Health & Medicine

Cats Take Their Medicine

A UW study tries to make it go down easier.

Calico cat

It turns out that cats dislike sweet flavors. Cong H

Any cat owner knows that trying to get felines to take medication is a challenge. A School of Veterinary Medicine veterinarian is hoping to make the dreaded task easier. Amy Nichelason and colleagues tried to find cats’ favorite flavors to add to liquid medications.

Pills sometimes must be forced into a cat’s mouth and throat, which can impair the human–animal bond. Liquid medications are typically easier to administer, but cats’ acceptance of these formulations depends on the flavor and type.

In the study, healthy pet cats received a variety of flavorings — such as chicken, beef, and fish — in unmedicated oil- and water-based formulas. However, no flavor stuck out as the favorite. Instead, the study found that cats actively disliked sweet flavors. This surprised Nichelason, because cats can’t taste sweetness.

Owners even struggled to accurately predict which flavor their cat would like, indicating that veterinarians should avoid using a client’s judgment to determine flavor preference for medication.

The study also found that cats favored oil-based flavorings over water-based ones. That said, cats remain picky: 60 percent didn’t like any of the oil-based flavors, compared to 85 percent that disliked the water-based flavors.

“What I took home from this as a veterinarian is that I should avoid sweet flavors and use oil-based flavorings when possible,” Nichelason says.

Published in the Summer 2023 issue


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