How Can I Give A Pill To My Cat? [Stress-Free Techniques]

Caught in a cat-and-mouse game trying to medicate your feline friend? You're not alone! This is a common challenge for cat owners everywhere.

Even our cat forums are buzzing about it. It's a puzzle that has many of us stumped. But don't worry, there's a solution to this seemingly impossible task.

We've gathered some tried-and-true strategies on how to give your cat a pill without the fuss.

It's simpler than you might think, and it's all about understanding your cat's behavior and using it to your advantage.

So, stick around. This information could make a world of difference for you and your whiskered companion.

Owner giving a pill to sick cat.

The Basic Procedure: Giving Your Cat a Pill

Technically speaking, the procedure of giving a pill to your cat is straightforward. Here's a step-by-step guide:

1. Positioning Your Hands

The first step in giving your cat a pill involves positioning your hands correctly. Place your thumb and forefinger on each side of your cat's mouth.

This gives you control over the cat's head and allows you to gently open their mouth in the next step.

2. Opening the Cat's Mouth

With your hands in position, apply gentle pressure to open the cat's mouth. This step requires patience and care, as you don't want to startle or hurt your feline friend.

3. Lowering the Cat's Jaw

Once the cat's mouth is open, use your other hand to gently press down the lower jaw. This creates enough space for you to place the pill onto the cat's tongue.

4. Placing the Pill

Now comes the crucial part: placing the pill. Aim to pop the pill deep inside, onto the back of the tongue. This placement makes it harder for the cat to spit out the pill.

5. Closing the Cat's Mouth

After placing the pill, close the cat's mouth and hold it gently but firmly. This prevents the cat from spitting out the pill and prepares them for the swallowing process.

6. Encouraging Swallowing

Finally, massage the cat's throat until they swallow. Look out for the telltale sign of successful pill administration: the cat's tongue popping out to lick the nose.

When you see this, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Well done, the pill is in!

The steps may sound simple, but the real challenge lies in getting your cat to cooperate.

How do you get your cat to let you gently press their jaws and pop in that little pill? That's the question we'll tackle next.

Close up cat's face when owner are giving a pill to adorable young cat by hand

The Art of Restraint: Ensuring a Safe Pill Administration

Administering a pill to your cat often requires some level of restraint. The method you choose will depend on your cat's temperament and your comfort level.

1. The Table Technique

For some cats, simply placing them on a table and holding them firmly under your arm might suffice. Your hands are then free to administer the pill.

2. The Kneeling Approach

An alternative technique involves kneeling on the floor with your feet folded under you.

Position the cat between your legs, with her head facing forward. This setup prevents the cat from backing away during the process.

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3. The Buddy System

For more spirited cats, you might need a helper. Choose someone who is familiar with cats and can approach the task calmly and confidently.

It's best if the helper knows the specific cat you're medicating. They should hold the cat firmly, preferably by the scruff, while supporting the cat's body.

4. The Towel Wrap

If there's a risk of clawing, consider wrapping the cat in a thick towel, leaving only the head exposed. This method provides a safe way to restrain the cat without risking injury.

Regardless of the method you choose, remember to stay calm and act quickly.

Minimize the time you need to restrain your cat and aim to keep the process as stress-free as possible.

Your calm demeanor will help put your cat at ease, making the task smoother for both of you.

man's hand gives a medicine in a syringe to a Scottish cat wrapped in towel

More Handy Hints for Hassle-Free Cat Medication

Administering a pill to your cat can be a tricky task. Here are some tips to make the process smoother and more effective.

1. Butter It Up

Coat the pill with a little bit of butter. This not only enhances the taste but also helps the pill slide down your cat's throat more easily.

Click here to see this butter on Amazon.

2. Use a Pill Popper

A pill popper can be a game-changer. It allows you to quickly and effectively place the pill on the cat's tongue without risking your fingers.

Click here to see this pill popper on Amazon.

Remember, the goal is not to shoot the pill down the cat's throat but to position it on the tongue where the cat will naturally swallow it.

3. Don't Break the Pill

Avoid breaking the pill. Many pills have a coating designed to mask the taste of the medicine. Breaking the pill can expose the bitter taste, potentially leading to a foaming cat.

4. Explore Flavored Medication

Some medications come in pet-friendly flavors. Consult your vet about these options to make medication time more appealing for your cat.

