What is the easiest way to give a pill to my cat?
Giving pills to cats can be a challenge, even for the most experienced veterinarian! The easiest way to give your cat a pill is to hide the pill in food. This usually works best if the pill is hidden in a small amount of wet cat food, tuna, or a soft treat that can be molded around the pill (i.e., Pill Pockets™). To ensure that your cat swallows the pill, place it in a small amount of food that your cat is certain to eat rather than a large portion that she may not complete. Some cats may spit out the pill, so it is important to observe your cat both during and shortly after eating medicated food.
What if she spits the pill out when she finds it?
If your cat persists in spitting out the pills or if dietary restrictions prevent you from hiding the pills in an appealing food or treat, try to administer the pill directly into your cat’s mouth. Make sure that you have carefully read the prescription label and understand the dosing instructions. Although medicating your cat can be intimidating, try to remain calm and confident, as your cat is likely to pick up on your stress.
“…try to remain calm and confident, as your cat is likely to pick up on your stress.”
Here are some tips to keep in mind before you begin:
- Prepare a safe place to handle your cat with minimal distractions. Have the pill ready and in a place where it will be easily accessible.
- Never interrupt your cat from eating, eliminating (litter box use), or grooming to pill your cat.
- If you are administering the medication on your own, you may find it easiest to place your cat in your lap. It may be simpler for you to wrap your cat securely in a blanket or towel with only her head exposed.
How do I administer the pill directly into my cat’s mouth?
1. Lubricate or ‘grease’ the pill with a very small amount of some gravy from canned food or a piece of a soft treat so it does not stick in your cat’s mouth or throat and will be easier to swallow. This is very helpful with the administration of capsules.
2. Hold the pill between your dominant hand’s thumb and index finger.
3. Gently grasp your cat’s head from above with your other hand by placing your thumb on one side of the upper jaw and your fingers on the other. Tilt your cat’s head back over her shoulder so that her nose points to the ceiling. Her jaw should drop open slightly. With your pilling hand, use your little finger and ring finger to open your cat’s mouth further by gently putting pressure on the lower lip and front teeth.
4. Quickly place the pill as far back over the tongue as possible. Try to place it on the back one-third of the tongue to stimulate an automatic swallowing reflex, then close your cat’s mouth and hold it closed while you return her head to a normal position.
5. Gently rub your cat’s nose or throat or blow lightly on her nose. This should stimulate swallowing. Usually, a cat will lick its nose with its tongue if it has swallowed the pill. In some cases, it may help the cat swallow the pill better if you follow the pill with a little tuna juice, flavored broth, or water gently squirted into the mouth with a syringe or offer the tuna juice or flavored broth in a teaspoon or a bowl.
“Usually, a cat will lick its nose with its tongue if it has swallowed the pill.”
6. Right after pilling your cat, give her some positive reinforcement (e.g., treat, brushing, petting, or playing). Be sure it is something that your cat enjoys.
What if this does not work either?
If you continue to have difficulty, you may want to purchase a ‘pet piller’ device or speak to your veterinarian for advice.
If you find that giving your cat a pill is a frustrating experience (for both you and your cat), it may be possible to have the medication compounded into a flavored liquid. Veterinary pharmacies can prepare many medications into liquid or treat formulas with appealing flavors such as tuna, chicken, or salmon. Some medications can even be made into a gel that can be rubbed onto the ear flap.
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