Giving Liquid Medication to Cats

The easiest way to give your cat liquid medication is to mix it in with some canned food. To ensure that your cat swallows all of the medication, it is best to mix it into a small amount of canned food that you feed by hand, rather than mixing it into a full bowl of food that the cat may not completely eat. Some cats may be unwilling to eat the food or may have dietary restrictions that prevent you from using this technique. If this is the case, you will need to administer the medication directly into the cat's mouth.

"Some cats may be unwilling to eat the food or may have dietary restrictions that prevent you from using this technique."

Before you give the medication, make sure that you have carefully read the prescription label and understand the dosing instructions. Gently shake or mix the liquid medication prior to drawing it into the dosing syringe. If the medication was refrigerated, you may want to warm it up by holding the syringe tightly in your hand for a minute or two, or by placing it in a warm water bath. DO NOT MICROWAVE THE MEDICATION.

Prepare an area where you can safely handle your cat. Have the medication ready and in a place where it will be easily accessible. If you are administering the medication by yourself, you may find it easiest to place your cat in your lap. It may be advisable to restrain the cat by wrapping it in a blanket or towel with only its head exposed. The first few times, it may also be helpful to have someone else hold the wrapped cat while you administer the medication.
Hold the syringe or dropper containing the medication with your dominant hand. First, allow the cat to lick the medication from the tip of the syringe as you slowly depress the plunger (many cats accept medication more readily if it is warmed to room temperature).

If your cat is not interested in licking the liquid, gently take the cat by the scruff of the neck and pull the head back, as shown in the illustration).  The mouth will then open slightly.

Place the tip of the syringe in the mouth, just behind one of the canine teeth ("fangs"), and advance the tip so that it is between the teeth. Be sure to angle the syringe slightly to the side. You do not want to forcefully inject the liquid straight into the back of the throat. This can increase the risk of the cat inhaling or aspirating the liquid.

"Make sure you do this slowly so the cat has time to swallow the liquid and breathe."

Slowly squeeze the syringe to dispense the liquid medication. Make sure you do this slowly so the cat has time to swallow the liquid and breathe.

Most cats will spit out some of the medication. DO NOT re-medicate unless you are certain that NONE of the medication was swallowed. Your veterinarian will have accounted for a small amount of loss when calculating the required dose of medication for your cat.

Make sure you give your cat plenty of praise throughout the procedure and offer a special treat after giving the medication. This will make the experience more positive and may make it easier to give the medication the next time.

 After each use, rinse the dropper or syringe thoroughly with water and refrigerate the remaining medication if necessary.

Related Tags

medication, food, syringe, cats, slowly, amount, easiest, head, slightly, dosing, dropper, warm, swallow, water, administer, teeth, breathe, feed, dietary, unwilling, restrictions, prevent, technique, ensure, swallows, bowl, dispense, re-medicate, spit, squeeze, inject, swallowed, angle, advance, throat, increase, inhaling, risk, aspirating, easier, ward, ernest, remaining, refrigerate, rinse, fangs, calculating, loss, accounted, dose, plenty, treat, procedure, praise, veterinarian, depress, microwave, bath, tightly

Looking to learn more?

We also offer free, instant access to over 1,500 related articles on your pet's health including preventive medicine, common and not so common diseases, and even informative case studies. We encourage you to read any of these popular articles below or search our extensive pet health library.

Most Popular Articles

About our approach to exceptional pet health care

At VCA Animal Hospitals, our veterinarians take you and your pet's health seriously. With over 600 hospitals and 1,800 fully qualified, dedicated and compassionate veterinarians, we strive to give your pet the very best in medical care. We understand your pet is an extension of you, and appreciate the opportunity to share in providing exceptional pet care and quality of life.

* Free initial health exam for new clients only. Not to be combined with any other offer. Not good toward boarding, grooming, prescription and non-prescription medication, and retail items. Not good toward emergency and/or specialty veterinary services. Coupon good for up to two pets (dogs or cats only) per household. Redeemable only at a general practice VCA Animal Hospital. For pet owners who are aged 18 and older.

If you are a new client, you can get a free first exam* on your first visit.

Free First Exam

Get to know us by visiting one of our neighborhood hospitals.

Locate a Hospital