open. As quickly as possible, the syringe must be placed close to the mouth and dispensed. Put the tip toward the middle of the tongue. Too close to the front and those clamping jaws will shut down; too far in the back and you risk a choking hazard.

Though the process sounds complicated, if the holder and the injector execute their roles smoothly, medicine can be administered in 5 seconds or less. Yeah, that's right. We're Olympic material now.


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