Vet 101: Q & A – Antibiotics

Dr. Richard Goldstein-vet
Dr. G and Merlin

Q: My cat is impossible to pill and liquids aren’t much better. The last time she needed two weeks of antibiotics was murder. Is it possible to give a one shot injection instead and are there any downsides?

A: Cats could give master classes on how to avoid being medicated.  Hissing, spitting, growling, clawing — and that’s just when they see the pill bottle coming out of the cupboard!

There are lots of videos out there about “easy” ways to pill a cat. Grab her here, open the mouth like this, aim for the back of the tongue… Speak quietly, dim the lights, offer treats. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a cat that’s docile enough to do that. If you’re even luckier, you’ll have a cat that will eat the pills in food or a treat.  But for the other 99% of cats, what are your options when Grizabella needs her medicine?

As I said, some cats will take their medicine in a treat, like Pill Pockets. Some pills come as chewable flavored tablets that some cats will take as treats. One option to consider is having the medication compounded into a “flavorful” liquid (like chicken, or beef or tuna). There are many specialized pharmacies around now that can easily compound medication to make them less offensive.

There are injectable antibiotics available now that are long-lasting, which may be an option for some cats. But, while it might be more convenient, there are downsides to those long-acting injections. First, they can be VERY expensive. Second, those antibiotics tend to be very powerful, and are not appropriate for all types of infections. Third, if there are any side effects (like diarrhea), you’re stuck until the antibiotic leaves the body in 2 to 3 weeks. While there are appropriate circumstances for these one-shot injections, they are not for everyone.

Sometimes, a more appropriate approach is to use a once-daily injection of antibiotics. Some cats (and clients) tolerate these very well.

Another recent advancement in treatment is the use of transdermal medications. These are medications that are compounded into an ointment that can be easily applied to an area of exposed skin, like the inside of the ear flap. This is a common method for treating hyperthyroidism, and there are many other medications that can be compounded in a similar fashion. One caveat: it is unclear how effective some medications may be if administered transdermally, and it may not be appropriate in all situations.

If Rumpleteaser turns into a firestorm at the mere thought of medication, talk to your vet about options. Your kitty will thank you later – even if it’s reluctantly.

Editor’s note: For some our cats we’ve had success finely crushing a pill in a small mortar and pestle and mixing well into wet food.

Have a question for Dr. G? Email me at

15 thoughts on “Vet 101: Q & A – Antibiotics”

  1. Our mom is just plain evil when it comes to pilling. She can get anything down our throats in 2 seconds flat! Its happens so fast we aren’t sure what just happened.

  2. My sister Pixie (she went to the Bridge a few years ago) had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and was on several pills every day. We just took a small piece of American cheese and molded them all into a little pill ball. She wouldn’t eat it like a treat, but it held all the pills together, and when it went in her mouth, it got kind of slimy and went right down.

  3. It is tough giving medication sometimes. I did have one cat that we spent a whole year chasing to give her pills twice a day and she finally gave in and would kind of let me do it. The ones I have right now that need pills are really good about it. But this was great information.
    I read where LingLing may have a new home. Did she get a new home.??

  4. I’m easy to pill if you can catch me! The other cats are harder. However, the vet we go to knows the Woman is an acupuncturist so the last time they gave her a short course of daily injectable abx that she gave at home twice a day. I did not like that.

  5. It is impossible to medicate Cosmo OR Ling with liquid medication. They would foam and froth and then end up looking like Santa Claus. I find it is easier to medicate pills as long as you get it right the first time…..

  6. My Ragdoll cat is currently on a two week treatment of liquid antibiotics that I have to give her twice a day; our Vet say’s she has a bacterial infection in her gums which are terribly inflamed. This is quite an ordeal to accomplish without getting the medicine all over me, too. Now, she hides from me because she is afraid I’m going to give her the medicine. She refuses to eat canned food so I can’t put it in that, I have to use a dropper and squirt it in her mouth. I hate having to medicate my cats. I’ll be glad when the two weeks are up.

    1. Have you tried giving her a treat afterwards? Talk to her. Tell her the medicine is making her better and it’ll be over soon. You can also try wrapping her a towel to keep both of you clean. Did you vet show you how to insert the dropper in the corner of the mouth?

  7. I think I’m very lucky, Mr Darcy just had to go through two rounds of antibiotics: two tablets twice a day and he was a real champ about it. It took two of us but one would hold him whilst the other dropped the pills down the back of the throat. He didn’t put up too much fuss.

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