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My cat is currently on Atopica, which comes as a liquid. Apparently this medicine tastes awful, based on his reaction to it. Mixing it into food or tuna juice does not help; he rejects the entire bowl, even if the ratio of drug to food is fairly low. There is another cat in the household, so I can't just leave it out for a while in hope that he'll come around -- I have to supervise (or isolate somebody, but that's no fun).

Now that I know how to give a cat a pill I plan to ask about getting this as a pill when it's time to refill, but that'll be a couple months. In the meantime, is there anything I can do to help my cat tolerate the taste of this medicine? Are there particular foods that do a better job of masking unpleasant flavors, for instance? I'm already pushing the syringe as far back as I can to minimize contact with his mouth/tongue.

The cat is a ~7-year-old neutered male, indoor-only, with no known medical issues other than the allergies for which this drug is being used.

  • Assuming you can't properly fit the body of the (plastic?) syringe in his mouth, how long is the syringe tip? If it is short, you might have better luck with a longer syringe, or a smaller version of a turkey baster / plastic pipet. – JoshDM Nov 20 '13 at 19:34
  • @JoshDM, you mean as a way of getting the payload farther down his throat? Thanks; I hadn't considered that. (The syringe is about 5" long, I think.) – Monica Cellio Nov 20 '13 at 19:46
  • Forgot to ask how wide. Some syringes (Walgreens gives them out with prescriptions for children) have a 1" length 3mm wide spout on a 4" long, 1/2" wide base. You'll want to try a much longer, thinner spout than you have currently. The syringe I mention abruptly changes width; a pipet changes width gradually, but are generally wider than syringe tips. – JoshDM Nov 20 '13 at 19:51
  • Pretty narrow -- it's similar to a 1ML syringe (like what comes with Clavamox), I think, only longer. I'll measure when I get home and update with that info. – Monica Cellio Nov 20 '13 at 19:53
  • That's probably a 1cm-long, mm-scale width tip. Those are great to get the fluid out of the bottle, but not fun for delivery. – JoshDM Nov 20 '13 at 20:05
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I can't help you get your cat to tolerate the medicine better, but what I can do is confirm and clarify your current delivery vehicle. I've had to suffer with liquid medicine as well, but with dogs (I suspect they are much more compliant or easier to handle than an acrobatic cat). I've found the longer and thinner the tip of the delivery tool, the easier it is to get past the taste areas. Using a tool with a better reach might solve your dilemma.

Depending on the syringe you are using, what I can recommend is to find one with a longer, thinner tip, or to use a pipet. The syringes I am familiar with for this purpose change width abruptly from a 1-inch long, millimeter-scale width tip to a 4-inch long, inch-scale width base. You will either want a syringe that has a much longer millimeter-scale tip, or you can go with a similarly-shaped pipet.

Unlike a syringe, most of which change width abruptly, a pipet (or turkey baster) changes width gradually. This means when using a pipet, the only hard stop for depth is how far you can reach down the back of your cat's throat (past the teeth and over the tongue; look out stomach, here it comes!). Obviously, be reasonable about how far you go. Your chosen tool should be of the appropriate starting width, widening gradually.

For the sake of posterity, it needs to be said one should select plastic over glass for their chosen instrument because no cat wants to chip his tooth or swallow glass shards. And even though it's plastic, take care the cat doesn't bite it too much. A small width tip means it might not take a lot for a bite to nip it off and create a potential choking hazard.

Provide access to lots of fresh water afterwards.

