How to Give Pills to Your Cat

Published: 6/10/2021

Giving pills to cats is no easy feat. Odds are, if you're reading this, you've probably already gotten a scratch or bite while trying to get a pill down your cat's hatch. Luckily, there are some tips and tricks to make medicating your feline easier. This article will discuss tried and true methods used by vets to ensure cats swallow their meds.

The treat method

The first method of getting pills down is by concealing the pill in a treat. There are all sorts of pill-concealing treats on the market, though picky eaters may prefer human food with their meds. 

Experts suggest concealing pills in canned tuna or chicken, cheese, or yogurt. However, cats can be hard to fool and may eat around the pill — so watch out for this. If your cat takes the food and leaves the pill, try crushing it into a fine powder and mixing it in a small amount of canned cat food. Consult your vet to ensure this method is safe since crushing extended-release medications can make them absorb more rapidly.

The direct method

Unfortunately, due to medication specifications and dietary restrictions, some medications have to be taken on an empty stomach. If this is the case for your pet, you'll need to administer the medication directly down their throat. Here's a step-by-step walkthrough on how to do it:

  1. Have everything you need at the ready. 

  2. Prepare a setup with a towel, the pill, a small amount of butter or coconut oil (you'll see why momentarily), and your cat.

  3.  Coat the pill in butter or coconut oil to lubricate it; this will make the pill taste better and go down easier.

  4.  Start by petting your feline to make them more comfortable. 

  5. Wrap Fluffy in a towel or thick blanket so just their head sticking out. 

  6. Position the pill between the thumb and forefinger of your dominant hand.

  7. Position your other hand on your cat's head with your palm over the top of their head and your thumb and fingers holding their cheeks.

  8. Use your pinky and ring finger to pry open your cat's mouth.

  9. Place the pill toward the back of the tongue — the further back, the better.

  10.  Hold your cat's mouth closed and gently massage your cat's throat to encourage them to swallow. 

  11. After they've swallowed, offer your cat something tasty to drink, like some tuna juice or chicken broth in a small bowl. 

  12. Treat your feline to something they enjoy after medicating them. This could be grooming, playtime, or a back scratch — anything to forge a positive association. The more positive the experience, the more your cat will learn to tolerate their medication.

The pill gun

If you've tried both of these methods and your cat still isn't taking their meds, you may need to invest in a pill gun. Pill guns look like a long syringe that shoots the medication into place when pressure is applied to the plunger. The pill gun method follows the same steps as the direct method, except you use the pilling device rather than placing the tablet directly onto the cat's tongue. Here's how to do it.

  1. Prepare the pill gun by sticking the tablet on the "grabber" end of the gun. 

  2. Hold your cat by the top of the head with your fingers and thumb grasping your cat's cheeks.

  3. Gently place the pill gun into the cat's mouth, toward the back third of the tongue. 

  4. Press on the plunger to shoot the medication into place. If your positioning is correct, your cat should swallow the pill automatically.

  5. Use a syringe to give your cat some chicken broth to help the medicine go down. 


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