5. Hide the Pill in a Treat

Consider hiding the pill inside a cat treat. Some treats are designed with a hollow center for this purpose.

However, this method may not work for all cats or all types of medicine. Some cats can detect the medicine and will either ignore the treat or spit out the pill.

6. Consider Liquid Medication

Ask your vet if the medication is available in liquid form. Administering liquid medication with a syringe (without the needle, of course) can sometimes be easier.

No matter which technique or tips you choose to follow, always remember to plan ahead and keep the procedure as quick and calm as possible.

Your preparation and composure can make a world of difference in making the process stress-free for both you and your cat.

veterinarian opens the cat's mouth with his hand and gives medicine from a syringe

When Pilling Isn't an Option: Alternative Medication Methods for Your Cat

Administering a pill to your cat isn't always possible. Some cats can be particularly resistant, turning into what one of our forum members affectionately described as "Tasmanian Devils."

In such cases, the risk of injury to both the cat and the owner can make pilling an impractical option.

Understanding Your Cat's Resistance

If you find yourself asking, "How can I give a pill to my cat?" and the answer is consistent, "You can't," it's time to explore other options.

It's important to recognize that every cat is unique, and what works for one may not work for another.

Consulting Your Vet for Alternatives

If your feline friend falls into the 'difficult-to-pill' category, don't despair. Consult your vet about alternative methods of administering the necessary medication.

woman working in vet clinic explaining about the med

Exploring Paste Medication

Your vet may be able to provide the same treatment in the form of a paste.

This can often be mixed with food or applied to the cat's paw for them to lick off, making it a less stressful option for both you and your cat.

Considering Injections

In some cases, injections might be a viable alternative. While this might sound daunting, many owners find it easier than pilling, especially with a bit of guidance from their vet.

Nothing Quite Like Personal Experience

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, traditional pilling methods just don't work. Some cats are incredibly resistant, making the process stressful and potentially harmful.

If you're dealing with such a situation, you're not alone. Here are some insights from our forum and team member, Columbine, who faced a similar challenge.

Columbine's Journey: From Despair to Success

Columbine's cat, Calidor, was diagnosed with heart disease and needed daily medication.

However, Calidor was extremely resistant to taking pills, and attempts to medicate him often resulted in stressful chases around the house.

Eventually, the stress of pilling became so intense that the vet decided it was doing more harm than good.

As Calidor's condition worsened, it became crucial for him to receive his medication. Columbine had to find a way to make it work. The solution? Liquid medication.

Unlike pills, Calidor couldn't hide the liquid in his mouth and spit it out later.

The Game-Changer: Timing and Patience

Columbine discovered that timing was crucial. Instead of sticking to a rigid schedule, she waited for Calidor to be relaxed before attempting to medicate him.

This approach, combined with staying calm and patient, significantly reduced the stress for both of them.

Columbine's Step-by-Step Guide to Stress-Free Medication

Here's Columbine's method for administering medication to a resistant cat:

1. Wait for the Right Moment

Wait until the cat is relaxed and settled in a convenient place.

2. Prepare the Medication

Have the pill or syringe ready.

3. Position Yourself

Approach the cat and use your non-dominant hand to gently restrain forward movement. Use your body to block backward movement.

4. Administer the Medication

Encourage the cat to open its mouth and slip the pill or syringe tip into the mouth. Aim for the back of the cheek rather than straight down the throat.

5. Reward the Cat

After administering the medication, give your cat a head rub and some treats to take away the taste.

Key Takeaways from Columbine's Experience

Columbine's experience highlights the importance of staying calm, being firm, and moving swiftly.

It's also crucial to be prepared and have everything ready before starting the process. If the cat becomes too stressed or runs off, it's better to try again later when they're more settled.

Remember, the goal is to ensure your cat gets the necessary medication in the least stressful way possible.

If traditional pilling methods fail, don't despair. There are always alternative approaches to explore.

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How Can I Give A Pill To My Cat

Read more on:

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Are Alternative Treatments Safe For Cats?

