How to Get Your Cat to Take Medicine

Have a question about cat life? Ask Baker!

A letter regarding cats taking pills:

Have a question about cat life? Ask Baker.

Have a question about cat life? Ask Baker.

Dear Baker,

The vet said I have gingivitis and now I have to take pills. I hate taking pills, and as a cat, I have no concept that I need the pills or my teeth will get infected and have to be pulled out. Any advice? Please tell me it’s all a bad dream.

Your fan,

Stinky Cat Breath

 

Dear Stinky,

In our house, we consider pill time happy time! Are you psychocats, you may ask? Actually, it’s because we get our pills served in treats.

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Pills in treats

My cat bro Lance also suffers from gingivitis, so we aren’t allowed wet food most of the time. Happily, whenever the vet says we have to take pills, our human smushes them up into a nice little bowl of delicious wet food. Mmm! Take twice a day, you say, Mr. Vet? Will do! How about thrice?

We find tuna canned in water (for humans) is the best wet food for masking the nasty taste of the pills. Of course, a cat can’t eat tuna all day every day (or can he? We have not been given the opportunity to try!) but a spoonful of tuna to help the medicine go down will not hurt anyone.

We have also had the good fortune of getting liquid medications in wet food.

After growing up on the streets, Lancy suffers from recurring dental problems. Luckily, that means lots of medicine, which means lots of treats for both of us!

After growing up on the streets, Lancy suffers from recurring dental problems. Luckily, that means lots of medicine, which means lots of treats for both of us!

Pills that Can’t be Given in Food

Some pills work on an extended-release formula and can’t be smushed, or need to be taken on an empty stomach. Have your humom ask your vet if your pills can be smushed and served in wet food. Some pills are so yucky that no amount of wet food can mask the taste (we think! Our humans have never let us try taking pills in, say, a gallon of wet food…)

If it is essential that you take your pills whole, or worse yet, you have to take a big pill that’s cut into a smaller piece so it’s all jagged and crumbly, there are a couple of options.

Butter: Ever found the butter dish left unattended and helped yourself to a couple licks? Mmm, butter… Have your humans coat the pill in this slippery delicious yellow stuff to make it easier to swallow.

How to administer pills to a cat (a two-human method):

  1. Human One: Cuddle the cat and hold the scruff of its neck firmly. Alternately, you might want to try wrapping the cat firmly in a towel or fleece blanket.

    Click this picture to see an illustrated, detailed process for sticking pills down a cat's throat.

    Click this picture to see an illustrated, detailed process for sticking pills down a cat’s throat.

  2. Human Two: With one hand, squeeze the sides of the cat’s jaw joint lightly and tilt his head back slightly. This will force the cat’s mouth to open. Place the pill as far back in the cat’s mouth as possible, and close the cat’s mouth.
  3. Human Two: Hold the cat’s mouth closed gently with one hand and gently stroke the cat’s throat downwards a few times with the other hand. This will stimulate swallowing.
  4. Human Two: Give the cat a little water with a syringe or dropper to make sure the pill goes down and doesn’t get stuck anywhere in the esophagus. The butter will also help with this.
A useful tool for shoving a pill down a cat's throat. Only to be used if the treats method is impossible.

A useful tool for shoving a pill down a cat’s throat. Only to be used if the treats method is impossible.

Tools: Your vet or pet store may carry a pill gun. When Lance had to take pills that couldn’t be crushed (the jerk!), our humans had a lot of success with this little tool.

All they have to do is put the pill in one end, stick the pill end into the back of the cat’s mouth, and plunge the plunger. The pill pops right down his throat. In Lance’s case, this was also a two-human job. Our humans also held Lance’s mouth closed and rubbed his throat a little, as with the butter method above, just to make sure. The vet said to make sure they followed the pill with water administered with a syringe to ensure the pill goes down. This little baby will probably run you about twenty bucks.

A delicious way for cats to take pills. That's if the cat likes the taste of the treats. Just saying.

A delicious way for cats to take pills. That’s if the cat likes the taste of the treats. Just saying.

Greenies and some other pet treat companies make special treats designed for taking pills. We tried them and Lance said they didn’t taste good, but I ate them up even though I didn’t have to take any pills.

It’s too bad we’re more discerning than dogs. Our humans just have to shove the dog’s pill into a piece of chicken or cheese and she gulps it down obliviously! But if you try that with us cats, we will daintily nibble the cheese (or ignore it completely) and leave the pill behind.

