5 Tips for Improving Owner Compliance

September 26, 2018

When dispensing medication for in-home treatment of feline patients, owner compliance is a concern due to the unique challenges of administering medication to cats.

“Cats have natural behaviors that may make medication administration challenging, and this can be complicated in ill cats that are also anorexic, nauseated, or vomiting,” says Christina Fernandez, DVM, MRCVS, DACVECC, Professional Services Veterinarian with Kindred Biosciences, Inc. “Palatability is also a huge factor, and most cats are finicky when it comes to food.”

There are five areas veterinarians can focus on to help improve owner compliance:1

1) Communication
2) Written information
3) Frequency of veterinary visits
4) Veterinarian continuity
5) Selection of medications

To improve compliance, Dr. Fernandez notes communication is key. Veterinarians, or veterinary nurses, can demonstrate to cat owners how to administer a medication while still in the office. This helps troubleshoot stumbling blocks and promotes active discussion with the client. If possible, written instructions can be provided. Manufacturer videos are often available for reference.

“Follow-up calls from the veterinary clinic staff can help increase owner compliance,” she says. “This can facilitate identification of issues to be addressed with the clinical state of the patient and concerns with the treatment plan while offering an opportunity to set up a follow-up appointment if one isn’t already on the books.”

Prescribing medications that are easy and convenient to use can also improve owner compliance. In a survey, 74 percent of veterinarians indicated ease of administration is one of the most important factors in selecting a medication for the management of weight loss in cats.2

“One of the first signs of disease in cats can be unintended weight loss, which may also be accompanied by nausea and vomiting,” Dr. Fernandez explains. “In these cases, it is unlikely medications will be easy to administer and accepted by the cat. Administration of pills to ill cats can be stressful for both the cat and owner and may make achieving a full course of medication less likely.”

In fact, the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) recommends pet owners do not use food as an aid in giving medications as it may cause eating aversions and reduce a cat’s food intake.3 Maintaining food intake is a critical concern — especially when underlying health issues are present. A survey of U.S. veterinarians indicated that about nine million cats experience weight loss as a result of other illness.4

Dr. Fernandez encourages veterinarians to explore new FDA-approved medications that offer the ease and convenience of topical application.

“Cats are a unique species — and are certainly not small dogs,” she says. “There is an FDA-approved transdermal product available specifically designed with cats in mind. It can be as simple as gentle application to the inner surface of the ear pinna. In addition to selecting FDA-approved medications, communication, and interaction with the cat owner while at the clinic and during follow-ups calls and visits is key to improving compliance.”

Mirataz is indicated for the management of weight loss in cats.

Important Safety Information

Mirataz® (mirtazapine transdermal ointment) is for topical use in cats only under veterinary supervision. Do not use in cats with a known hypersensitivity to mirtazapine or any of the excipients. Do not use in cats treated with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Not for human use. Keep out of reach of children. Wear gloves when handling/applying, wash hands after and avoid contact between the treated cat and people or other animals for 2 hours following application. Use with caution in cats with hepatic and kidney disease. Cat’s food intake should be monitored upon discontinuation. Safety has not been evaluated in cats less than 2 kg, less than six months of age or in breeding, pregnant or lactating cats. The most common adverse reactions observed during clinical trials were application site reactions, behavioral abnormalities (vocalization and hyperactivity) and vomiting. For product label, including complete safety information, click here.


1. Albers J, Hardesty C, eds. Compliance: Taking Quality Care to the Next Level. Lakewood, CO: American Animal Hospital Association Press; 2009.

2. 2017 Pricing Research, Kynetec, September 2017 (n=204 U.S. small animal veterinarians).

3. American Association of Feline Practitioners. Nursing care for your cat: practical tips for pet owners. 2012. https://www.catvets.com/public/PDFs/ClientBrochures/NursingCare-B&W.pdf. Accessed September 18, 2019.

4. 2017 Pricing Research, Kynetec, September 2017 (n=204 U.S. small animal veterinarians). Data on file Kindred Biosciences. American Pet Products Association (APPA), 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey (n=22,202 respondents).