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  • Thanks! Any advice on where to acquire a suitable delivery tool? Does one ask at a pharmacy, or what? – Monica Cellio Nov 22 '13 at 2:39
  • I haven't checked Amazon, but... AMAZON. Search for "plastic pipet". Otherwise your pharmacy should have something. Alternately, you can pick up a small turkey baster or an eyedropper; look for the squeeze-ball end of a pipet rather than the piston end of a syringe. – JoshDM Nov 22 '13 at 3:23
  • Apparently they come in packs of 100; here is a pack of 100 disposable, 3ml long-tipped, plastic pipets for under $5. – JoshDM Nov 22 '13 at 3:25
  • @MonicaCellio over here (Australia) you can buy syringes of various sizes at any pharmacy/ chemist? Not sure what they're called in the US and elsewhere – user6796 Nov 23 '13 at 3:15
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    @Skippy thanks. UK chemist = US pharmacy, so I assume we're talking about the same thing (you're not in the UK but I think in this case you use the same term?). I've never actually had to buy syringes before; they've always come with the meds or my vet has just given them to me. – Monica Cellio Nov 23 '13 at 23:34
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Atopica has the worst taste! My cat also hated it with a passion, but it helped his allergies so much more than anything else. Yes I actually tasted it, I wanted to see why my cat was acting up so much when he took it and I only put a tiny amount- not even a drop- on my tongue and it was just horrible. I don't recommend trying that...
I was not able to use the pill version as it only comes in dosages much higher than my cat needs and it can't be divided.
I finally figured out a way to keep my cat from having to taste the Atopica though. I bought some empty pill capsules, and I use the dosing syringe to measure his medicine into the empty capsule, and then just give it to him like any other pill. So that way he doesn't need to taste it at all. I even found a website that does flavored empty capsules for pet medication, so it masks the taste even more. Just be careful not to get any of the Atopica liquid on the outside of the capsule when you are syringing it in, or else they can still taste it.

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  • Hmmmm. As a confirmed pack rat I've saved some of the capsules the cats' glycosamine or probiotic supplements come in, thinking there must be some use for them... sounds like this is it. (Glycosamine to counter tendonitis -- declawing is an evil thing but was done before I adopted them -- and the vet wanted to try the probiotic for allergy symptoms.) – keshlam Oct 18 '15 at 5:51
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It has been some time since this was posted but recently I faced the same issue. After about a week my cat would literally run whenever he thought it was time for the oral atopica. Called my vet and they suggested the atopica capsules. Well, again that lasted about a week until I was basically forcing his mouth open and trying to get him not to spit it out. Every time he spit it out it got sticky to handle and even worse to get it down. But since all our cats love...no are addicted to Temptation seafood meadly treats (I swear they are crack), I decided to crush/grind some up and wet the capsule enough to paste it to the outside of capsule. Sure enough it works! It is still big and he has a difficult time swallowing it but I give him about 4 or 5 treats with it and he eventually swallows it. I use a coffee grinder to crush them. I usually try to pack the powder around the pill and leave it for a while so it dries and stays well coated. I only offer this up out of my considerable frustration trying to administer the atopica. I hope this helps others.

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  • Oh, thanks! My cats love those treats too, so I'll try getting the pills instead of the liquid next time and see how that goes. (After all this time I'm still having trouble with the liquid; the better syringes suggested in another answer help, but I'm still having to force medicine into him and that adds stress.) – Monica Cellio Oct 18 '15 at 1:14
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    The Greenies "pill pockets" are remarkably effective for those cats who like treats from that company. One of mine does, one doesn't. – keshlam Oct 18 '15 at 5:53
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Secret weapon: nutritional yeast flakes! If you aren't familiar, it is just human food -- can buy in most groceries (under name Bragg's, Bob's or bulk). NOT to be confused with brewer's yeast or baking yeast.

It has a strong aroma and nutty, cheesy flavor; most of my cats are crazy about it. But, a bit like catnip: some love it, some apathetic to it. I mix a tablespoon-ish with water to make a cheezy gravy and give as a treat, or sometimes just add it to their wet food for flavors they reject. It is loaded with B12 (so try it yourself, er, without the cat medicine) so a good supplement for them anyway.

I have had good success administering crushed tablets of Clavamox or Capstar this way, although regular wet food (like Fancy Feast) tends to work for crushed pills, too.

This morning, I needed to start 2 cats on Clindimycin liquid. I tasted it; it is extremely bitter. In cat's metal bowl, I measured out the 2 mL of Clindimycin, added about as much juice from a (human) can of salmon [cheap Dollar Store one], then stirred in the nutritional yeast flakes for a thick gravy.

Sure enough, both cats cleaned the bowl! Now, whether I can pull this off for 21 days (twice a day?) is another story, hence my landing on this page.

Next time, I'll try adding some baking soda along with the nutritional yeast.

ANOTHER TIP FOR CRUSHED PILLS: For those kittehs that don't like the nutritional yeast, I crush the small tablet and pour the fine powder into a wide syringe. Keep finger on tip of syringe as stopper. Then, I pour in some tuna or salmon juice, put the plunger in, shake it to mix.

Tip syringe up (your finger at the top), and gently ease off finger to release air at tip. Still upright, move the plunger to remove all the remaining air.

