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Hi Everyone

I am desperate for any advice and or tips.  Our Devon, Lester is a rescue cat.  He didn't have a very good start having been found in a house with 120 cats.  He has been with us for 4yrs and 9 months now, and he is a lovely sweet boy.  He is shy and not very confident, but not with me and my husband.  We don't know exactly how old he is, but he was estimated at about 2yrs when we had him.  

He has almost always had plaque/gingivitis since we had him and we always knew he would have to have a dental op.  We put it off as long as we could but he finally had it about a month ago.  I was very worried about the anaesthetic as I know some (particularly Ketamine based), can be fatal to devons.  I discussed all this with our vet (who has been wonderful), and he was aware of the problems and knew which anaesthetics to use.  The operation seemed to go well and he had 5 teeth removed.  However, after a couple of hours recovering, Lester suddenly became very ill - struggling to breathe.  Ultimately, it turned out that he had an undiagnosed heart problem (he was asymptomatic), and the anaesthetic and stress of the op had triggered it (as I understand can happen).  He spent 5 days in hospital at the vets and was very poorly.  We nearly lost him twice.  He had to spend a couple of days in an incubator on  oxygen.  Also, during this time he would not eat.  He ate nothing for 8 days in all.  

Amazingly, he pulled through and we brought home a very skinny weak cat.  He is now eating again and gaining weight.  We know this condition will be life limiting and are trying to come to terms with it.  The huge problem is medication.  He has to have 3 pills in the morning (nelio, frusemide and potassium) and 2 in the evening (frusemide and potassium).  As he has become stronger, we cannot get him to take them.  At the moment I have resorted to going to the vet nurse 1 or 2 times a day (they are only 2 minutes away),  and they are giving them (although with difficulty this morning)!

We have tried putting the pills in his mouth as the vets do.  When you lift up his head he will not open his jaw - we have to force it.  If we manage this, he has now learned not to swallow.  We have sat holding his mouth for upto 15 minutes after getting the pills in, with saliva pouring everywhere.  Rubbing his throat or blowing up his nose makes no difference. As soon as we loosen our grip he spits them out.  Also, this is very stressful for him.  If we try to syringe in water to make him swallow, he spits out the pills as we are trying to get the water in.  (It makes no difference if we use a pill popper).

We have also tried grinding the pills into a powder with a pestle and mortar, mixing with a little water or cat milk, drawing it up into a syringe and getting this into his mouth. This more or less worked for a while, but he has now learned to spit the liquid straight out. If I mix them with his food he refuses to eat - not good as he is still underweight. The last 2 nights I have mixed a little chicken stock mix, and added the powdered frusemide and potassium to this and left it on a plate for him (and not fed him).  He has lapped this (eventually and bit-by-bit), but I don't know how many times I will get away with it.  If that stops working he will have to go to the nurse in the evening too.  I also don't want to do too much withholding of food.  I have tried mixing them with Tuna, salmon and sardines in the hope they may disguise any smell, but he just won't eat it (he is not particularly into fish).  There are no treats or food he goes crazy for.  I bought expensive pill pocket treats - he refused to go near them. 

I am sure you are now getting the picture.  My husband and I are at our wit's end.  We don't know what to do with him - he is outwitting us at every turn.  I am constantly worrying, and scared he is going to have an even shorter lifespan because we can't look after him properly and get his pills in.  Our vet surgery has been wonderful, but I am worried about relying so much on their goodwill. 

Any other advice or tips would be very welcome.  Many Thanks. 

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  • What a worry for you.  I think you have tried just about everything I would suggest.  What about cheese? Some cats just love cheese & often this is a way for some that works

  • Hi Joy
    Thanks for taking the time to reply. Unfortunately, Lester is not that fussed about cheese so that didn't work either. I have also tried primula (minus pills) and he wouldn't try it. Have also bought cottage cheese which I haven't tried yet but am not very hopeful!
  • Does he like chicken?  I think food is the only way.  I have one that I mix a little food into a slurry & put the crushed pill in that & syringe it into him

  • You've tried everything I would suggest. How does the vet do it? Could they take you through their method step by step and actually let you do it under their watch so you get their method down?
    I'm really sorry you are going through this. I hope your little one comes through this strong and beats the odds.
  • Hello Karen,

    I also have to give pills to our cat, Raul, once per day. He does not want to take them in any food or water, milk whatsoever. He also learned to spit the pills out immediately. Maybe you could try my way - I grind the pill into powder, add a tiny bit of butter and mix it. Then, I take the butter and wipe the mixture with my finger on his teeth and gums. The cat cannot spit it out, he just licks his teeth and gums. Butter is soft and dissolves in his mouth instantly. So far it works perfectly, with almost no stress for the cat and for me.


  • Hi,

    One method I have used with my cats who were difficult to feed pills to was to get gelatine capsules from the chemist - they cost about $20/100 - put the pill inside them, and try giving the cat the capsule.  Get the smallest capsule possible - probably 000. You might need to break the pill to fit it in.  The capsule hides the taste of the tablet.  

