Why is it so hard to get anything into a cat’s mouth? I’m not talking about the things they put into their mouths of their own accord. I’m talking about anything other than that. Anything a human wants a cat to eat and/or swallow, all the cats I’ve ever had have on principle point blank refused to touch.
I love cats, but it’s like they’re of the conviction that they simply can’t be seen to ingest anything I desperately want them to take. The usual dry food that’s put into their bowls almost carelessly, will be eaten without much fuss but as soon as I very badly want them to take something else, they just won’t do it. (That said, the food in the middle of the bowl always gets eaten first and if a “hole” then appears in the middle of the food they’ll sit in front of the bowl and look from the bowl to us contemptuously as is to say: “It’s empty”. Cats really do know how to do a PO face. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dog do a PO face for that matter.) Child No 2’s cat, Maya, will hunt lizards in the garden and carry them inside in her mouth on an almost daily basis. She’ll happily put that in her mouth because it was her idea. That’s the trick – it has to be her idea.
Maya got sick a few weeks ago and had to be given antibiotics twice daily. I’d bought a pet piller a while ago, to help us give her her anti-worming tablets. The pet piller has a long handle. The tablet is inserted in the front and once the cat’s mouth is open you squeeze a little “trigger” and it pops the tablet in their mouth. Sounds simple enough doesn’t it?
It wasn’t. In fact, all the parts of the instructions that involved something that the cat had to do, she didn’t do. Zero compliance. The first problem was to get her to actually open her mouth. As soon as we approached with the pet piller in hand she sensed a forced ingestion of something that wasn’t her idea. Red alert! Run! If we’d already caught our normally tame and tolerant cat, she’d bring out the nails. And all the while she clammed her jaws shut tightly.
The instructions (which had clearly not been written for our cat, or for ordinary folk with no cat-hypnosis skills) said to tilt their head back and their mouth would open. Yeah right. They clearly haven’t met Maya. I tilted her head back and her mouth was still shut as tight as an oyster. She wasn’t planning on following any instructions that made it easier for us.
Once I’d pried open her mouth the instructions are to pop the tablet into her throat and with her head still tilted back her reflex would be to swallow it. Well, that’s a nice theory. My husband popped the tablet in her mouth but once it was inside her reflex was to keep her mouth open and try to spit the offending, invasive thing right out. So after keeping her mouth pried open (whilst keeping her head tilted back) until the tablet was safely in, I had to shut her mouth for her and keep it shut while I rubbed her throat. At that point she swallowed.
We worked all of this out by trial and error. The “error” part is assuming she didn’t mean to scratch us the first few times. Child No 2 would pick her up wherever she was lying unsuspecting. I’d be ready with a blanket and the pet piller would have been pre-prepared with one and a half tablets already inserted. I’d wrap her in the blanket while Child No 2 is still holding her. Next I’d take her head, tilt it back and hold it there. Then I’d have to open her mouth with my other hand and hold it open so my husband could pop in the tablet. Then I’d close her mouth and rub her throat and only after we’d seen her swallow we’d let her go.
The first time we did it we weren’t very good at it and the poor cat leopard crawled away and hid underneath our bed for the rest of the day. She was quite traumatised and we felt terrible but we had to do it. She’s such a loveable, playful and cuddly cat that even gets on with the dogs, but just don’t ask her to swallow something that wasn’t her idea. An army of three was required to get the tablets into this mild tempered, cute cat of ours. The question was how else to get tablets into her without putting them into a wriggly lizard-shaped tuna-flavoured edible shape which we left out in the garden so she could think it was her idea to get it and then eat it?
I tried to crush the tablets as finely as I could and mixed them into specially bought deluxe wet cat food but she smelt this rat a mile away and turned up her nose. The food bowl sat untouched for the rest of the day. Until one of the dogs ate it in one clean sweep. One very happy (unnecessarily medicated) dog. She wasn’t going to be fooled that easily. So the only option left was for the three of us having to medicate our tame and very sweet natured cat.
Thank goodness it’s easier to medicate dogs. Every time I’m in the kitchen the dogs are close by, in case they might score a little treat. They’ll eat just about anything I give them and they get so excited about it. It’s like they think it has to be good because us humans eat it. Anything that’s not their usual fare and comes out of the kitchen, they would gulp down without question and eagerly look up at you for more. None of this looking at the food bowl with disdain and the walking away slowly as if to say: “is that really the best you can do?” For the dogs I don’t even have to disguise tablets. I simply put it inside a little piece of meat and they swallow it in a split second. No chewing. They look up at me as if to say: “Oooh yes! Medication time!” And once they’ve swallowed it they sit with wagging tails looking like: “More of that please! More medication or whatever it is you call it! I’ll have some more!”
Thankfully Maya is better now and we don’t have to give her the antibiotics anymore. I started feeling a bit traumatised myself. I hated it upsetting her like that. The vet suggested we also give her some more wet food, but she’s so suspicious since I spiked some with crushed antibiotics that she won’t touch it. Child No 2 eventually mixed some tuna in with the wet cat food (sans antibiotics) and Maya finally, gingerly, ate some of that. She still much prefers her good old dry pellets. And to think we’re doing all of this for her own good. She certainly doesn’t think so!