Position syringe at side of their mouth, not front, so it is shorter distance to back of throat and so cat can't focus attention on it so easily.

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Administering cat meds over the years, certain cats were especially difficult. Awful tasting medicine made it difficult or worse for all the cats. Over time I found what worked for me with all the cats, but especially with cats that We're an extra challenge. About bad taste, crushed pills inside gelatin capsules solved the pill taste problem. Pills and liquids covered below. My process worked fine for some time, until Rudy. He craves affection from everyone, two- and four-legged, especially children. He's also large, muscular, strong, and athletic -- bull in a china shop. Giving him a med, he goes full-force BERSERK with remarkable strength. Pills in tasteless capsules I'd get into the back of his mouth, later would be discovered on the floor. So this process is for Rudy.

I'll use "pill" hand or "grip" hand, and describe the harder task -- giving a pill to an uncooperative cat.

  1. Try to avoid adding anticipation anxiety -- don't make the prep process an obvious production. Cats see the signs.
  2. Have a small cleared floor area without carpet or rugs (so cat can't grip and pull away -- hopefully while cat is on meds you keep nails clipped), and place med and a syringe or dropper filled with water within easy reach of pill hand.
  3. Getting yourself and cat into position -- objective is to maintain control and accomplish as quickly as possible. Kneel on floor with cat, having a firm grip on scruff of neck, and position cat between legs. lock and hold firmly between legs, and don't lose grip on neck.
  4. Holding scruff of neck, tilt head back toward you and get pill (back tilt needed only for pills). Mouth will easily open and allow your pill hand to quickly place pill in REAR of mouth. Close and hold shut momentarily and retrieve water syringe. Release mouth and administer water. That will cause swallowing. Sometimes I coat the capsule with nutritional supplement in a tube -- it's sticky and slippery.

For bad-tasting liquids I do same as for pill without head tilt. I use a plastic dropper with tip that is rounded -- many have a sharp cut at the opening. Insert the dropper at the side of the mouth. I place it at the rear but outside the teeth. Some prefer back of the tongue. My experience is the discomfort adds difficulty. I follow immediately with a syringe or dropper of water to wash it down. Then let loose for treats. Sometimes when a cat's on liquid med I'll dilute some strained meat baby food and use that instead of water to wash down the med. Still treats, though.

Please excuse redundancy in expressing quick, firm, hold. This med giving used to be so intimidating, it was a dreaded ordeal, made worse knowing if meds are needed it's important. Setting up, doing a mental run-through, focusing on controlling the cat and not hesitating, then thinking "just do it" helps a lot.

I'll be very happy if anything passed on here helps someone and a cat.

Note, the empty gel capsules are sold online and are in various sizes. You can find a size chart online too. I try to use the smallest size that med will fit.

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  • Thanks for describing this technique. I never thought to coat the pills in nutritional supplement. One question: after you've inserted the pill, how do you hold the mouth closed while you retrieve the syringe? Do you move the grip hand? I can't quite see how to hold the scruff and keep the cat from opening his mouth in those couple seconds. – Monica Cellio Oct 31 '16 at 13:02
  • Oh, I just noticed that this answer is on my question about liquid medicines, but you're mostly describing a pill technique. You might consider moving this answer to this question about pills instead. – Monica Cellio Oct 31 '16 at 13:06
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This medicine works fantastically....once you can get your cat to take it! I struggled with forcing it down her throat, which led to her avoiding me every time I stood up...it was a real hassle and she hated it. We tried mixing it with tuna which worked okay, but she would only eat it half the time, if she was starving. My boyfriend saw how frustrated I was and went out to the store and bought 10 types of fishy wet cat food. Finally we found one!! She eats it up immediately with the meds in it every morning, without issue. The one that worked for us is Fancy Feast Medleys Ocean Whitefish & Tuna Florentine Pate! I know every cat is different, so I would highly suggest getting a bunch and trying them all to see what your cat likes best! I'm so thankful because she doesn't hate me anymore and isn't licking all of her fur off!

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Apologies if this has already been mentioned: as with any training, making sure the difficult part is followed by a reward can help convince the cat to cooperate, or at least not to object so strongly. I know folks who medicate their cat eight before the wet-food meal; the cat is anticipating a treat and has learned that it has to put up with treatment before getting the gooshyfood. The meal may also help clear the taste of the medicine.

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