    It sometimes helps putting a small amount of butter/margerine on the capsule to help it slide down the cats throat with a better taste.  You will probably still need to hold the cats head back open its jaw with fingers of that hand, open the jaw with the other and pop it down the back of its throat, hold its mouth closed at the front of the mouth  and tickle its throat but my Devon would simply open his mouth and swallow it without the butter or drama.  My Burmese girl preferred the caps with butter but I was able to wean her off the butter.  The trick is getting the cap or tablet at the back of the tongue or throat, not the front where it can manoeuvre the pill/cap to the side of its mouth and spit it out. 

    I got my cats used to pill-taking regime before a meal and they knew they didn't get fed until they had the pill/cap.

    Also, vets also have a long "pill dispenser" gadget approx the size of a pencil and less than $10- to hold the pill/cap where you  hold the cats head back and insert the tool to the cats mouth and release the pill at the back of the throat.  I never had much luck with those but you might find it helpful.

  • This should do it, as I have what sounds like his pill twin! Ugh. Get some chicken (not with any veggies)baby food in a jar, but make sure it does NOT have onion powder, as it is bad for cats. Crunch that pill up as small as you can and mix it with 1 teaspoon of the baby food. Then, just let him lick it off the spoon. No stress. I haven't met a cat that won't eat chicken baby food!
  • That's a great idea Jennifer.  I might need to try that one of mine

  • Hi Everyone 

    Thanks to everyone who has replied so far.  I really appreciate you taking the time.  My responses are:

    Joy - I am afraid Lester is not too bothered about chicken either.  Sometimes he will eat it, often not.  I am trying to find something he cannot resist - haven't managed yet.

    Samantha - We have been through it with the vet and I have watched numerous videos online.  The difficulty is that he behaves very differently at home and at the vets. Usually the vet can do anything with him - he just goes into frozen mode.  At home, despite us trying to hold it still, he manages to wave his head around and make a horrible 'I'm not happy' noise.  It is like having 2 different cats!  As he is getting more used to the vet nurse, he is starting to become a little more stubborn.  He has never deliberately bitten or scratched us or anyone ever (he is very sweet and the vets love dealing with him), he is just being incredibly awkward about this. Thanks for the reply.

    Dorota - Thank you for this tip.  This is something I haven't heard before.  In theory it sounds like a good idea.  I mentioned it to the nurse this morning and she thought it was a clever way to do it too.  I am so glad you have found something that works for Raul (lovely name).  It is unbelievably stressful when you cannot get them to take their pills!  Is there any particular way you hold his head still in order to get it on his gums?  Does he wriggle his head around very much?

    Jeff - Thank you for your reply.  I have thought about the gel caps but it doesn't solve the problem of him refusing to swallow.  As I mentioned, he will not open his jaw - he clamps it tight, and if/when we do get it open for a mili-second, he complains and waves his head around despite us trying to hold it still.  For the last 2 mornings even the nurse has resorted to powdering them and syringing them in his mouth in a liquid because he would not swallow for her either.  Otherwise, it meant she kept having to repeat the process and check his mouth afterwards to see if he had swallowed.  As this takes quite a while, he started to get a little stressed with his breathing (which we have to avoid).  We have also tried the pill-popper gadget, thanks.  It didn't really help much. The nurse sometimes uses one too - with mixed results!! As I said, she has been syringing the last 2 days, but as he did with us, he managed to spit some out today.  I have asked if the Nelio (heart pill) could be changed to a different brand as I think it has a strong smell so it may taste awful to him.  I think that is the one he objects to most.  Thanks for your advice.

    Jennifer - Thanks for that.  I have read about baby food but not tried it yet.  I will get some.  He seems to prefer chicken/turkey flavoured things.   I just hope that if I do try it, he doesn't turn out to be the stubborn exception who won't eat it! 

    Again, thanks to everyone who has taken the time and trouble to reply.  I am really grateful for any advice - you just never know what may be the thing that works!  I am trying to convince myself that there has to be a solution!  Also, there may be tips that others find useful should their cats ever need medication.  

    So, if anyone has any more ideas, I would love to hear them.  Many ThanksSmile.gif

  • Hi Jennifer,

    I had problems exactly the same problems with one of my larger cats. It often took 1 of us to hold him and the other to dispense his medicine.    Its difficult but I would hold his head and body under my arm with one hand on is head whilst my partner held his front legs & feet so he couldn't wriggle away or use his front paws to push my hand out the way, and used  my other my thumb on the front of his lower jaw and pry it open & pop it in. He couldn't move much as I had his body tucked under my arm or held by someone else too.  We used gel caps and a smear of butter (marg) with that cat  before & after. 

    The other option is that most vets can have medication dispensed into a gel which is rubbed on the inside of the cats ear and absorbed via the skin.  This is a more expensive option but effective.

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