How to Give a Cat a Pill

Giving a cat a pill is no easy task. As a rule, cats resist taking medicine, sometimes putting up a fight and trying to flee. Not only does this behavior cause anxiety for both you and your cat, it means your cat may not receive the medication he needs to get well. With practice and patience, you can learn how to give your cat a pill, while causing as little stress as possible.

First Step: Preventing Escape

Placing your cat at approximately waist length, as on a table or counter, will make the process easier. Your cat will instinctively try to escape as you try to administer medication. If possible, before you begin, have a helper gently grasp your cat's hindquarters, so your cat will not be able to back away from you. Or, if you are by yourself, sit with your cat's back to the arm of a chair or sofa. Another method is to cradle your cat under your arm to your body.

Second Step: Getting Your Cat's Head and Mouth into Position

Now it is time to turn your cat's head upward. Place your hand on the skull and press until the head and nose are pointing straight up. Then, grasp the pill with the thumb and forefinger of your other hand, leaving the middle finger free to insert through the jaws to open your cat's mouth. You can expect your cat to resist this maneuver, but keep pressing-though, again, very gently.

Third Step: Placing the Pill in Your Cat's Mouth

Drop the pill in the back of your cat's mouth so it lands where the tongue forms a 'V,' quickly removing your fingers. Immediately press the mouth shut, holding it that way for about 10 seconds. Be careful not to allow an opening through which your cat could expel the pill. Stroke your cat's throat, which stimulates swallowing. If your cat is still able to spit out the pill when you release your grip on the jaws, it is an indication you need to place the pill farther back in the mouth initially. Be careful not to place your fingers too far back, though, as this can cause gagging. In addition, some cats are so clever, they fake licking their mouths, so their owners think they've swallowed the pill, when indeed they haven't. Just repeat the process until you are sure your cat has swallowed the pill.

Tips to Make Giving Your Cat a Pill Even Easier

  • Try these extra tips to see if they lessen the stress of giving your cat a pill:
  • Coat the pill with butter or margarine to make it easier to swallow.
  • Have cat food or a treat ready, giving it to your cat right after placing the pill in the mouth, in order to take your cat's mind off its dislike of taking medicine-thus shifting focus to a decidedly more enjoyable task.
  • Praise and pet your cat after he or she has swallowed the pill, reinforcing the successful completion of the process.
  • Ask your vet or pharmacist about making medications that taste good to your cat-like chewable tablets flavored with fish or chicken. Liquid formulations are also an option worth asking about.