So, Stinky, there you have it. Many ways to enjoy taking pills.

 

Your friend,

Baker

Kitten Growth Chart — Six-Week-Old Kittens

Sue at six weeks pauses in the midst of playing for a photo

A six-week-old kitten can do everything a cat does, but is still a baby. At this age the kittens are very playful. They play with their toys, with their mum, with each other, and with us non-stop, it seems! When they’re totally pooped, they sleep for a couple of hours then wake up and start again!

Playing with Mum at six weeks old -- Libby finally stops mothering them long enough to play with them a bit.

Playing with Mum at six weeks old — Libby finally stops mothering them long enough to play with them a bit.

Sue and Reed are little explorers

Sue and Reed are little explorers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At six weeks, a baby cat should be weaning off its mother’s milk and eating solid food regularly. A lot of people think it’s a good idea to rehome kittens at this age, but actually kittens should stay with their mum until they’re eight to nine weeks old. Their mum still has so much to teach them, about cleaning themselves, behaving properly (in cat terms), and love. Sometimes kittens who are removed from their family at a young age grow up with behaviour problems, such as pooping outside the box or playing too roughly.

Ben is so tired from all that playing he falls asleep anywhere!

Ben is so tired from all that playing he falls asleep anywhere!

Lance finds the kittens fascinating. The kittens think Lance might be fun to play with.

Lance finds the kittens fascinating. The kittens think Lance might be fun to play with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have a baby kitten of this age that you received from a friend, you should ask if your kitten can stay with his mum for a couple more weeks at least. If that’s not possible, you’ll have to be very attentive to make sure your kitten is eating, drinking, and pooping properly, and you’ll have to be very patient to take on the job of the mother and teach the kitten some of the finer arts of catting.

Libby stops play time to start bath time. "Mom! You're messing up my mane!"

Libby stops play time to start bath time. “Mom! You’re messing up my mane!”

Sue at six weeks pauses in the midst of playing for a photo

Sue at six weeks pauses in the midst of playing for a photo

Kitten Growth Chart — Four-Week-Old Kittens

Four-week-old kittens have fully developed senses of sight, smell, and hearing, but they are still very uncoordinated. Their teeth are starting to come in, so when you play with your four-week-old kittens, make sure you don’t play nibbling-on-the-human games, or they might become a habit (and poke tiny holes in your person!)

By the time our kittens reach four weeks, they are doing everything an adult cat does:

Good morning! Is it time for a kitteny day of doing stuff?

Good morning! Is it time for a kitteny day of doing stuff?

At four weeks old, Ben is learning the art of drinking water out of a bowl

At four weeks old, Ben demonstrates his newly discovered skill of drinking water out of a bowl.

Four-week-old kittens eating kitten kibble out of a saucer while their mom supervises. Don't be fooled: Libby tried her hardest to get at that delicious kitten kibble!

Four-week-old kittens can eat kitten kibble out of a saucer under the supervision of their mom. Don’t be fooled: Libby tried her hardest to get at that delicious kitten kibble!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kittens this age are excited to nom kitten kibble, but they still need their mommy’s milk to grow and thrive. If you are hand-rearing kittens, keep bottle feeding them for a couple more weeks to supplement the kitten kibble. Don’t give kittens adult cat food, cow milk or other dairy products, or bread or other carbohydrate-rich foods. Kittens can eat tinned food, but kitten kibble is probably best.

The kittens escaped from kitten play land while we were at work, and we searched everywhere for them. We were convinced they had been stolen until we found them safe and sound hiding behind the bed.

The kittens escaped from kitten play land while we were at work, and we searched everywhere for them. We were convinced they had been stolen until we found them safe and sound hiding behind the bed.

This is how the kittens escaped from kitten play land: clawed their way onto the bed, and then down via the laundry hamper. Johnny stops for a rest.

This is how the kittens escaped from kitten play land: clawed their way onto the bed, and then down via the laundry hamper. Johnny stops for a rest.

At three and a half weeks old, Sue is the first kitten to do a poopie in the litter.

At three and a half weeks old, Sue is the first kitten to do a poopie in the litter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If your kittens are starting to explore the house, you need to kitten-proof: make sure cables and cords are wrapped up and out of reach. Put plants on high shelves. Make sure garbage cans have tops that close. Kittens love to climb, so if your decorations might be dangers, you should consider putting them away until you have re-homed the kittens (or they stop scaling your shelving units like little fluffy mountaineers!)

