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I need to give my cat ear medicine because he previously had ear mites (before adoption, he was a stray), and his eye medicine because he has herpes induced conjunctivitis, which isn't serious yet, but once in a while you can make out he closes one a little more than the other.

I've had a look at the videos I was able to find through google, and understand the basic "scarf technique" for restraining a cat using a towel. The issues I am having:

  1. My cat is not even a little interested in sitting still on a towel -- I pick him up, and place him in the middle of a laid out towel, and he's already struggling to leap away.

  2. I tried giving him treats whenever he plops down on a towel, but as soon as I begin wrapping, he's well on his way to running away

  3. The "Y" finger hold around his neck doesn't get him to be still as I try to wrap him up

My take on the issue is that my relationship with him is still new: I only adopted him about 10 days ago. He has been a total blast so far: got used to the new house within a couple of days (he started playing with me in his safe room in the first hour he was home!), uses the litter box like a champ, absolutely loves cuddles and playing, eats food, drinks water, leaves people alone when they are sleeping -- basically, does everything without any of the difficulties I was warned about.

However, he still doesn't trust me much, it seems, given his behaviour with the towel...so, maybe that's a hint we are still "new"? What am I supposed to do though, if he really needs his medicine? How do I get him to understand that I promise I would not hurt him? I can't. He doesn't understand words.

Is my theory about being in a new relationship with a cat correct? I don't think it is, because vets are able to do what they need to with new animals all the time, but I simply do not have the training of a vet. What are my options?

  • I don't know that there is any magic solution. A truly frightened cat is a handful for anyone. If you are unsure, your cat may be even more unsure of your handling. Cats do understand a lot without words - your tone and your own emotional state connect with them, and the words help you feel the correct way. – Oldcat Jan 15 '15 at 22:50
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As keshlam mentioned, you shouldn't need towel approach for such basic things as ear or eye drops. At least if your cat is not very aggressive and/or very scared.

What I'd suggest instead is the 'peg trick'. It comes down to imitating the mother-cat holding a kitten by the scruff which puts the kitten in a calm/meditative state while being transported. It doesn't harm or stress the cat if done properly because it's based on natural instincts.

Take a few (2 or three should be enough) clothes pegs, not too tight but not too loose either (they shouldn't hurt but should be tight enough to imitate mother-cat's closed jaws), and keep them nearby. Keep the meds nearby, too, but out of the cat's sight. Then take your cat and pet him until he's calm and content. It won't work if he's agitated.

When your cat's calm enough, gently pinch the skin on his scruff and put the pegs on it, as much skin as naturally fits into the pegs. That should put your cat into a 'meditative' state when he's still aware but not fully so. Then quickly apply the meds, and try to keep petting your cat throughout.

A warning though, don't use this trick if you ever have to give him oral meds. I'm not sure cats can swallow safely in this state.

As for everything else, don't be too hard on yourself. Even if you don't have any experience with pets, you'll learn with time, and you'll build a relationship with your cat if you care for him. It might take time (sometimes it takes weeks, sometimes -- months), but it'll work.

As for giving meds, you have to believe that you're doing it for your cat's good, because you really are. If you don't give him his meds, he'll feel worse. That's your justification. And don't worry that he won't forgive you, because he will -- cats are surprisingly adaptable, and don't have the concept of 'forgiving/not forgiving' anyway. They have a concept of trust, and breaking that takes a lot more than just giving them meds. If my elderly lady with trust issues (she has reasons) could tolerate 3 injections + SubQs + 2 oral meds + 4 forced meals a day for a week and still comes to sleep in my bed at night, yours can take ear/eye drops.

And you have to feel confident. Cats are sensitive to emotions, so if you're trembling inside, he'll feel it and take a complimentary role -- either "there's threat! run away!" or "that one is scared = that one is prey = hunt it!".

Anyway, just do your best ^_^

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    One thing that can help prevent transmitting your own nervousness to your pet is to keep your breathing calm. And the easiest way to do that is to talk to your cat while you do what needs to be done. Plus, the sound of your voice will help reassure your cat. – mhwombat Jan 13 '15 at 20:25
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You might not need all that for a simple eyedrop/eardrop medication application. Sit back with your kees a bit apart and hold the cat between them. This is so if he backs up he is trapped against your body. With him wedged in and sitting still, bend his head back and drop the drops into the eye. Use a little distance so if he jerks, you don't poke him. With practice you can squeeze the eye open with one hand.

Ear would be similar, but tilt the head to the side and drop it in.

An advantage is that you can practice this position without the medicine, giving treats or pets when he is in between your legs. So you can gain confidence in your handling of him without the medicine in that position and imagine doing the application. Once you think you can do it, try it out!

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    Also, realise that you don't have to do everything at once. You can do one ear, take a break, do the other ear, take a break, do an eye, take a break, do the other eye. As the cat gets used to it, you can do more in one go. – mhwombat May 31 '16 at 20:13

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