Do you know how to give a cat a pill? If you’ve ever needed to feed your cat medicines, you probably know that there’s no one-fits-all recipe for success.
Now I know how to feed my cat tablets without any fuss, but it took me some good practice before managing to do it without spending hours and nerves. There’s a funny side to persuading a stubborn cat to swallow big pills, but you can rest assured that having to give a cat medicine three times a day when you know that his life depends on it is nothing to laugh about.
I want to share this with you. I’m sure there are so many people out there trying to find out how to pill a difficult cat, so my article will probably help some.
What a Cat Would Do When You Want To Give Him a Pill
When it comes to swallowing pills, cats are like children: they would not gladly open their mouth, in spite of your greatest efforts.
Unlike children, though, cats have fangs and claws, and I can tell you they use them if needed. The situation in which someone shoves a pill down their throat is maximum emergency, so you’ll surely get some nasty scratches and bites.
I remember the first time I had to give my cat medicine three times a day for a few months. I experimented several methods, such as:
- Asking somebody to hold the cat, while I tried to sneak the pill into her mouth. This was a complete failure, we got scratched all over and wasted several pills in order to make her swallow one.
- Crushing the pill, mixing the obtained powder with a sticky food (such as butter or processed cheese) and putting the mixture on the cat’s fur; she could not stand to be so dirty, so she licked the mixture. This worked fine, but she made such a sad face while cleaning herself, that I felt really bad for doing that to her.
- Wait until she yawns, then throw the pill in her mouth. This would have worked, but the cat could not be convinced to yawn at fixed hours (the pill was supposed to be taken at exactly the same hours every day).
The Best Method To Give My Cat Pills
After searching the web, asking friends and cat breeders, and a lot of practice with small pieces of food, here it is the best solution to feed your cat a pill:
1. Grab the cat from behind the face
Make sure that your thumb and index are positioned on the maxillary joint. It is good if you can do this with the cat sitting on a high place, so you do not need to bend over.
2. Slowly, shift the cat’s head backwards, gently raising his mouth.
He does not like it, but he does not object, either. Apply a slight pressure on the joint of the jaws, with your thumb and index (or middle finger). The mouth will still be closed.
3. Gently sneak your middle or ring finger between his front teeth, and push down the bottom jaw.
The cat has no power in it when her head is bent backwards, so he won’t bite back. Before attempting this, take the pill and hold it with your thumb and your index finger.
4. Now, as the cat’s mouth is wide open, throw the pill as fast and as deep as you can inside.
Try to aim the bottom of the throat, in order to avoid the contact of the pill with the tongue. Thus, the cat cannot detect the unpleasant taste, so she won’t spit the pill (yet!).
5. Keep his mouth closed and gently rub his neck, until you feel the swallowing of the pill.
6. Release the cat and watch him closely for about 10 seconds:
if he licks her mouth, it means that he swallowed the tablet. Nevertheless, look around, because some cats are tricky: they pretend they swallowed, and when you don’t watch, they spit the pill which was all the time in their mouth (my cat tried this trick with me, when I did not manage to throw the pill deep down his throat).
7. Give him a nice treat, so he gets used that this is part of the cat pilling ritual.
He might even give you a smile at the end 😉
The Cat Pilling Troubleshooting guide:
- Problem: What to do if the cat manages to run away before you immobilize him?
- Solution: Show him a toy, so he gets out from behind the sofa, and try again.
- Problem: You caught the cat and placed him into position, but you cannot sneak your finger between his teeth.
- Solution: Try to sneak your fingernail first, but be very gentle (long nails help a lot here).
- Problem: You managed to open the cat’s mouth, but you threw the pill directly on his tongue, so he spat it and ran away.
- Solution: Give your cat a nice treat, take another pill and repeat the procedure.
- Problem: You aimed at the throat, but the cat scratched you when you tried to rub his neck, he spat the pill and ran away.
- Solution: Try again, but try not to position yourself in front of the cat. Stay behind him, so he cannot reach you with her claws.
Don’t forget that practice makes perfect.
I managed to give my cat a pill without incidents only after five or six trials.
Good luck, and happy cats to all of you!
Wow, thanks! Before now I was trying several different ways to get my cat to swallow a pill, and they would always end after twenty minutes of squirming and scratching (and occasionally, swallowing a pill). These pictures showed me EXACTLY what to do. THANKS!
