How to Give a Cat a Pill

Getting an unwilling cat to swallow a pill is a challenge many owners struggle with. Check out our video and step-by-step guide below on how to get your cat to accept medication – avoiding any claws, wriggling or spitting the pill back out!

A Note on Cat Medication Guidelines

It’s important to know that different medications need to be taken differently. While some pills can be split into smaller pieces, or crushed up and combined with wet food to make them more palatable for your cat, others need to be swallowed whole.

Always double check with your veterinarian before providing medication to your cat, to ensure your cat stays safe and receives their medication in the most effective way possible.

How to Give a Cat a Pill

  1. Prepare the pill. Never give a cat a dry pill, as it may get stuck in their throat. You can either try coating the pill in a small amount of food (such as tuna, salmon, cream cheese or plain yoghurt) or hide it in a treat specifically designed to hide pills. At Small Door, we like Pill Pockets – they’re small chunks of treat that you can mold around the pill. This ensures it’s nice and soft to slip down their throat.

  2. Prepare your space. If you’re administering the pill on your own, it may be easiest to place the cat on your lap. If you have a partner to help hold your cat, you may find an elevated surface like a table is easiest.

  3. Hold your cat. Use one hand to cup your cat’s head from above. Gently hold their head with your thumb and finger, placed under their cheekbones. Tilt their head back – this will usually cause their jaw to naturally drop.

  4. Administer the pill. With your other hand, gripping the pill between your thumb and finger, use your middle finger to open their mouth and then push the pill in. Try to place it as far back in the mouth as you can. Quickly close their mouth, and hold your fingers under their chin.

  5. Encourage swallowing by blowing on the nose, or gently rubbing your cat’s throat.

  6. Watch to make sure your cat swallowed the pill. Some cats may keep the pill in their mouth for a few seconds and then spit it out, so be sure to watch to check they’ve swallowed it. If you see them lick their nose shortly afterwards, this is a sign they’ve swallowed it.

  7. Provide positive reinforcement. After your cat has successfully swallowed the pill, be sure to give her plenty of rewards to encourage this good behavior. This could include praise, pets, treats, playtime, brushing – anything your cat particularly enjoys.

Watch our video on YouTube to see this method in action!

Reach Out to Your Veterinarian for Advice

If you’re still struggling to get your cat to swallow pills, reach out to your veterinarian for advice. They may have other tips they can provide, or may be able to prescribe an alternative medication that can be taken in another form (either an oral liquid or a pill that can be crushed and combined with food).

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