 

 

Playing and having a kitteny time in kitty play land

Playing and having a kitteny time in kitty play land

Four weeks old and big enough to watch TV with the humans.

Four weeks old and big enough to watch TV with the humans.

Johnny at four weeks leaves the kitten play room to visit with Lance, whom she is still nervous of, though Lance seems to have taken no notice of the kitten

Though she’s big enough to hang out with the humans, she’s still quite nervous of Lance.  Lance, however, seems to have taken no notice of the kitten.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

pooped out after a long day of kittening

Annnd… pooped out after a long day of kittening!

Although the kittens are exploring all the nuances of catting, they still need their mommy! She teaches them how to cat professionally.

For the next several weeks, you should spend as much time with your kittens as possible, and invite lots of people over to play with them. This is the age to socialize your kittens so they will grow up to be friendly pets. If you have other animals living in your house, they can be introduced to the kittens now. Also, tiny children and the elderly.

Kitten Growth Chart — Two-Week-Old Kittens

I thought they recognized me, but they all hissed at me!
When I went into the kittens' room on their two-week birthday, they all looked at me for the first time

When I went into the kittens’ room on their two-week birthday, they all looked at me for the first time

I thought they recognized me, but they all hissed at me!

I thought they recognized me, but they all hissed at me!

At two weeks, kittens’ eyes are fully open, but they have not got their adult pigment yet so will still appear blue or gray, and their vision is still not clear. They are also still sensitive to light, so no matter how cute your little fluffy-puffs are, please don’t use flash photography or shine bright lights towards them!

Their sense of hearing is still weak, but their sense of smell is starting to develop.

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Two-week-old kittens are more aware of their surroundings and are starting to interact with each other and with you. The more adventurous members of your litter might be trying to climb out of the box to go exploring. Mother cat won’t let them, as they’re still too little, so you can help her out by making sure the doorway is high enough that they can’t climb out.

Two-week-old kittens should be six to eight ounces and have fat tummies and clean faces. If you think your kittens are not growing well, or don’t seem healthy, take the whole family to the vet.  You might need to supplement Mum’s milk with some kitten formula via a kitten baby bottle.

Sue is the most intrepid at two weeks and keeps climbing over Mount Mum's Tummy.

Sue is the most intrepid at two weeks and keeps climbing over Mount Mum’s Tummy.

Kitten Growth Chart — One-Week-Old Kittens

Libby is so happy when we come into her room, she rolls onto her back so we can scritch her tummy. Poor kittens get rolled all over the place!
Ben was already establishing herself as the most cuddly and protested at being taken away from her mummy for the photo.

Ben was already establishing herself as the most cuddly and protested at being taken away from her mummy for the photo.

Johnny was the first to open her eyes.

Johnny was the first to open her eyes.

Sue was very alert already

Sue was very alert already

Reed's little mustache is starting to be more pronounced

Reed’s little mustache is starting to be more pronounced

In the first week, our kittens’ eyes started to open. Johnny was first; her left eye started to open when she was three days old. By one week they all had their eyes at least part way open.

But when kittens’ eyes first open, they are very sensitive to light. At this stage, it is important that you make sure there are no bright lights directed at the kittens’ faces. Also, the kittens still can’t see very well and rely on their sense of smell still to find their mummy and their favourite nipple at lunch time.

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The colour for all newborn eyes is gray or blue, because the melanin that gives them colour pigment hasn’t developed yet. You will find out what colour your kittens’ eyes are when they are six to eight weeks old.

During the first week, the kittens’ umbilical cords will begin to fall off. Remember not to pull them off as a kitten can easily get an umbilical hernia, which will require surgery to repair when she is older.

The mother is probably licking the babies a lot. She does this to keep them clean, of course, and to stimulate their digestive systems. The dedicated mother cat actually stimulates urination and defecation and eats what comes out. And your mom complained about changing your diaper! If you are hand-raising a kitten, you need to wipe him with a soft, absorbent towel every few hours to help him pee and poo.

The mother cat also cuddles the kittens and keeps them warm all day and all night. She probably only leaves the box to get food and water and to visit the litter. She will appreciate a lot of attention from you. If you are hand-rearing a kitten, you should keep her with you at all times, preferably holding her in your hands. There is no substitute for a mother’s love!

