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Giving Injections to Cats

By Malcolm Weir, DVM, MSc, MPH; Ernest Ward, DVM

Care & Wellness, Pet Services

Certain medical conditions can be controlled by the use of drugs that are only available in an injectable format. Two of these conditions are:

  • diabetes mellitus, which is controlled by daily insulin injections
  • certain allergies, which are controlled by regular injections of allergenic extracts

In many cases, cat owners are willing and able to administer these medications at home. If you decide to provide this treatment to your cat, your veterinarian will review the specific administration technique and make sure that you are comfortable with it. The following may help you make your decision.

 

Will the injection hurt my cat?

Most cats do not seem to mind routine injections. Disposable, single-use needles ensure that the needle tip is very sharp to minimize pain. Your veterinarian will prescribe the appropriate needles and syringes for your pet's needs.

 

What happens if my cat moves when I give the injection?

Ideally have someone assist you while you give the injection, especially when you are just learning how to do it. Depending on the injection being given, try offering your cat a special food or treat as a distraction while you administer the injection. Some pet owners find that it is easier to give their cat an injection while she is eating a meal.

"Most pet owners find that their pet becomes more cooperative once a routine is established."

By injecting quickly, you can minimize the chance that your pet will move. Most pet owners find that their pet becomes more cooperative once a routine is established. In the case of a diabetic cat, insulin is often injected after the cat has eaten. Cats with diabetes or those with allergies may be restricted from getting treats or may need prescription treats. Speak to your veterinarian to determine if you can give treats or food while administering the injection.

 

Is there any danger if she doesn't keep still?

Most owners are concerned that they may break the needle off in the skin, but this is extremely unlikely to occur. The needle may bend but it is much more likely that the injection will end up outside the pet rather than inside when dealing with a wiggly pet. If you are unsure that your pet received the full amount of the injection, contact your veterinary hospital for instructions.

Generally, if you are unsure how much you injected, do not administer more unless directed by your veterinarian.

 

Can you explain the exact technique of giving an injection?

The injections are given in the subcutaneous tissue (sub = under, cutaneous = skin), which is considerably looser in the cat than in the human.

  • Start by pinching some loose skin along the back of your cat between your thumb and forefinger.
  • Hold the syringe firmly in your dominant hand in whichever way feels most comfortable. Be sure not to place your hand or finger over the plunger of the syringe in case your cat suddenly moves and pushes your hand, resulting in the contents being wasted or accidentally injected.
  • Insert the needle swiftly into the fold of skin, with the needle angled downwards at a thirty- to forty-five-degree angle. Most syringes are small enough to allow the plunger to be depressed with the palm of the same hand once the needle has been positioned underneath the skin.
  • Administer the contents of the syringe quickly and withdraw the needle.
  • Gently massage the area.

Having someone assist you will make the procedure easier. With a little practice, however, most pet owners find that they have no problems administering routine injections to their cat without assistance.

How should I dispose of the needles and syringes?

You should be aware that some communities have strict rules about disposal of medical waste material, so do not throw the needle and syringe into the trash until you know if this is permissible. It is usually preferable to take the used needles and syringes to your veterinary clinic or local pharmacy for proper disposal.

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