Cat Injections: Training Your Cat to Love Injections Without Ruining Your Relationship

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By Dr Sophia Yin

At first we gave the insulin but then Mochi started hiding from us. We didn’t want to make her hate us, so we discountinued the treatment even though we knew that without she wouldn’t live long.

How many times have you heard something like this where a client fails to carry through with treatment because the treatment ruins her bond with her pet? If the treatment is an injection of some sort, this type of situation should not happen because it’s easy to train cats to love getting injections and this comfort with injections can be taught in just a handful of days. Here’s how. 

Start with a hungry cat and tasty treats, such as canned cat food or baby food. Then give the cat the food and once she starts eating it, lightly pinch her skin. The goal is that you pinch at a level light enough so she remains engrossed in the food.  Stop the pinching after about 5 seconds and simultaneously pull the food away. If you do this right, the cat should be looking at you expectantly to offer the food again. This timing helps cats understand that pinching equals treats and removal of the pinching equals removal of food. Next repeat the procedure. Once she’s good at being pinched at your starting level repeat the procedure but pinch harder or more vigorously.
Once she is happy to just eat treats during that procedure, then graduate to poking with a capped needle on a syringe while you pinch the skin. You can use a pen instead if you don’t have a needle and syringe on hand. Again, only poke the skin when the cats eating. Only poke for around 5 seconds so you don’t go over her tolerance level when first starting at this step. Then stop petting and remove the food. Here, Dante can’t wait for me to repeat the procedure. At this point I can use a real syringe and needle and give an injection.
 
You can also perform this procedure with an assistant to hold the food. Make sure you’ve timed the removal and addition of food carefully.  

Practice in a couple of 5 minute sessions a day. For instance, you can practice right before her regular meal times and use a portion of her meal. The program is convenient to practice and it literally takes just days for most cats to complete as long as you stay below the level that will irritate him. So with just a handful of training sessions, your cat can quickly be ready to receive injectible medications that will help her live a longer, healthier life.

Here is a video example of a cat receiving an injection at a rabies vaccine clinic.  The cat has a pleasant experience because she gets tasty treats while receiving the vaccination.

Have you trained your cat to receive injections?  Share your story here!

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16 responses to “Cat Injections: Training Your Cat to Love Injections Without Ruining Your Relationship

  1. We tried this technique on our dog (based on your nail clipping video) and it was a life saver. First it got her to be OK with ear cleaning, and then last week she got sick. I was dreading taking her to the vet because she weighs 75 pounds and the experience has been horrible in the past: me plus two vet techs and the vet trying to hold her, unable to even listen to her heart. So last week I tried this technique plus had her do a bunch of fun tricks for treats in the exam room. I explained the idea to the vet and he was into it and it was amazing, she got a full physical exam without any problems and there were even tail wags. So thank you!

  2. Its tough for me but I must be try it for my lovely cute cat. I hope I will able to do it soon and when I will able I will share the story here. Thanks mate.

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  3. I can’t tell you how many patients I have who are NOT getting needed medications because the clients are completely unable to medicate in any way. I wish EVERY pet owner would read this and teach their pets how to take medications now, when they are healthy. That way, when the day comes that they do need some medication our hands our not tied by administration constraints. Not everything can be compounded into a transdermal gel! Also, during those times of illness and stress, medication administration is one less thing you have to worry about. Please keep spreading the word!

  4. I know this is an old post, but THANK YOU!! My cat is a newly diagnosed diabetic and I was so ready to just quit, every shot was terrible for her and terrible for me. I will not traumatize my cat in her own home. But honestly, I can’t even tell you how much this helped. She didn’t even know she was getting the injections, she was just so focused on her treat.

  5. This strategy seems to really work for giving injections, but do you think it would work when giving a cat 100 ml of IV fluids, which can take 4-5 minutes?

    My cat has chronic kidney disease, feline herpes, and idiopathic cystis, which are cause her to be overly stressed by her administration of fluids. It takes two vet techs and me to work with my Lucy. It’s exhausting.

  6. I appreciate how you’ve shown the steps that I should take so that my cat will be comfortable with injections. I just adopted a cat and I’ve had it scheduled for vaccination in a few days. I’ll make sure to train my cat using this method so that it will be easier for us to complete all the vaccine that he needs without my pet losing his trust in me.

