Getting a cat to take a pill is easier said than done. While dogs are easy enough to medicate (simply bury a pill in a bit of food and they’ll swallow it done in seconds), cats are a different proposition. If you’ve ever tried dropping a pill down your cat’s throat, you’ll know exactly what we mean. But sometimes, a cat’s got to take a pill, whether they like it or not. And fortunately, there’s plenty of ways to help the medicine go down.
Before You Start
As catspro.com advises, always make sure you’ve done the following before even thinking about dosing your cat:
- Always get a prescription – People might share headache tablets from time to time, but never give your cat any medicine that’s not been specifically prescribed for them. Even if your friend’s cat had the same symptoms as yours, it doesn’t mean the cause is the same, and neither does it mean their medicine is going to do your kitty any good at all.
- Check if you can break it – No matter how intimidating a pill looks, always check whether it’s ok to break it into smaller pieces before you do. Crushing or breaking a pill can reduce the efficacy of pills with time-release ingredients, making the whole process of pilling your cat obsolete.
- Check if it should be eaten with food or without – Some pills need to be taken on an empty stomach; others should be accompanied by food. Always check with your vet in case you’re not sure which is which.
- Check if they’re a natural pill taker – Most cats are as likely to take a pill happily as they are to show a mouse mercy. But there does exist the odd feline that’ll swallow down a pill without flinching. Before you start worrying about how to get them to take their medicine, check if they’re one the rare happy pill-takers. Gently hold their cheeks and apply light pressure to the sides of their jaw to open their mouth. Pop the pill on the base of their tongue. Release their jaw and gently stroke their neck to encourage them to swallow. If they spit it straight back up, proceed to our top tips. If they swallow it straight down without bother, consider yourself one very lucky cat-parent.
Tips on How to Get Your Cat to Take a Pill
- Mix it into food – If the pill can be taken with food, it makes your job much easier. Slip the pill into some wet food (and no, kibble won’t work for this one) and make sure the smell is well disguised by mixing it thoroughly into the food.
- Add it to a treat – Not all treats will work for this next tip, but if your cat has a fondness for a particular snack with a strong enough flavor and taste to disguise the taste of a pill, it can work like magic. Make sure the treat is soft enough to be molded, then fold it around the pill, taking care to squeeze the edges together so the pill is completely enveloped. To make sure there’s no lingering smell of medicine on the treat, do as vetstreet.com recommends and use one hand to fill the treat with the pill and the other to seal it.
- Mix it into stock – Although cats are known for being reluctant drinkers, most will lap up bone broth as soon as look at it. If the pill is dissolvable (always check with your vet first in case of any doubt) try mixing it into some low-sodium bone broth. If this doesn’t work, adding it to the brine from a can of tuna-fish (a feline favorite) usually will.
- Try a pill pocket – As travelingwithyourcat.com recommends, pill pockets are a great way of enticing a reluctant pill-popper to swallow their medicine. Made from tasty chewy meat and with a hollowed-out center to hold the pill, they’re easy to use, convenient, and well-tolerated by most cats.
- Use a pill popper – A pill popper is like a long syringe designed specifically to hold a pill. To use it, simply hold your cat by the back of their neck before gently pushing the syringe to the back of their mouth, just behind their back teeth. Release the pill with the popper then remove the syringe. To encourage swallowing, rub their neck gently at the base. A small amount of water administered through the pill popper can also help.
- Use a syringe – If the pills can be crushed without becoming less effective, the syringe method is a good last resort if all other methods fail. Start by pulverizing the pills into a powder with a mortar and pestle. Once the powder has reached a very fine consistency, mix it with a generous amount of soft cat food. Load a syringe with the mixture. Squirt a tiny amount of the mix onto your cat’s nose. If they’re anything like most cats, they’ll lick it off immediately – once they get a taste of what’s to come, it’ll make the next step much easier. Using the syringe, feed the cat the mixture directly into their mouths – you might need to hold their cheeks in one hand and apply some light pressure to get them to open their mouth. If they react strongly against being force-fed, you might just have to keep squirting small amounts onto their nose for them to lick clean.
- Ask for an alternative – Sometimes, no matter what you do and what you try, a cat just isn’t going to swallow it. In which case, speak to your vet. They might be able to inject your cat with the medicine at the surgery instead. Although it’ll cost you more to go this route, it might be worth the expense for the grief it saves. Alternatively, they might be able to prescribe a liquid medicine, which is typically easier to administer at home than a pill is.