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How To Pill A Cat

Updated on January 14, 2016
Bob Bamberg profile image

Bob has been in the pet supply business and writing about pets, livestock and wildlife in a career that spans three decades.


Some Tried and True Methods Are Still Pertinent Today

If you've ever had to give your cat a pill, you know that it takes forever to see the tip of the cat’s tongue; the telltale sign that the pill has been swallowed. If you're like most folks, you think that's the end of it. Well, I’m here to give you the rest of the story.

Now this goes back to the turn of the century…did you ever believe you’d be talking about the turn of the century like it was 12 years ago?...anyway, back then researchers at the University of Florida studied what happens after the cat swallows the pill (which often happens at the end of a long, painful battle, right?). Using fluoroscopy, they determined that if the pill entered the stomach within 30 seconds that was normal.

If it took longer than 30 seconds, the interval was considered "prolonged." And if the pill was still in the throat after 4 minutes, it was considered "entrapped." In 53 per cent of the tests, the pill became entrapped.

In each of those cases the cat was then given a small amount of food, which carried the pill into the stomach. So as a result of that research, one can assume it’s a good idea to give your cat a snack right after you give it a pill.

Unless, of course, the medication is to be given on an empty stomach. Check with your vet.

By the way, here’s a little tip for the next time you have to pill your cat and it turns out to be a test of wills: First, bring in Seal Team 6…a little pet humor, there…first, lubricate the pill with a tiny dab of butter or margarine, then pry the cat’s mouth open with your thumb and forefinger on either side of its jaws. Next place the pill as far back on the tongue as you can, and hold the mouth closed while you stroke the cat’s throat with the fingertips of your other hand.

After swallowing the pill, most cats will lick their lips.
After swallowing the pill, most cats will lick their lips. | Source

There’s a reflex that causes the cat to stick the tip of its tongue out when it swallows the pill.

When you see that, it’s probably OK to give the cat a snack so the pill won’t become “entrapped,” (unless it’s supposed to be given on an empty stomach).

You might want to watch her for a few seconds just in case she does spit the pill out.

It’s been known to happen a time or two.

Or, you can just try Greenies Pill Pockets.

They worked beautifully with my cat, but I’ve had customers tell me that it didn’t with theirs.

Some said the cat (or dog) ate the Pill Pocket and spit out the pill. It didn't seem to happen too often, though.

If your cat (or dog) has a wheat intolerance, look for the Pill Pockets Allergy Formula, which is made without wheat, and available for both species.


Also from the early part of the 21st century, The National Companion Animal Study, which was a joint effort of Hills Pet Nutrition and the University of Minnesota vet school.

No small undertaking, the study involved over 31 thousand dogs and over 15 thousand cats.

It determined that only 7 per cent of dogs examined by vets were given a clean bill of health.

Dental disease, skin conditions, fleas and ear infections were the most common ills.

Cats fared better. 9.7 per cent were given clean bills of health.

The most common problems? Dental disease, fleas and ear mites.

Maintaining that hourglass figure was a problem, too, with 28 to 30 per cent of dogs and cats found to be overweight, the study revealed.

But, as the saying goes, "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

Around Y2K, the pet supply industry noticed that pet owners had become much more conscious of their pets’ weight, and brought products to market to address that trend. Yet pet obesity continues to be a problem and those overweight numbers are just as valid today as they were back then.

More recent numbers that I've seen claim that around 25 per cent to 41 per cent of dogs and cats are considered overweight with 5 per cent to 7 per cent obese to morbidly obese.

Those are the animals more prone to arthritis, diabetes and heart disease.

The Pet Owner vs. The Veterinarian

When you disagreed with your veterinarian's assessment of your pet's weight, did you

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    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 5 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi Peggy, thanks for stopping by. Your idea of bringing the cat to the vet for pilling is actually pretty common. I've known people to bring their pets in for hydration therapy, pilling, insulin injections, etc. A lot of folks feel that they just weren't cut out to be vet techs.

      Hello tlmcgaa70, I'm presently working to get a few bones to stick out, but it ain't happenin' and probably won't. I just don't want to go back to where I was before the weight loss.

      Yeah, out in the badlands the culture is different, I guess. Around here if you shoot a dog you might just as well have shot a person. Animal cruelty laws are strict and enforced, which I think is a good thing. Thanks for commenting.

      Hi Pamela, nice of you to comment. I think vegetable oil would also work...anything to lubricate the pill. We've all had pills stick to the back of our throat but, of course, we don't panic. It must be quite different for an animal that doesn't understand what's going on.

      An airport must be a pretty scary place for a cat. I know my cat would be terrified and would bolt if given half a chance. Can you imagine trying to capture a spazzed out cat in a hectic airport terminal? Thanks for voting and sharing.

      Regards to all,


    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Kinnaird W 5 years ago from Maui and Arizona

      A dab of butter or margarine -- what a good idea. Hopefully I've pilled my cat for the last time. I had to travel with her four times and I'm not doing it again. Actually, she was very good on the plane each time, but I was very stressed out about going through security and losing her when having to take her out of the cat carrier.

      Voting up, useful and sharing.

    • tlmcgaa70 profile image

      tlmcgaa70 5 years ago from south dakota, usa

      Bob, you are right about that. i am 5'10 with a large frame and large bones. but they dont take the large frame/bones into considertation. according to their charts i should weigh around 175 pounds. that is ridiculous...when i weighed 185 many years ago my bones stuck out. i am overweight now but i am told i carry my weight well. but even if i could lose all the weight i wanted to i would not wish to drop below 185. oh...i dont know what all is in the mix but he looks almost full blood pit. he wandered in one day and we decided to keep him as it was the only way to save his life...where i live pits, dobeys and rotties can all be shot on sight, no questions asked, by anyone with a gun and a hatred for the breed.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Getting a cat to take a pill is a real challenge as we found out one time. I ended up taking her to the vet each day so that they could administer the pill. It was easier than fighting with her. Ha! Interesting that some of the pills become "entrapped." Obviously not good for the cat!

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 5 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hello, tlmcgaa70, nice to have you stop by. Vets have a uniform system for determining if an animal is overweight and, I think, it somewhat restricts the ability to be subjective. I've heard a lot of pet owners say the same thing you did, though...the animal looks fine to them but the vet thinks differently.

      A lot of people disagree with the "ideal weight" charts for humans, too. It's like creating an impossible goal. I'm 5'8'' and went from 236 to 183 lbs. and was still around 10 pounds heavier than those charts said I should be. I just couldn't get below the 183, but I'm OK with that.

      It seems to me that a 60 pound pit mix is pretty reasonable...unless it's a pithuahua. :-)

      In the colder climates, outdoor dogs can use as much as 25% more caloric intake to maintain body temperature. The trick is, getting them back down to the smaller portion in the spring. I agree, a dog with a sunken in stomach is a pathetic sight, unhealthy, and probably in a lot of discomfort. Thanks for commenting, voting and sharing. Regards, Bob

    • tlmcgaa70 profile image

      tlmcgaa70 5 years ago from south dakota, usa

      cute, informative hub. while the cat in the above picture is definitely fat, i find i disagree with what the vets consider to be over weight. i have seen them call a 60 pound pit bull mix over weight. i think a lot depends on whether an animal is indoor or outdoors. it is desirable for outdoor animals to put on a little extra weight to keep them warm. at 60 pounds my pit mix looks perfect, not at all fat. i cant stand to see an animal with a sunken in stomach voted up and shared.