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!
I would just like to thank you so much for posting this. I’ve just tried it exactly how you described and it worked :o) xxx
Hi Paul, I’m glad I was able to help you. Thanks for taking the time to let me know it worked 😉
love the smile photo! thanks for the tips. my issue is my cat is supposed to fast for 10 hours before and one hr after the pill, so i can’t use treats. These techniques will help. I think!
Thanks, Steve! I hope you’ll manage to make the cat swallow those pills with no problems.
That last picture is hilarious!! Good kitty. 😀 Thanks for the tips! I’ve got one mean, crafty cat and have been bracing myself all day, but I think I’m ready now.
Thanks Kat! Cats are really gorgeous, I love mine!
Thank you!!!! I have read up on how to give my cat his pill, but the pics really helped. Its the first time I have had to “drontal” my cat, and its taken 2 days, yesterday I wrapped him in a towel, which he wriggled free from, managed to get the pill in his mouth, but he chewed and spat it out, then ran off and was scared of me for the next few hours. Hes a rescue cat from RSPCA, Ive only had him 5 weeks, so I dont want to stress him out.
I crushed it up and put it in tuna, his absoulute fave food – didnt touch it! So I didnt give him any more food and thought when he is hungry enough, he will eat it – Wrong!!!!
So I searched internet for more ideas, found this, gave it a go and it took me seconds! He didnt like it, wriggled about and gave a meiow to let me know it had gone – I searched around the sofa and floor and watched him for the next minute – no pill!!! So it had definatly gone down. And hes alot less stressed, its now 15 mins later and he is playing with his toys on the floor like nothing happenend!
Hi Rachel, I’m glad you managed it! I also tried lots of things before discovering this solution. The worst of all was perhaps the towel wrapping. At that point, my friend and I got terribly scratched by the poor kitty trying to escape.
thank you so much! the thought of giving my cat pills has been so much stress on me and the kitty! Today I read your tips and tried it with courage….success!!! I didn’t have time to put in the second pill but it’s smaller and I’ll try it later on today so it’s not too stressful for kitty. He also ate some can food as a reward, didn’t think he’ll buy it since his appetite has been down.
much appreciated, the photos do help! great model too.
Hey Win, that wasn’t too hard after all, was it? I’m happy my photos helped you. I was also very stressed when I heard I have to give pills to my cat, as that’s my first cat ever, so I didn’t have any experience.
Thank you so much for this post! It took many attempts and he did not enjoy it, but it worked! Im so happy I now have a way to feed my cat pills successfully everyday! thank you!!!
Sydney, I’m happy I was able to help you. Making a cat take pills can be so frustrating, I know!
Thanks for this post. It helped. My cat and I were about ready to kill each other. It took a few tries to get it right but it works. I got it after I made sure to open his mouth as wide as possible and tip his head right back so I could drop it straight down to the back of his mouth. Once it’s in, even if you didn’t get it all the way back, if you hold his moth shut for a few seconds, then it might start to dissolve, making it harder for him to spit out. Kind of a dirty trick, but it worked for us.
I just found your post, and sat here just now and tried it with my cat, and was so surprised how easily this worked! He swallowed the pill without fight. I was also surprised how submissive he became when I held his head that way.
Thank you so much!
Oh my goodness !! I want to thank you so much. It worked. He wasn’t too happy, but it worked
I just tried this for the very first time on my 11-lb, not-quite-one-year-old-male cat, and your instructions were so perfectly demonstrated here, it worked like a charm! My husband was telling me, “He’ll scratch you! He’ll this-and-that you,” but it went off without a hitch, and my kitty still loved me afterward (especially after the tuna juice I gave him). I am absolutely indebted to you for this post! What a lucky kitty you have.
And, apropos of nothing, you have the loveliest hands.
Thank you so much for this…I was fighting a losing battle with my boy trying to get him to swallow his pills, and was about to resort to peanut butter. This was not something I wanted to do. Vets should be teaching this to people, mine just said to pop it in his mouth and rub his throat until he licked his nose. I found pills hidden throughout the house using that method. Using your method, Boner takes his pills consistently, he’s getting better, and I have a lot fewer teeth marks on my fingers. Thanks again!
Hi Mike and Boner! I’m happy I was able to help you 🙂
Thank you, Jane! I’m so happy you got it!
This was extremely helpful! Thank you so much. It worked like magic. The pictures were a huge help, as I’m typically a visual learner. Thank you!!!
