Science Offers New Hope – and Help – for Medicating Finicky Felines

Posted by TF Oren
a horizontal view of a little cat being feeding with a spoon

Cats are notoriously difficult to medicate.

They’re smart, they’re particular, and they’re not the least bit interested in making your life easy.

Successfully administering a course of oral medication to a cat is tricky. The cat must find the medication both appealing and tasty in order for it to be palatable. That’s a tall order. Fortunately for cat owners, there may be hope in sight.

Researcher Jaana Hautala, MSc (Pharmacy) has focused her dissertation on finding solutions for medicating cats.

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Aside from the endearing idiosyncracies that go along with just being a cat, there are a number of other factors that make medicating cats so difficult. One reason cats are more difficult to medicate than dogs are is because while dogs are omnivorous, cats are not. They’re strict carnivores.

A second reason why medicating cats is so tricky is that hardly any of the currently existing registered drugs have been designed specifically with cats in mind. Consequently, veterinarians often have to use canine drugs to medicate cats, and this poses a host of challenges for a cat owner. Not only does the owner have to adjust the dosage according to a cat’s much smaller size, but if the cat finds anything about the drug unappealing – smell, shape, taste, etc. – he or she will refuse the medication. This makes complying with a treatment regiment nearly impossible for well-intentioned owners.

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With all of this in mind, Hautala set to work generating a solution in the form of commercially manufactured, cat-friendly minitablets.

According to Hautala:

“Improving palatability through minitablets and synthetic flavourings and coatings tailored for animals improves both the owner’s commitment to the treatment and the cat’s compliance. They also facilitate the dosage of the medicine and make the administration of the treatment more flexible in the treatment of cats and other pets.”

Gray striped cat eats a pill from the hand of the owner

Hautala studied the palatability levels of a variety of placebo tablets by asking cat owners to administer them in the cat’s home environment, thus creating a real-world treatment scenario.

According to the data Hautala collected, domestic cats were more inclined to ingest minitablets than they were to ingest food that their owners already knew the cats disliked. Owners reported that the tablets were easy to handle, but that the smell and taste of the tablets required further refinement.

In part two of the study, Hautala set out to improve the taste and smell of the tablets by refining the synthetic flavorings used in them. She discovered that amino acids might be a promising addition to future studies of synthetic flavorings. Amino acids are known as meat flavor precursors, as is vitamin B, which occurs in great quantities in yeast extract.

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Hautala’s study is an important step in promoting further cost-effective research into the development of feline-specific oral medications.

The study was published in “The Veterinary Journal” and you can check it out here.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below!

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Science Offers New Hope – and Help – for Medicating Finicky Felines