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How to Give Your Cat a Pill

Updated on September 14, 2014
Samhain the cat says "Bleh"
Samhain the cat says "Bleh"

Cats don't like their medicine any more than humans. However, with practice and positive reenforcement before and afterwards (lots of cuddles, treats), most cats will learn to tolerate pills.

Here's how I pill my cat.

I learned to do it by watching and helping my Mom pill HER cat. At first, mine was stubborn, but patience, love and treats has her behaving remarkably well. See the video next to step 7 for a demo.

Also, see the professional veterinarian video at the bottom of this page for a slow-motion view of what I was doing, although most cats will not be as placid as that vet's cat.


Time required: 5 minutes

Difficulty: medium


  • Pill
  • Cat


  • (optional) blanket
  • (optional) pill syringe



1. IMPORTANT: Ask your vet to demonstrate pilling your cat in the office, and then practice while there, under your vet's supervision.

2. Before you pill the cat for the first time, find the proper spot on your own mouth. With your forefinger or index finger and your thumb, feel the hollows of your cheeks. Search for the indentation made by the gap between your back teeth, just in front of the hinge of your jaw. Gently squeeze your fingertips towards one another, encouraging your mouth to open.

3. Gather pill and optional supplies (see below), preferably in another room than the cat. Put the pill in your non-dominant hand, grasped between your fingertips. (E.G. I'm left handed, so I hold the pill with my right hand.)

4. Approach your cat. Start with a little cuddling so as to reassure the cat. I keep my pill-hand gently cupped around the cat's chest while petting with the other hand. If the cat is squirmy, hold it in the crook of your pill-hand's elbow.

5. Your dominant hand was petting the top of the cat's head. Now bring it forward, pressing your forefinger and thumb into the hinge of the cat's cheeks and squeeze gently.

6. At the same time, using the same hand, tip your cat's head UP so that the tongue will make a slope for the pill to roll down. (The nose-in-the-air position also discourages biting.) Do NOT scrunch the cat's head back into its neck.

7. The instant the mouth opens, put the pill in with your other hand, placing the pill as far back as you can. With practice, you'll be able to use your forefinger to push the pill onto the back of the tongue.Steps 5-7 must be done quite quickly. Watch the video to see me do this.

8. Lightly cup the cat's jaw closed with your pill-hand. You may want to gently massage the cat's purr-box (throat) with a fingertip to encourage it to swallow.

9. Try to hold the cat's mouth closed until you see a swallow. (The tip of the tongue may dart out to lick the lips, or you may see the gulp). Petting and encouragement with your free hand may help.

Kitty "Pill Gun" or "Pill Syringe"

10. As soon as the cat swallows, pet the cat, make encouraging sounds and/or provide a treat for positive reenforcement. Cats do learn from rewards!


-- If you have a helper, your assistant can use a blanket to wrap the cat in a "kitty burrito" to hold the cat still and keep claws tucked away.

-- Ask your vet for a "pill syringe," aka "pill gun." (See video) I find it harder to use one, but my pet-sitter swears by it. Get a demo at the vet.

-- Try Pill Pockets (see below), special treats with a cavity for a pill inside. One of my friends swears by these.

-- Ask your vet if the medicine may be crumbled into wet food. This often isn't as effective, because it dissolves all at once instead of over time or in the intestine, but for hard-to-pill cats it may be the only option.

Feline Pill Pockets

Feline Greenies Pill Pockets Cat Treats Chicken Flavor, 1.6 Oz. Pack (45 Treats)
Feline Greenies Pill Pockets Cat Treats Chicken Flavor, 1.6 Oz. Pack (45 Treats)

A few of my friends use kitty pill pockets to help get medicines down the hatch. Greenies are popular and healthy cat treats anyway, so this method folds in positive reenforcement.


Professional Vet's Tips for Pilling a Cat (blow on the nose - sneaky!)

© 2013 Ellen Brundige


Submit a Comment

  • poemsthatdance profile image

    Maria Grujicic 

    5 years ago from Darwin, Australia

    Thanks, this is so helpful! I wish I read this earlier though- I struggled a bit with my cat and I'm up to the last pill in the pack. I hate giving her pills and I'll try this out now!

  • profile image


    5 years ago

    My cat is the world's champion pill spitter-outer - Glad it's only an occasional happening. :-)


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