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How to Give a Cat a Pill

Updated on September 12, 2012

Pill the Cat and Live to Tell the Tale

Some people have no problem at all giving their cats pills. If you are reading this lens, chances are you are not one of them. It's ok. It's not easy to get a cat to do something it doesn't want to do. Successfully pilling a cat is a matter of preparation, patience, and skill. You can do this, without blood loss. [photo credit: Icebooter, Wikipedia]

Step One - Be Prepared

Before You Get the Cat

Here's the plan: You are going to wrap the cat up in a towel or blanket so that it can't struggle or get away, give it the pill, and make sure the pill is swallowed. First, you need to gather your materials:


towel or small blanket

It may also help to have a little butter or margarine, a bit of canned food, and an eyedropper that you have filled with low-sodium chicken broth. Some medications cannot be given with food, while others are supposed to be given with food. Pay attention to the details of your prescription so you know whether or not you can offer treats or mix the pill with food. If the pill can be given with food, you may wish to coat the pill with a bit of butter or margarine. This helps it to go down more easily. Giving the cat a bit of broth or liquid from canned food right after administering the pill can help get the cat to swallow. Treats are for afterwards, to reward your kitty.

Once you have gathered your materials, you need to catch the cat. I recommend performing the pilling procedure in a small enclosed room such as a bathroom because a highly resistant feline may try to make a break for it or spit out a pill, requiring you to start over again.

Step 2 - Do the Deed

If there are only two steps, then it must be easy, right?

You need to be decisive and confident about this part. Be gentle with your cat, but don't take no for an answer.

  1. I usually start out sitting cross-legged on the floor, with the medication in easy reach, but do this however you and the cat are comfortable.

  2. Wrap the cat in the towel, sort of like bundling a baby, so only its head protrudes. Don't allow feet (claws) to get out either the top or bottom of the towel.

  3. Hold the cat in your non-dominant arm.
  4. Use your dominant hand to pick up the pill and gently prise open the cat's mouth from the corners of its lips.

  5. The goal here is to get the pill to the v-shaped area at the back of the cat's throat. Don't flick the pill, as that involves a risk of choking your cat. Insert your fingers and the pill into the cat's mouth from the front. Don't go at it from the sides unless you want bitten.

  6. Let the cat close its mouth. Use your hand to keep its mouth closed, while continuing to hold it close.

  7. Stroke the cat's throat and lightly blow on its nose to encourage swallowing.

  8. At this point, you can try offering a dropper of broth, tuna liquid, or water. This is a good way to see if the pill has truly been swallowed.

  9. If you are pretty sure the pill has been taken, offer a treat.

I have had a cat that would hide the pill, unswallowed, to spit out as soon as he was set free. Be certain the pill has been taken before releasing your cat. If the pill is unswallowed, start again. If the pill becomes too degraded, discard it and try another.

Pills in Food

While I've never had a cat that would accept a pill that was hidden in a chunk of food (works with dogs, so worth a try, right?), there are some pills you can grind up to feed your cat with a small amount of canned food. For example, I find Program and Capstar can be crushed and mixed with a bit of canned food. My present cat will eat the medication that way (some won't, so be prepared to use the whole-pill method). Don't mix the food in with an entire can of food because then it is very hard to be certain the full dose is administered.

See How to Medicate a Cat

Do you have questions or comments about this lens or advice on giving a cat a pill? Sign the guestbook and leave a comment.

Have You Ever Given a Cat a Pill?

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    • UniversalCats profile image


      5 years ago

      Great lens! My little one usually spits out the pills, have to resort to liquid.

      Thanks for the tips!

    • kezan98 lm profile image

      kezan98 lm 

      9 years ago

      Thanks for joining the Cat Party Group, We've given you a top rating for this cat lens


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