You are welcome, Nykki 🙂
Thank you so much! This was great .. my cat swallowed her pill the first time I tried … Thanks again :))
That’s awesome, Stacey!
This worked great! My cat gets pilled every morning and night and my mom always does it. Unfortunately, she’s away at a conference for work and tonight was the first time I’d ever tried to pill my cat. She kept spitting it out even though I was doing it, I thought, the same way as my mom. Then I read this and tried the steps and got it down the first time with this system!!
Joanna, you are the best! I’m happy for you 🙂
This was very useful. Even my vet had problem giving the pill to my cat.
Trying this method I succeeded the first time I tried. It was kind of easy the 2nd and 3rd time, though not that perfect. The 4th day I put it by accident between his back teeth, so he spit it out :(.
Today the 5th day I cant do it at all.
I think I lost confidence, and he learnt what I am up to and it he is giving more and more hard time…
Kristina, you’re good! Try again, but do the whole procedure without actually giving him a pill. Give him a nice treat instead after you’re done. After a few trials, he’ll learn that something good is coming after all that mouth opening. Or at least I hope he gets it.
I found your page after failing one attempt to give my 6 yrs old and 15lb manx mix, Puck, two pills. I had wrapped him in a towel and tilted his head back and managed to get a pill inside, but he spit it onto my shirt and then broke free. So I checked the internet.
On my second attempt, I put him on the breakfast nook and stood behind him and tried to tilt his head back, which worked, but I couldn’t figure out where to put my fingers on the sides of his jaws. Maybe that’s partly because he’s such a big cat, so you would need a bigger grip. In any case, he got tired of that game, and I decided to try making one of those food patties. I ground the pills (B 12 vitamin and antibiotic) and mixed them with 1 tbsp of Whiskas tuna, and Puck came sniffing the bowl, then started eating it! The pills were finely ground and mixed into the meat, so I know he ingested it. He has been having trouble with appetite, lethargy, and fever, so I am surprised he wanted the food so much. In the morning I’ll call the vet and make sure that method will be good for the medicine’s effect. They are supposed to be given around meal time, though.
Thanks for the tips in any case. I am sure that at some point I will be back to this page, so it’ll be in my bookmarks. Hope your gorgeous gray kitty is still doing well!
Cindy, thank you for your story. I hope your Puck is fine :). My kitty is doing great, I never had to give her pills again after I wrote this article, thanks God!
It worked! Thanks…..we are first time cat owners and needed the advise.
thanks so much – I tried pill pockets, but my cat kaiann just ate around it. She’s old and over grooming to the point of being bloody, so she needs these pills. I called the vet and they said I just really needed to get it down, but didn’t offer much help. I googled “how to give a cat a pill” and your informative site came up – the photo’s are great – I wouldn’t of “got it” otherwise. Thanks for taking the time to post, I’m very grateful!
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
You rock!!!! Thank you so much I was able to do it on the first try thanks to you and I am a small girl with a big cat!!! One tip to others try putting the cat on a slippery surface like the countertop. Thanks again!!!!!
I had to give my 14 year old cat antibiotics. She has really bad teeth and I was afraid to use the forced open mouth method and break her tooth. I tried crushing it and she would avoid all the food I put it in, or wouldn’t eat it all and therefore not have enough of the pill. I found that wrapping the pill in a bit of cheddar or that thinly sliced pre-cooked bacon (just the fatty strip) worked beautifully! I wouldn’t try crushing up the pill too many times (I wasted about 4/12 pills trying that). Hope it works out!
I see this thread has been going a little but I’ve just been faced with this problem and came up with a method that worked very well for me. My cat (14) had a little op and needed to take half a pain pill twice a day. I mean the tablet type as opposed to a capsule but I’m pretty sure it will work with either. I crushed the pill into powder then using just a little butter, I made a paste. I then smeared it on her front paw and let her natural inclination take over. In less than a minute, she’d licked her paw clean, got her med and a taste treat she likes into the bargain, and I got brownie points for being her friend.
This is the best way I have found for giving a pill to a cat, but my cat still won’t cooperate. I can get her the first time, but once it’s happened, she knows what is coming and then she will fight tooth and nail and she will not swallow the pill no matter what. For whatever reason (I blame a bad shelter experience early in her life) she has a deep, all-consuming suspicion against such things. Closest next best thing is the same technique but with liquid medicine instead and shoot the eye dropper through her side teeth into the back of her throat. She can’t stop it from going down as well but she fights just as hard to stop it from happening at all.