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11 comments on “How Can I Give A Pill To My Cat? [Stress-Free Techniques]

tyleete February 27, 2024
Forgot the 'Wrap your body around the cat's method for pilling.😂 I have 1 cat that is just miserable to pill, but both my husband and suck at feeling me hold down a cat! For this cat I have to sit on the floor, pull her body even with my chest, take my left leg and put it up over her butt & tail to keep her from jerking away while my left hand holds her mouth open and my left shoots the pill down. When then it's difficult. But if done quickly and firmly, is successful. Also, I don't shoot to put the pull on her tongue. They spit it back out when I don't get it to the back. Cats. Aren't they just bundles of fun. 😄
di and bob September 25, 2018
catclan said:
I would also follow the pill immediately with a bit of wet cat food or fluid to help the pill down, like plain baby food or tuna water; not only will this help prevent erosive esophagitis, it might help the cat see the whole procedure in a slightly better light: "I get treats at the end!"
I have one cat that is absolutely impossible to pill. The vet and two others, including my husband, ended up bloody. The ONLY way to give him his medications is to get them in liquid, firmly grasp him by the loose skin on the back of the neck, and hoist his front feet off the ground. It instinctively quiets them. Then quickly insert the syringe in the side of the mouth and give the medication. It finally worked! Other cats I put the liquid in a sMALL amount of tuna juice, usually works well, especially with the ferals. Or get a small amount of Pill Pockets for cats, and 'paste' a pill to a piece of bacon. most cats can't resist bacon, and swallow it quickly!
feline03 April 16, 2015
Hi 2catlady.  Yes, I have to give my cat a fiber "capsule" which is quite large once a day.  I used to give it in the morning but had to chase him and often ran out of time to leave the house to go to work.  I now give it to him when I get home from work; I am not so pressured for time and I'm sure less anxious.  It has been going well for a couple of weeks now. He doesn't seem to mind.  I do brush him a little on top of the cat tree before and then feed him wet food right after.  Try a different time of day that is good for you and him/her.  Good luck
2catlady April 16, 2015
I didn't use to have an issue, but my cat has been on an antibiotic first for a UTI and then a week later he developed some issue where he is vomiting and the vet prescribed a pill to give 2x a day.  I was doing so well until today- the cat has learned the pill drill and refuses to come near me whenever I sit on the floor or try to pet him.  Has anyone else experienced this? 
nekomaui March 24, 2015
Opps, I meant let go when it isn't going well.
nekomaui March 24, 2015
I have a permenant split nail on my left thumb resulted from a bite while trying to give a pill to a familar feral cat years ago. He came for food regularly and could be touched and all. But when it came to a pill, it was another matter. What I want to say is be very careful and let go once you sense that it is going well. My current cats are really easy to give a pill to, luckily.
becky j March 24, 2015
My cat just recovered from a bladder infection, and I had to give her a pill twice a day for 10 days. I sat down and held her firmly but lovingly with her spine against my chest. Then I caught her head, and tilted her mouth up.  That's when I pressed against both sides of her mouth, to get her to open her mouth completely.  At that point I very quickly tossed the pill into the back of her throat, and pressed her mouth closed.  I held her mouth closed with one hand, and gently stroked her throat until she has swallowed.   Then I immediately gave her her favorite wet food.  The whole time I was very soothingly telling her how good she is and how much I love her.  Thank goodness the 10 days is over, and she is healthy, and the pill experience is over, at least for now.
Margret March 24, 2015
Go to YouTube and search on "Low stress way to pill a cat." Posted by a vet. He spits into the cat's mouth to make it a bit easier; I just hold a bit of water in my mouth that I can use. Next time, I'll try the butter suggestion. I knew a cat once who was addicted to bread. Now, that was an easy cat to pill. She knew her humans didn't give her bread, so all you had to do was put a pill in a bread ball, and then give her a chance to steal it. She'd get it down as fast as possible to avoid being stopped. Margret
kitty momsy April 24, 2014
Very informative! Now I know better. Thank you so much!
bella360 September 6, 2013
This article has definitely been informative. Marbles was spayed 2 weeks back, and ended up with a bad reaction to the stitches, so she was put on antibiotics. For the first bit I was able to hide her half pill in her raw bites food, but she quickly caught on after a yucky experience of actually chewing the pill up. Poor girl looks like she was going to vomit. I'll have to try some of these suggestions because it has been a bit of a fight to get her to take them. Thanks a lot.
catclan February 1, 2013
I would also follow the pill immediately with a bit of wet cat food or fluid to help the pill down, like plain baby food or tuna water; not only will this help prevent erosive esophagitis, it might help the cat see the whole procedure in a slightly better light: "I get treats at the end!"

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