Applying Ointments, Creams, and Lotions on Cats

Applying topical medications to your pet can sometimes be a challenge. This information may help make treating your pet easier - for both of you.

What is the difference between creams, ointments, and lotions?

Creams are non-greasy. Ointments have an oily base. Lotions are liquid preparations. All are similar as far as application is concerned.

Creams, ointments, and lotions are for external use only. It is important to prevent your cat from licking and swallowing any of these external preparations as they may contain ingredients that could be harmful if swallowed. Many veterinary formulations are specially designed for rapid absorption to minimize this problem. Ask your veterinarian about any precautions with your pet’s ointment, cream, or lotion.

“It is important to prevent your pet from licking and swallowing any of these external preparations as they may contain ingredients that could be harmful if swallowed.”

Be sure to follow any directions concerning application of the product, e.g., using gloves, avoiding the eyes, etc. This is important since some veterinary preparations may be irritating to human skin or eyes. Most topical preparations work better if they are gently massaged in for a few moments after application.


My cat is perfectly fine until I try to put the medication on and then she becomes very agitated.

In the early stages of treatment, the wound may still be painful, and/or the medication may cause some mild but temporary discomfort such as stinging or burning.

It is always a good idea to get someone to help hold your cat, especially when applying medications on a sensitive or painful area. Gently wrapping the cat in a warm towel can also aid in restraint while applying ointment, creams, or lotions.  Your veterinarian may also have soothing pheromone-type sprays (such as Feliway®) that may help calm your cat prior to applying the medication.


I can apply the preparation but my cat licks it off as soon as it is applied.

A good tip in this case is to apply the product just before feeding your cat. You may also give your cat treats during treatment to divert its attention and make the experience more enjoyable.

If you still have trouble keeping your pet from licking the medication, please contact your veterinarian to get your cat fitted for an Elizabethan collar (cone), such as the one shown in the photograph, to prevent your cat from licking at the affected area.


I have tried an Elizabethan collar but my cat goes crazy with it on!

Most cats are initially upset by the collar because it is unfamiliar, and it limits their field of vision. Try giving your cat a special treat to distract her from the collar. Most cats learn to accept the collar within a few hours, especially if they are rewarded for good behavior. There are also several types of collars, and some may be more comfortable for your cat than others. If you are still having trouble, please call your veterinarian and a solution will be worked out for your cat.

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