Cat Articles: Wellness

How to Give a Cat a Pill

At some point in pet parenthood, you may have to give your cat a pill. You should only administer medications as prescribed and directed by your veterinarian, but these steps can help you get ready.

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orange cat being handed a pill

Be prepared. Here’s what you’ll need:

• Soft towel or blanket
• Cat’s pill(s) within easy reach
• Favorite canned food
• Favorite cat treats

Ready, set, pill

  1. Find a safe place to give your cat the pill where you won’t be disrupted by other pets and family members.   
  2. Swaddle your cat securely in a soft towel or blanket keeping her head exposed, or place her in your lap.
  3. Make sure the pill is within easy reach.
  4. Lubricate the pill in a small amount of wet food so it goes down smoothly, especially if your cat’s medication is a larger capsule.
  5. With your dominant hand, hold the pill between your thumb and index finger.
  6. Using your other hand, grasp your cat's head gently by placing your thumb on one side of her upper jaw and your fingers on the other side of her mouth. [NOTE: You may want to practice handling your cat and the pill at the same time, as noted above. Then, when you’re comfortable, take a deep breath and…]
  7. Ease your cat's head back so her nose points to the ceiling, causing her jaw to open slightly.
  8. Lightly press on her lower lip and front teeth using the pinky and ring fingers on your dominant “pill hand” to help open your cat’s mouth wider.
  9. Quickly place the pill as far back on her tongue as possible. The further back, the more you stimulate the swallow reflex.
  10. Close your cat's mouth and keep it closed while you bring her head forward to its normal position.

TIPS: Cats normally lick their noses after swallowing. If your cat doesn’t do this after you’ve given the pill, you can rub her nose or throat softly, blow lightly, or place a drop of water on her nose.

Practice makes perfect

If the above steps don’t work, try this:

  1. Place your cat on an elevated table and hold her lightly by the scruff of her neck.
  2. Gently lift her head to raise her front paws off the surface, which normally will cause her mouth to open.
  3. As soon as her mouth opens, quickly and cautiously place the pill as far back on her tongue as possible. After all, you don’t want your cat to nip you!

Use a “piller”

If your cat keeps spitting out the pill, you may want to try a soft-tip pet piller, also known as a pill popper or gun. These devices can help open your cat’s mouth wider so you can pop the pill far enough back to avoid being spit out.

CAUTION: Don’t place the piller too far back in your cat’s mouth.

Alternate method

If giving your cat a pill turns out to be a major pill (for you and your feline), ask your veterinarian if your cat’s medication can be delivered via a transdermal patch or formulated into a liquid. Many common pills can be compounded into liquids made with feline-friendly flavors such as chicken, salmon or tuna

Post pill-time rewards

Create a positive association with pill time by encouraging and rewarding your feline with tasty, wholesome BLUE cat treats. After all, they may make the medicine go down more smoothly next time. And don’t forget to treat yourself to your favorite reward, too. You deserve it for being such a caring cat parent.