Some cat people are "naturals" at pilling cats. It is a real and rare talent. These people can nonchalantly walk by any cat, quickly open said cat's mouth, pop a pill in, pat its throat for 20 seconds and voila! The pill is in! Sounds far-fetched? I wouldn't have believed it myself had I not seen such a person in action in a cat shelter I volunteered at.
For us mere mortals, peacefully and successfully pilling a cat remains an obscure art form. The success of the procedure often depends more on the cat's approach than on any technique the human may apply. Read more about pilling techniques in our article: How Can I Give a Pill to My Cat.
Most of us look for a less confrontational and hopefully more effective way of pilling cats: hiding the medicine in a way that the cat won't notice. Easier said than done, and that's what we're here for, to make things easier with some nifty ideas shared by TCS members here over the years.
To Crush Or Not To Crush?Some of the hiding methods described below require you to crush the pill into powder and mix it into a food substance.
Please verify with your veterinarian that the specific pills prescribed for your cat can be safely crushed prior to consumption. Some pills contain substances that can irritate the cat's delicate digestive tract if administered directly. They are safe only when encapsulated in the pill's original form, and therefore the pill should be administered whole.
Once the vet gives you the green light for crushing or grinding, you can crush a pill in a designated pill crusher purchased from the pharmacy. Alternatively, smaller pills can usually be crushed between two spoons.
Ideas for Hiding PillsWhole or crushed, the challenge is to disguise the pill's smell and taste within something your cat will agree to consume. Just how successful these methods are greatly depends on the pill itself. Some pills just taste worse than others. If you're using a crushed pill, you may need to test several versions, using smaller amounts of pill powder in the same amount of "cover" until you get it right.
1. Pill pockets
There are several varieties of pill pockets available for purchase. Greenies Pill Pockets seem to be a popular choice with our members. They make a variety of pill pocket treats in different flavors, and many TCS members have reported successfully pilling their kitties using these.
Check out our Cat Pill Pockets reviews category to see more types of pill pockets, read reviews and add your own.
2. Commercial Cat Treats
Pill pockets are basically treats with a hole in them. You can buy regular soft and pliable cat treats and turn them into pill pockets. TCS member @Carolina recommends and says, "You kind of rebuild the treat with the pill inside. It always works... I have been doing it twice a day for the last year, and it never failed me. I do different flavors so she doesn't grow tired of them, but she loves it."
3. Freeze-dried raw food cubes
Some of our members have successfully used freeze-dried raw treats and even foods such as as a hiding place for a pill. TCS member @Feralvr recommends this method and described in a thread how she used to pill her Pipsqueak: "I soak a cube in a bit of warm water for a few seconds till it is soft. Break it in half and stick the pill in half of a cube. He gobbles it down, then I give him the other half cube and maybe a few more for treats. Works great every time."
Tuna appears to work for many cat owners. It has such a strong scent which appears to cover the smell of medicine well enough for most cats. Success may depend on the ratio of crushed pill powder to actual tuna, so start with at least a couple of spoonfuls of tuna for a small pill. Mix well and serve at room temperature. Tuna can be molded to cover whole pills too. TCS member @jcat shared her method saying: "I'm using flaked tuna in water from a can, and just molding it around the pills. I really have to squeeze it to get it into a semi-round form."
Please keep in mind that too much tuna can be dangerous for your cat so use it in limited amounts.
5. Creams and Cheeses
Some of our members report whipped cream and cheese spray are effective in masking pills. It's a good base substance for crushed pills, but you can also try freezing a dab of cheese spray to be used as a small pliable "pill pocket". Once formed, let it warm up to room temperature and serve. If your cat gobbles it up instead of licking it, it may just work.
6. Other food itemsGet creative! If there's a food that your cat absolutely craves, use that. TCS member @mrsgreenjeens tried hot dogs, creating a small pocket within a hot dog slice, gently placing a pill in there using tweezers. She recommends covering the pill in butter first, to make sure its scent is sealed within. You can work with other treats and foods, too. Just make sure it's a food that's safe for cats in general and specifically for your cat. Some medical conditions may call for food elimination, so it never hurts to ask your vet if your choice of "pill cover" works for your cat.
When Hiding FailsWatch your cat carefully to make sure the entire dose is actually ingested.
If your cat refuses to try the "spiked" foods or spits out the pill, don't give up too easily. Trial and error may be the only way to find out what works for your cat and for the specific type of medication you're using. You may need to experiment with types of foods and with hiding techniques but being able to easily pill your cat in a stress-free way is worth it.
Be prepared to rotate pill covers. Some cats get bored with the same kind of treat, especially if it's provided several times a day. Opt for variety and create an arsenal of pill-hiding techniques and foods.
If all else fails, talk to your vet. Some medications can be administered in liquid form or even in non-oral ways. Some pills can be turned into trans-dermal gels which you can put inside a cat's ear where they are absorbed through the skin. Other medications can be given as shots. A daily trip to the vet may not be much fun, but if there's no other way to get the medication in, you may have to do just that.
Last, but not least, share your experience with us at the Cat Health Forum. TCS members can offer support and help you figure out a system that works for you and your cat. We'd also love to hear about your own magic tricks for hiding pills, so let us know in a comment to this article or in the forums.
Comments? Leave them using the form below. Questions? Please use the cat forums for those!