To Pill a Mocking Cat

If you live with a cat, especially an older one, you may know that the way one describes administering medication to a feline is “to pill” them. Yes, it is an active verb, perhaps more accurately described as a contact sport.

It starts out innocuously enough, with a text to my phone from CVS that Bob or Daphne Stafford has a script ready for pick up. I have long since stopped grumbling about being a secretary for my cats. Now I just swing by, have their date of birth at the ready and pick up their drugs. Sometimes I mention that it’s for a cat, as Phenobarbital and Prednisone might look like a tricky combination for a 10 or 11 year old child.

Bobcat recently had a cardiac event, which necessitated an additional trio of medicines. I stare in a combination of wonder and horror at the cabinet which holds his arsenal and finally bought am and pm medicine cases to help keep them straight. It used to be so simple. I could stuff his one pill into a treat and he was grateful to gobble it down; he would even purr in anticipation. The stuff for his arthritis was dumped into his food, and although not thrilled about this arrangement, hunger always prevailed, and down the hatch it went.

Two months ago, a quarter of a pill was added to his regiment, and Bob decided that this one could not be disguised in a soft treat. He would eat around it, or drool it out of his mouth, leaving a trail of evidence on his way to sulk underneath the bench, or hurl it out of his mouth. His previously secret target practice means he is able to land these tiny bits on shirt collars, eyebrows, or camouflaged into the carpet for later disposal.

This latest round of prescriptions made my eyes pop, and my fingers wince in anticipation. One is liquid, and easy to squirt into the corner of his mouth, one is small, and acceptable in a treat, but the third is the size of Wyoming. We learned that they were designed for dogs to be chewed, so they are like biscuits. For Great Danes. Liver flavored. I need to cut it into literally dozens of pieces. The best way to get them into the animal is for my husband to get him in a gentle (but firm) headlock while he is lying down (the cat, not my husband). Then he can pry open the cat’s locked jaw, creating an open gullet for me to shower the flavored bits of cardiac functioning assistance. This is a much less efficient option on my own, as I am lacking the extra hands needed to hold him steady, and can only employ a gentle knee or elbow as I contort him and myself into the most favorable way to impart the gift to him. A lean 21 pound cat can bring remarkable force to bear when he puts his mind (and claws) to it.

I wonder that he still likes me at all, subjecting him as I do to twice daily torture, but Bobcat does not hold a grudge. He still purrs when we walk in the room, assured that our attentive ear scratches are on the way. I’m grateful that he can separate out the pill adventures from this repertoire and that we can remain TV buddies, and spooning champs.

And so we toil with pilling the cats, trying to balance what it right for the furry creature while retaining most of our digits and bank account. It’s all part of the learning, part of the love and care for a fabulous feline.

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About Meg

Meg is a licensed independent clinical social worker with over thirty-five years clinical experience. She holds a Master’s Degree from the Boston University School of Social Work and a Bachelor of Arts from the State University of New York at Binghamton.