That’s awesome, Laura! Thank you very much for sharing your method 🙂
It’s great you made it! I’m happy for you.
Read the steps, grabbed my cat, boom done. Thanks.
Curious has to take her steroid or the swelling from the tumor in her head will cause her to endlessly circle and fall over. In two days at the hospital on this drug she is almost normal. She must also take an antibiotic because of the chance that she does not have a tumor but rather an infection. We are praying for the later because we don’t have $3,000 for an MRI that would determine exactly what her ailment is. What we have here is a classic case of “quality of life”. If I can not administer her medication without stressing her or myself or my wife out, then no one has any piece of mind. Adventures in giving Curious her pills has caused anguish and heartache to all of us. And searching for answers on the web can be just as frustrating. Every Tom Dick and Harry wants to sell something. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against people wanting to make money. I just needed a little help from someone who has been there, done that and is willing to share their success. With your tip I can see what I was doing wrong and with a little adjustment I think we will be ok. I just want to thank you because the prognosis for “Curi” is not good. And if I had to torture her every time I tried to give her the medication, that she must have twice daily, then I am confronted with that issue which I know, in the end will be the deciding factor, not just for Curious, but for all of us who own and cherish our pets and that is “quality of life”. Thank you so much for putting shared information before profits and I hope that every cat lover who reads this post will say a little prayer for Curi and that she can have joy in the time she is here with us.
Hi Jeff, thank you for your comment. I’m so sorry to hear about Curi. I hope she gets well and you’ll have the awesome time together you deserve.
On a lighter note – some different instructions on giving your cat a pill.
1. Place your kitten in the bend of your arm as if holding a baby. Put your right finger and thumb on both sides of his jaws and exert gentle pressure while keeping the pill ready in your other hand. As soon as he opens his mouth, quickly place the pill in the back of his throat and give him a chance to swallow the pill.
2. Find the pill on the floor and retrieve the kitten from behind the couch. Repeat the above process.
3. Get the damn cat from the bedroom and throw the wet pill in the waste.
4. Take a new pill from the box and take the cat in your arms again. Hold both his front legs firmly together. Force his jaws open and push the pill down his throat. Keep his jaws firmly closed for at least ten seconds.
5. Remove the pill from the aquarium using the small net. Discard. Retrieve the cat from the top of the fridge and call your partner in from the garden to come and assist.
6. Kneel on the floor and clamp the cat firmly between your knees. Grab his front legs in a strong grip and let your partner hold the cat’s head firmly. Ignore the loud growling. Force his mouth open with a wooden ruler and using the ruler as a guide, slide the pill into his mouth. Rub his throat to encourage swallowing.
7. Get the bewitched cat down from the pelmet and take another pill from the box. Make a note to buy a new ruler and to have the curtains repaired. Sweep up the pieces of glass and the ceramic remains of your ornaments and put in the trash.
8. Wrap the hissing cat in a large towel and let your partner sit on it so that just the cat’s head protrude under your hand. Suck the pill up in a drinking straw. Force the freaking cat’s mouth open and blow the pill out of straw down his throat.
9. Read the package insert to see if the pills are dangerous to humans. Drink a beer to get the taste out of your mouth. Disinfect your partner’s arm, put anti-bacterial salve on the wound and wrap his arm in a bandage. Remove the blood-stains from the carpet.
10. Fetch the flippin’ cat from the neighbour’s garage and take another pill from the box. Put the cat in your wardrobe so that just his head sticks out the door. Force his mouth open and shoot the pill down his throat with a catapult.
11. Get a large screwdriver from the tool-shed and rehang the wardrobe doors. Find the whisky bottle and take a big mouthful. Disinfect the scratches on your cheeks and check if your tetanus shots are up to date. Throw your ruined jersey in the bin and put on an old coverall.
12. Call the fire brigade to come and get satans’ cat out the tree. Apologise to the neighbours for the language and get the last pill from the box.
13. Tape both front legs of the tiger cat together with duct tape. Tie him firmly to the leg of the dining room table with a length of anchor rope. Put on your welding gloves. Push the pill into a piece of raw meat and fill a large glass with water. Hold the little shit’s head back, force his jaws open, stick the meat down his throat and pour the entire glass of water down his throat. Clamp his jaws shut for 5 minutes.