Dudes and dudettes,
Someone *may* have alreay mentioned this (don’t have time to read every comment), but in case no one did, this process can be made even easier with a ‘nozzle’ type syringe (I.E. not a needle). All you do is drop the pill in and then squeeze *some* water into Meow-Meow’s mouth. Guaranteed swallowage.
P.S.: Thank my vet for this tip, not me. http://www.cumberlandanimalclinic.com/
Cats don’t like humans forcing their mouths open. Try pill pockets. There is even a variety formulated which is designed to avoid allergies. My cats love pill pockets.
Well, we tried our way about 3 times before I came upon your tips. The little one took one shot, we were glad for that. The granny of the group is a much more daunting task. We are on the second bottle and still have not managed to made her swallow a thing. She can somehow manage to spit it out after attempting to kill us every time. Well……………..here we go again. Poor cat.
I had followed your tips, it worked for a while, and then, my cat started to twist his neck, while I pull it back. I mean it stops me from putting it down, so if there is any help, that be great. Then I got so frustrated, I took him, opened his mouth, and dropped the pill as deep as it would go. He spit it out after 35-50 seconds, when I wasn’t looking. I mean, its Amitriptyline 5mg. He just won’t take them. I mean, he did, and today I wasted 7 pills, he still hasn’t taken one. I’ll go to the vet tomorrow, and before I will see if one will get down, later tomorrow.
My kitten are 3 1/2 months im going to try this but is there anyway they could choke? Thats my huge fear.
Vicky, my cat was about the same age when I gave her the pills. If you are afraid, you’d better ask a vet, see if it’s safe to do it. I don’t know how big your pills are. Mine were very small, so I didn’t think of the danger of choking.
Thank you so much for this article! I’ve been trying everything and this worked with the first try! My kitty didn’t even fidget! :3
WOW! Worked like a charm…first time! YOU ROCK!!!
Unfortunatley, I’m alone in doing this and have to for 7 days, 3x a day. I’m like a scratching post…big claw rips all over. Putting a towel or blanket over Winston is a nightmare–he literally turns into the Tazmanian Devil. I can’t hold him myself. What now? Well, I just tried putting the EXTREMELY bitter pill into butter & put it all over his feet, but wow does he hate me now! 🙂 It has been 15 minutes and he hasn’t cleaned himself yet!
Claudia, I feel sorry for you! I’ll surely remember the moment when I tried to wrap my cat in a towel to give her the pill… we were two people and we got scratched all over. You can try to do what I showed in my pics above, see if it works. I think it’s better if the cat is sleepy and has lower level of energy when you try.
Since I wrote the above, I read more about pilling a cat & have SUCCESS!!!! I realized that any time I grab Winston by the scruff of the neck, he freezes in place. That allowed me to pull back his head & then proceed with the lower jaw instructions on this site. It went right down & now I only have scabbed over scratches, LOL. Unfortunately he has Giardia–the parasites that cause cat scratch disease in humans! So now I’m probably going to have to watch myself & wind up at a doctor if I get it…but at least his bitter pill is down…at least for this morning! 🙂
By the way, I went on the internet last night & purchased pill pockets, empty gel capsules and a piller. As soon as they come I’ll be super ready for my two beasts! The medicine I have to give that is already in a dispenser (it’s a white cream) is a lot easier to give because I can put it way down & he has no choice but to swallow it, LOL. Also, it doesn’t taste bitter like the pills do. I got a little of that bitter pill in my mouth last night & I was coughing & it burned my mouth for about 2 hours!!
Well done, Claudia! I hope you didn’t get the disease from those scratches. I wish you all the best. Thank you again for taking time to comment on my article.
I have had great success with tightly swaddling my cat in a towel or blanket. The key is wrapping them up tightly enough that they can’t thrash around, especially the chest, so that they can’t get their front paws out. I usually pick the cat up with one hand, then get a blanket in the other hand and drape it over the cat’s back. Then I cradle the cat like a baby, at which point I sit down and do the rest of the swaddling.
It might not work if your cat doesn’t like being picked up (although if you can sneak up on them, put the blanket over them and then pick them up inside the blanket, that’s a start). But if you have a generally friendly/patient cat, it makes things a lot easier.