Be careful when handling your baby kittens, because their little claws are very sharp and they are not able to retract them yet. Also, make sure they are not getting their claws caught in their bedding. Some kinds of fabric are like velcro to kitten claws!

One-week-old kittens are double their birth weight. It’s incredible how fast they grow! By now they probably have fat little tummies, too.

Join us next week for an update on two-week-old kittens!

Libby is so happy when we come into her room, she rolls onto her back so we can scritch her tummy. Poor kittens get rolled all over the place!

Libby is so happy when we come into her room, she rolls onto her back so we can scritch her tummy. Poor kittens get rolled all over the place!

Kitten Growth Chart – Newborn Kittens

Here are Libby's newborn babies, cuddling together for warmth in the birthing box as Libby gets something to eat.

So now you have a tiny litter of perfect little miniature cats. Well, maybe not perfect yet.

At birth, the kittens’ eyes are sealed closed because they have not finished developing yet, and the ears are also sealed on the inside. The kitten relies on its sense of smell to find one of its mother’s teats and get suckling.

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This is Reed on her first day out.

This is Reed on her first day out.

Each kitten will recognize its own smell on the first teat it uses, and so each of the kittens in a litter will end up with its own teat. Mother cats have eight teats. Sometimes if the litter is not very big, the unused teats will “dry up” or stop producing milk. If the litter is too big (more than eight babies), the runt might not get to feed very frequently as it will not have a teat of its own.

Cats don’t seem to be able to count, which if you’re a newborn kitten can be a pro or a con.

Pro: Quite often, a new mother cat will adopt kittens from another litter. If two cats give birth at roughly the same time and one mum has too many while the other does not have enough (in terms of kitten to teat ratio), you can transfer the ‘extras’ from the overloaded mum to the other mum. She probably won’t even notice an extra kitten or two. Baker and Lance’s friend Scribbles tells us of a case where a new mother cat rejected her entire litter (Baker supports her in this decision, saying kittens are noisy, smelly, and little attention stealers, and he doesn’t believe in them). According to Scribbles, another mother cat in the house had enough love to go around and ended up raising both litters herself.

Con: Usually within a week of giving birth, a mother cat’s instincts tell her it’s time to move the babies. The birthing area can be quite smelly and in the wild the smell will give away the litter’s location to predators. So a move seems like a good idea to most cats. However, since she can’t count, a mama cat is quite likely to leave one of her little ones behind in the move. If you happen to come home one day and find one poor solitary kitten crying by himself in the birthing box, quite likely this is what happened. If the mother cat hears him crying, she’ll go back for him, but if she’s moved to an entirely different location, as in the case of a feral stray cat who birthed three kittens in an abandoned car in our neighgbour’s yard and then subsequently moved two of them to under our porch, you can help out by relocating the forgotten kitten yourself. If you’re dealing with a stray, there is a possibility she will reject a kitten who smells like human, so wear clean gloves to do the move, and try to placate the mum with a nice offering of tuna or tinned cat food.

Here's a close-up of the four babies suckling. It's their first meal!

Here’s a close-up of the four babies suckling. It’s their first meal!

When your kittens are newborns, they are unable to regulate their own body heat and need to huddle together for warmth. After the mum has settled down from the delivery and is comfortable leaving the box for food or water, you can change the bedding so the babies don’t have to lie in their own… shall we say… well, you get the picture. If you have a very small litter, you might want to provide them with a heat lamp, too.

Here are Libby's newborn babies, cuddling together for warmth in the birthing box as Libby gets something to eat.

Here are Libby’s newborn babies, cuddling together for warmth in the birthing box as Libby gets something to eat.

If your mother cat knows you, you can start handling the newborn kittens immediately, but only for a few moments at a time. They are very weak at this stage so be sure to support them fully when you pick them up, and keep them warm in your hands.

The mother will take care of all the newborn kittens’ needs: feeding, toileting, cleaning, and loving, so as the human in the family, you do not need to do anything yet. Just keep an eye on things and if your mother cat or any of the kittens seem uncomfortable in any way, or if one or more kittens do not suckle, take the whole family to the vet. Especially check your mother cat’s vaginal area for chronic bleeding, discharge, or bad smell. If any of these symptoms are present, take her to the vet.