14. Take the whisky and finish the bottle in one go. Ask your partner to call 911 as you are starting to feel dizzy from blood loss. On the way to hospital, phone the shop to order a new dining room table. At the emergency room, ask them to re-attach your fingers, stitch up your arm and to remove the last pill from your left eye.
15. On the way home, phone the vet’s office and enquire if they cannot rather give the cat an injection.
Thank you so much for your advice!!! I have to give my cat pills twice a day right now. At first it was fine, as she ate the pill pockets I bought without hesitation. But today she had had enough and was refusing to eat them. I tried your techniques and gave her her meds on my first try!
yep… knew about that one, and yes, that way is darned near guaranteed to work. excellent writeup.
let me add one thing… when you drop the pill down to the back of your cat’s throat, it’s also ok to take your index finger and give the pill a nudge down its throat, too. just a fraction of an inch or so, and if you have long or sharp nails, do NOT do this!
that makes it less likely the cat can spit it out using their tongue to pop it up into their mouth again.
oh, and it works much the same way with many dogs, too!
Thank you, Alan. Your idea is great, thanks for sharing it. I didn’t even think about it because of my sharp nails.
For us novices, we wrap the pill in a “Greenies Pill Pockets”, a pliable cat treat. If we don’t get the pill far enough back in the cat’s mouth and then hold the cats mouth shut, she holds the pill in the front of her mouth and won’t swallow, we have on hand an eye dropper full of water and squirt the water between her lips and her teeth on the side of her mouth. She always swallows quickly and it works like a charm. We give her 2 small pills at once this way. The Pill Pocket wrapping becomes very slick with saliva and water and down it goes and she dosn’t get the bad taste of the pills.
dear Violetta, Who are you!? and this is awesome. I have been struggling with this for weeks and using the pill popper extension thing. Just tried now after reading your article thru once – discarding the implement and using my finger to open his mouth.
Right down the throat and it is STILL inside the cat!!!!!
Thanks you ever so much from an Australian cat lover!
Thank you, Ruby, for taking time to drop me this note. I was just another desperate cat owner, trying hard to make those pills land inside my cat :). I was sooo happy when I saw this working, that I had to tell everybody. I’m happy it was useful for you.
AMAZING writeup! My furbaby is sick and I wasted a pill and a half trying to hide it in some canned food…she took one look at me as if to say “are you kidding me Mom?” I decided to look up some advice and came across your posting. I figured I’d have nothing to lose. Tried it once the way you described but it didn’t go back far enough and she spit it out…sat behind her so she couldn’t escape and tried it again and bingo! Saw that she started licking the inside of her mouth and knew I was golden. Followed her for a few mins and no pill came back up. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS VIOLETTA!!! You are my hero! 🙂
I’m so glad you made it, Jocelyn!
I tried this method and it worked but was a little traumatic for both of us. Then I discovered that my cat will just her pill if I put it on the floor with a treat!
Cool! Thank you for commenting, Tagen.
Thank you so much for this helpful lifesaving (mine) tutorial!! My lovely cat and I fought twice a day at pill popping time and I tried everything I could think of. With your instructions it worked the first time, and took about 5 times before we both started feeling quite comfortable with the procedure. I put her in a short small box which just fits her sitting self and disallows her from backing away from me. I proceed with your method and it has worked every time!! Thank you thank you thank you!!!!
You are very much welcome, A.J. I’m happy I was able to help 🙂
This post is a LIFE SAVER! Mine and my cat’s! I spent the last 15 hours trying to get this tiny little pill down his throat and this method worked the first time, no fussing, no nothing – he swallowed the pill. The pictures are perfect, step-by-step instructions were wonderful! Just had to say thank you!!! (My cat doesn’t know it, but he thanks you too!)
Hi Maggie! I’m happy we were able to help you. My cat also doesn’t know she made your life easier, but I’ll give her a kiss and a hug from you 🙂
Thank you for posting this. Recently my cat Tiger got a urine blockage, and luckily after 2 long days of pain, he’s getting better. I have to give him 2 types of pills and a liquid. He has bitten for blood several times, and I’m going to try this approach for this next pill.
Thank you !!!!