Owner giving cat a pill

Key takeaway

Administering medication is necessary for the health of many cats. Unfortunately, giving a cat a pill isn't easy, especially if you don't have the proper technique. By creating a safe environment and understanding how to teach your cat to accept pills, you can make medication time easier.

How To Give A Cat A Pill In 4 Steps

Getting your cat to do anything you want them to do can be difficult. Cats are known for being independent, so asking them to take a pill can be a daunting task. Most people hope they won't have to ask their cat to do anything they don't want to do, including taking a pill. 

Unfortunately, sometimes you need to get your cat to take medication that can improve their health. Cats may need to take pills for a variety of reasons, including the treatment of worms, ear infections, and even anxiety

There are many ways to give your cat a pill, but it's important to discuss administering pills with your vet. For example, certain pills shouldn't be mixed with food or crushed up. Knowing how you can administer medication can make the process a little easier to find the best way to give your cat a pill with less hassle. 

Here are four steps to ensure your cat takes their medicine. 

Step 1: Create A Safe Environment To Handle Your Cat

Some cats don't like to be handled, especially when you're trying to force them to do something they don't want to do. When giving your cat a pill, they should be calm. You don't want to make medication time a negative experience because it'll get more difficult each time you have to do it. Instead, make the environment feel calm and safe for them. Additionally, don't interrupt them when they're in the middle of important business like eating or going to the bathroom since you don't want them upset going into the process. 

It might also be helpful to have a second person with you to handle the cat. One person can help gently restrain the cat while the other person administers the medication.Additionally, having two people around can ease your cat's anxiety and make the process more manageable.

Step 2: Gently Open Their Jaw And Administer The Pill

Once the cat is gently restrained, get the pill ready in one hand. Using your other hand, hold the top of the cat's head so that you can feel the cat's cheekbones with your fingertips. Next, gently tip your cat's head back and use your thumb and index finger to open their lower jaw.

Once your cat's mouth is open, put the pill in their mouth by placing it in the middle of their tongue, keeping your fingers away from their sharp teeth so they can't bite down. Once the pill is correctly placed, close the cat's mouth immediately and gently rub their throat to help them swallow the pill.2

Graphic outlining steps to give a cat a pill

Step 3: Check Your Cat's Mouth To Make Sure They Swallowed The Pill

It's always best to check your cat's mouth to ensure they've actually swallowed the pill. If your cat will let you, open their mouth and make sure you still can't see the pill. Check the corner of their lips, too. If you can't see the pill, it's safe to assume that they have swallowed it. 

Unfortunately, giving your cat a pill might not always be the easiest part of being a pet parent. If your cat hasn't swallowed the pill, and it's still on their tongue or in their mouth, you can try to close their mouth again and rub their throat. However, if your cat spits the pill out, you'll need to start over again. 

Step 4: Reward Your Cat

Feeding a cat medication can be stressful, and it will probably never be fun for your cat. Since taking pills is an important part of staying healthy for many cats, your cat must learn how to take pills. By rewarding your cat every time they successfully swallow a pill, you'll help them realize that taking pills gets a reward, making the experience smoother for both of you. 

You can reward your cat in any way, including giving them their favorite cat toy, praising them, or giving them extra treats once they've swallowed their medication.

Graphic showing alternative options to give your cat a pill

How To Give Your Cat A Pill: Alternative Options

Many cat owners hate giving their cats pills because of the way their cats react. We understand how difficult it can be to try to open your cat's lower jaw if they're not calm. Unfortunately, if your cat has one bad experience with taking a pill, it will likely be difficult to continue to medicate them. Luckily, there are other ways to give your cat the medication to make it easier for cats and their pet parents. Here are some other ways you can give a cat a pill:

With Food

Before giving your cat a pill with food, talk to your vet. Some medications should not be given with food. You can start training your cat to take pills by giving them a treat every time they take their medication. Additionally, you can give your cat a few treats before giving them their pill, and they may not even notice that one of those treats wasn't actually a treat. 

Of course, you should never put your cat's medication in their food bowl with their wet food or kibble because you'll never know if they swallowed it. Even if you don't see the medication in their bowl, they could have taken it out and put it somewhere else. Additionally, leaving medication in your cat's food bowl means it could get eaten by another pet, which could be potentially dangerous. 

Instead, you can get treats designed for administering medication to pets. With pill wraps or pockets, you can safely wrap up your cat's pill in a delicious treat for them to swallow whole without ever knowing what was truly inside. Pill treat pockets are the easiest way to get pets to take medication, especially if they refuse to be handled the old-fashioned way. However, it's important to remember that giving your cat additional treats throughout the day, even if they are filled with medication, increases their calorie intake and can lead to weight gain. 

Crush Pills

If pills can be combined with food, you can crush the pill up and put the powder in their regular wet food or kibble. However, not all medications should be crushed, and you should be careful not to let any other household pets consume the medicated food that isn't theirs. 

Talk to Your Vet

If your cat refuses to take pills, talk to your vet. Many medications are available in different forms. For example, cat laxatives are available in treat form, tablets, pills, and powder. Depending on your cat's needs, your vet might be able to prescribe a different form of the same medication to ensure your cat is getting the medicine they need. 

How To Give Your Cat A Pill: FAQs

How do you trick a cat into taking a pill?

In some cases, there's no reason to trick your cat into taking a pill, as long as you restrain them gently and can get them to swallow the pill. However, if your cat doesn't like taking pills, you may be better off getting their medication in another form, such as a powder or liquid, or wrapping it up in a treat that they can swallow whole. 

Is it OK to crush pills for cats?

Check with your vet before you crush your cat's medication. While it might be easier to crush their pills up and put them in wet food, crushing pills can affect the efficacy of certain medications. 

What food can I hide my cat's pill in?

Before you hide your cat's pill in food, talk to your vet to ensure the medication can be given with food. If the medication can be given with food, you can mix the pill in with a small amount of cat food or treats. There are also special treats designed to help you administer medication to your pet. 

Can a cat choke on a pill?

Yes, a cat can choke on a pill. When giving your pet medication, it's important to pay attention to their body language to ensure they're not choking. Also, always provide your cat with water so they can easily swallow the pill. 

Owner giving cat a pill

Final Notes

Giving your cat medication isn't always easy, especially for cats who don't like being handled or gently restrained. Luckily, you can make the process more enjoyable by easing their discomfort so they feel safe and rewarding them for a job well done after they've swallowed their pill. If you can't get your cat to swallow a pill, you can try various alternative methods, such as using a pill crusher or talking to your vet about finding the medication in other forms that are easier to administer. 

If your cat won't swallow pills no matter what you do, a vet might be able to prescribe you an alternative medication or form that your cat will prefer, and they can do it all from the comfort of your own home. Dutch offers telemedicine for pets that can help provide pet parents with the peace of mind to make pet ownership easier and less stressful.

References

  1. “Tips for Feline Medi-Cat-Ion Administration.” CVMBS News, 11 Mar. 2022, https://vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk/cat-medication-administration/. 

  2. “How Do You Give Oral Medications to a Cat?” Veterinary Teaching Hospital, 2 Nov. 2021, https://hospital.vetmed.wsu.edu/2021/11/02/how-do-you-give-oral-medications-to-a-cat/