  7. What if your cat is not food motivated at all? What if they are stsrving to death no matter what you try? Yeah this wont work for that will it?

  8. If your cat isn’t eating at all, Have you heard of the food stimulant paste to put in your cat’s ears to help it eat? It’s new. Mirataz. Mine wasn’t eating too well especially with the change to renal support food. The paste helped her start eating again. Don’t know if it helps your cat with sub-Q injections. I need a helper soo far. But can’t afford it anymore so will try alone. And, my cat might not let me.
    Also, there is an invention called EZ IV harness. It’s not for an IV. PRobably vets wouldn’t like it. But I was desperate. My cat doesn’t like to be held; and she’s not going to be happy whichever way I try. BUt this harness has been helpig.

  9. We just had to use Mirataz on our kitty. While it did help get her to start eating again, it can be a bit tricky. You HAVE to wear gloves to smear it in the ear to make sure YOU don’t absorb any (it’s a stimulant), then keep the cat away from other animals/people for 2 hours while it’s being absorbed. It was also over $30.00 for a small tube. I read about a liver flavored powder by Purina called Forti Flora that you can sprinkle on cat food to give it some flavor. I’ve also heard that fish-oil can be sprinkled too – the 300 milligram combined EPA DHA kind – once a day. Anyway – thank you Dr. Yin for this info!! I just had to start giving my cat insulin 2x a day and was pretty freaked out!! I saw this and read all these tips – you all are life savers!! What worked for me is to have the injection ready to go, then putting a small amount of the prescript diet crunchies in a small bowl. I place the bowl on the counter, the kitty in front of the bowl and give him the shot while he’s munching. After that treat, both cats get their “normal” meal. As for a cat refusing to eat anything – as sad as that is – sometimes they just know when it’s their time. It hurts us like crazy – but sometimes the best answer is to let them go. Of course, that is a very personal decision between you and your vet – but as many of us know, cats will fight like hell and we may not even realize they are sick until it’s too late. As that particular post is dated August of 2018 (“Gigi”) – I realize my information is probably way too late and I hope you were able to find something to help!!

  10. This was a lifesaver for my cat who started to anticipate the injections. There is never any problem with him eating, so I started on your method above, and it has worked. Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Teresa, you didn’t write this too long ago. We have a newly diagnosed diabetic cat. I am a nurse so am familiar with giving injections, but two injections/day for my poor kitty and, now that she is feeling better, she knows it’s coming and resists by moving away while the needle is in her! I have to be fast. I don’t want to make a big fuss by having my husband hold her down, so I alone have been giving it while she eats. But, although I have been able to give her the insulin, I can tell she doesn’t trust me as much because she doesn’t “hang out” with me anymore. I was getting really sad about a lifelong change in our relationship if she wasn’t going to start accepting injections as part of her new life. Then I found this post. I have already tried the “pinching” today while giving/withholding treats and I am so happy to hear it has worked for your cat. I am now optimistic! Just as an aside, I have another cat that gets an injection every 6-8 weeks (different problem, different med), and when he sees me with a syringe and needle for our diabetic cat, he runs . .. . It’s so hard and I’m hoping EVERYONE gets used to the new normal!

  11. Hi Everyone – I just found this site, my cat is absolutely horrible with anything regarding shots, medication, claws. And i need to now give him an injection daily to save his life for 84 days. The first few days were hard but not as bad as today…He’s completely avoiding us and now growling when we touch him anywhere but his head. Can someone let me know if I can do this training, while still having to give him the shot on a daily basis?

    1. Yes you can. I would recommend trying to work with him when you don’t have to give him his shot so that he gets used to being handled without anything “bad” going on. I have a working dog with a painful ear infection and I make sure to spend time with him, handling and rewarding him, without doing the treatment. He’s learned that it’s not all bad and that there will be treats afterwards as well. Good luck.

    2. Hi Kristin,

      Did this work for you? We are on our first day of a similar regimen and experiencing a lot of resistance from our cat.

  12. I tried this tonight for the first time and like you said in the example my cat Tiger totally ignored the pinch and went straight for the food, I am not afraid of giving injections it’s easy enough, I am afraid of having to drag him out from under the bed, when my patience has worn thin, and I raise my voice and scaring him.

    THANK YOU

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