So, long story shortish, I recently ended up as the reluctant owner of a slightly used cat. He's 3 or 4 years old, and did have an owner at some point, but ran away, ended up in a cat shelter, where about a month ago, he charmed his way into my home. After spending the past month or so trying to let him get acclimated to his new environment, he still doesn't like to be petted or touched, and we noticed he basically can't vocalize, so we took him to the vet, and found out he's got a severely inflamed throat and upper respiratory congestion.

The vet gave us a big bill (free cat, my ass) and a couple liquid, oral medications to give him. I'm apparently supposed to squirt these medications into my cat's mouth - one comes in a handy syringe, the other in an eye-dropper.

Just did it for the first time this morning, which took an hour, has the cat staring at me like it's trying to figure out how to kill me in my sleep and has me scratched all over from trying to restrain the cat and open his mouth to get any in there. Having read this question, I'm going to try to find something longer and thinner than an eye dropper to give him the one medication, but that still leaves the question of how to best restrain the cat and open its mouth in the first place. I've gotten into the habit of giving him treats doing anything he seems to dislike, including the medicine, as well as the vet visit, and when I had to brush the loose hair off him, but it doesn't seem to be helping much, and of course, since he doesn't seem to like being petted, I can't just shower him with attention to calm him down before trying to medicate him.

At the moment I'm cradling him in my arm, on his back (kind of like you might do with a baby), and trying to get him to open his mouth long enough to squirt some medicine into his mouth. (This is a position he barely tolerates for a few seconds, without trying to squirt liquid in his mouth.) Actually putting the syringe or eye-dropper in his mouth results in him fighting it off with his tongue and or claws... so I end up basically poking at the sides of his mouth until he opens up to hiss at me, at which point, I can squirt a little bit in. Rinse and repeat several times, reposition him after he squirms free, and that's what I've managed to work out as far as actually getting him medicated.

Is there anything I'm missing that might make this easier, or any techniques/positions that might make giving him medication less of an ordeal?

  • Depending on how long you are going to need to give him the meds, if you continue you may have issues catching him before the treatment is done. It is REALLY important that he gets the full round of treatments without missing any. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antimicrobial_resistance Commented Mar 23, 2015 at 17:22
  • @JamesJenkins Yes, on the vet's recommendation, I've confined him to the master bedroom for the duration of the treatment. Fortunately there's nowhere in there that he can hide that I can't get him, though I'm sure he'll make it as hard as possible for me. Commented Mar 23, 2015 at 17:42
  • Related: pets.stackexchange.com/questions/1438/…
    – Zaralynda
    Commented Mar 23, 2015 at 19:21

5 Answers 5


Either use a syringe or mix it into their food if you can get away with it.

The trick to this is to work with the cat. When you start out, make sure you are as relaxed as can be. Only ever use as much force as necessary. Make sure you have everything in hand or at hand.

Start by stroking and cuddling the cat and putting it at ease. A good time is 10 minutes or so after they have fed and groomed and starting to settle down for a nap.

If this is the first time, or if your cat is very reluctant and or assertive, it might be best to do the wrapping technique, see http://www.wikihow.com/Wrap-a-Cat.

Also, two persons is often better than one for giving cats medicine. Just make sure everybody is relaxed.

When you have the cat wrapped or in your power, start by gently opening the cat's mouth by putting the fingers of one hand around its mouth and trying to gently get into the mouth. Watch out for lunges of the cat just before the mouth opens or just after. More info here: http://www.wikihow.com/Open-a-Cat%27s-Mouth

Once the mouth is open, you need to be quick, delicate, and error free. Mouth open, squirt syringe, get out.

Never push the cats head up, or block their airway to force them to open their mouths. Don't force their mouth closed afterwards as they will have difficulty swallowing.

All of the above advice is from personal experience. Each cat is different, your mileage my vary.

Remember, your cat is still your friend even though it needs medicine. Try very hard to prevent traumatising it, a treat before and after may be good. If the cat gets too upset, back off let her calm down (with a treat, and soothing voice and petting), perhaps for an hour. Then try again (but relax first).

If you really are not managing, I suggest getting in touch with your vet for help.

  • I have to admit that sometimes the simplest -answer is to board the cat for a week and let an expert deal with it (and take the blame)... absolutely agree re staying relaxed yourself. I've actually found it easier to give a cat subcutaneous fluids than to give them a liquid by mouth.
    – keshlam
    Commented Mar 23, 2015 at 19:38
  • 5
    Yup, the cat wrap was the secret. Looks a bit like a burrito ... a furry, angry burrito. Thanks a ton! Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 19:50

I had a cat who needed regular courses of (liquid) antibiotics, and I'm also the asker of the question you linked to about foul-tasting medicine.

I think trying to get the cat onto its back (like a baby) is not the best idea. First, this is a vulnerable position for the cat (exposed belly) and your cat is already having adjustment problems. Second, it's kind of hard to swallow like that.

I administer liquid medicines with the cat either standing or "meatloafing" (lying down but not on its side or back). Standing works better for me but the cat doesn't always cooperate. I do this with the cat on a counter or table, so I'm not leaning over.

Assume for this description that the cat is standing on a counter in front of me, facing right. I take my left hand, reach around the cat, and place my hand under his chin. If the cat starts to wriggle away, moving my arm toward me (putting the cat between my arm and my body) solves the problem.

Once in this position I use the right hand to guide the end of the syringe into the cat's mouth from the side nearer me. (Approaching from the front never seems to work out for me.) You want to make this part as quick as you can -- insert, squirt, and then lightly massage the throat to encourage the cat to swallow. As soon as the medicine is deployed, shower the cat with praise and/or treats.

I never use an eyedropper, and when medicine comes with one I ask for a syringe instead. Eyedroppers, being basically gravity-driven, are hard to operate; I find it much easier to use something with a plunger action for fast deployment of the medicine. Eyedroppers for oral meds are a cruel joke or, perhaps, a plot by Big Pharma to sell more medicine because of the amount you waste on the way to healing. Ditch them; they're bad news. (Ok, not really about Big Pharma, but I'm serious about ditching eyedroppers.)

  • 1
    +1 - Pretty much the same technique we use for our cats with only minor variations. Given that we have done this daily, for years, I'd have to say it works. :)
    – Joanne C
    Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 2:50

Actually since cats don't have a spit mechanism, getting the medicine behind the tongue somewhere is sufficient. What I do is insert the syringe tip between the cheeks and teeth (preferably between the cheek just behind the last molar if the syringe is long enough), no mouth opening required. Just make sure the cat is restrained, either standing or on his/her back, so you don't end up squirting it in the eye of a rapidly retreating cat.

Once you get good at this you can basically get in, restrain the cat, squirt and be safely out of the way in about 15 seconds.

Once that's done and you've survived without major bodily harm, give a bribe and make sure you haven't left any sharp implements near your bed before taking a nap.


I know this is regarding a cat, but my pet rats REFUSE to take antibiotics through a syringe. I tried mixing their medication in their favorite food, but they still won't bother. I found out putting whip cream (their favorite treat) at the tip of the syringe helps. They'll lick it while I'm squirting the antibiotics into their mouth.


my husband and I tag team our 2 kittens. We have to do eye drops and liquid antibiotics twice a day for 10 days. He wraps one at a time like a burrito and I administer the medicine. The vet said to do the syringe slowly but from what I read qiicker is better. Our kittens still try to squirm as soon as they see the syringe coming because they know it tastes bad. Its a daily struggle but thankfully its only for a little while and we give them wet food afterwards. Thankfully they don't stay mad at us. Sometimes they meow because they tilt their head back trying to escape.

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