How To Give Your Cat A Pill

Tips for giving your cat his medicine (and keeping all your fingers).

how to give a cat a pill

Giving your cat a pill can feel like an impossible task. And it so frustrating if he refuses to take it, because you know he needs his medicine.

Luckily, all hope isn’t lost, and it’s not as impossible as you might think. There are plenty of methods you can use to give your cat his pills, as well as products that are designed to make the process way easier.

We spoke with Dr. Chyrle Bonk, a veterinarian working with Doggie Designer, for all sorts of tips and tricks to giving your cat a pill.

How to give a cat a pill: 5 strategies to try

1. Get him to stay still

Giving your cat a pill without using food or a dispenser can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. It basically involves keeping your cat as still as possible using very gentle restraint.

“Start by restraining your kitty,” Dr. Bonk told The Dodo. “If you’re on your own, set your cat on the floor and gently straddle them with your legs with their head facing toward their knees. Don’t actually sit on your cat, rather use your legs [on] each side to keep them from running.”

You could also opt for the blanket burrito strategy.

“You may also wrap your kitty in a large bath towel like a burrito with their head sticking out to better contain [his] legs,” Dr. Bonk said.

This can be easier to do if you have someone else helping you out.

“Get a helping hand or two if possible,” Dr. Bonk said. “If you have help, they can lay the cat on their side and hold the back legs with one hand and front legs with the other.”

When giving your cat a pill, keeping his head still is pretty important, too.

“Hold the pill between your thumb and forefinger of your dominant hand,” Dr. Bonk said. “Hold your cat’s head with your other hand by placing it over the top of their head with your thumb gently holding one cheek and your fingers holding the other. This will keep their head from moving from side to side.”

Make sure you’re extremely gentle when handling your cat. And keep in mind you never want to force your cat to do anything, so if your cat seems super uncomfortable being held or taking the pill straight, you might want to try another strategy, like mixing it with his food.

2. Put the pill as far back in his mouth as possible

The best way to ensure your cat actually swallows the pill you’re trying to give him is to put it kind of far back in his mouth as gently as possible.

“When you’re ready, use the middle finger of the hand with the pill in it to gently pull down their lower jaw,” Dr. Bonk said. “At the same time, poke the pill in their mouth as far as you can with your thumb and forefinger. Let them close their mouth and gently hold it for a few seconds until they swallow.”

3. Try a pill dispenser for cats

If you’re worried about getting accidentally bitten, you could always give a pill dispenser a try. You basically place the dispenser — instead of your fingers — near the back of your cat’s mouth and push the plunger to drop the pill in there.

“It keeps you from putting your fingers near their mouth but may be a little harder to maneuver,” Dr. Bonk said.

Try this pill dispenser from Amazon for $7

4. Mix your cat’s pill with his food

If you don’t like the idea of forcing your cat to swallow something he doesn’t want to, you can always try mixing a crushed pill in with his food — as long as your vet gives you the go-ahead to do so.

“Most pills can be crushed and mixed with food,” Dr. Bonk said. “Be sure to ask your veterinarian if your cat’s particular prescription is OK to do this with.”

The important thing to remember about this strategy is your cat would need to eat all of his food to ensure he’s eating the entire pill. So if your cat’s a grazer, you might not want to go this route.

The best foods to hide cat pills in

When it comes to hiding your cat’s pills, wet food’s probably going to be more effective than kibble.

“Crushed pills can be mixed with any canned cat food or a little bit of tuna fish in water,” Dr. Bonk said.

We tried out a couple non-kibble food options on our own cats — Tiki Cat Luau canned food and Nom Nom premium fresh food — and they loved them so much that they’d be great choices for mixing his pills into.

Try Tiki Cat Luau for $23

Or try Nom Nom cat food for $20+ per week

5. Try pill pockets for cats

If crushing your cat’s pill isn’t an option, and you don’t want to try to force him to swallow it, you could give pill pockets a try.

However, this option is a bit easier for dogs than cats.

“Whole pills are going to be hard to hide in any type of food,” Dr. Bonk said. “Pill pockets generally don’t work well either since most kitties don’t gobble their food whole like some dogs do and will easily pick the pill out of the treat.”

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible, and if you want to try out some pill pockets for your cat, there are plenty of options on the market.

Like Greenies pill pockets from Chewy for $6

So … what’s the best way to give a cat a pill?

The best way to give your cat a pill is obviously whichever method is right for you and your pet. But in Dr. Bonk’s opinion, one strategy is better than the rest.

“The most effective way for me to give a pill is just to give it,” Dr. Bonk said. “Hiding it just doesn’t seem to work as well, and if your cat refuses to eat the food that the medication is mixed with, you can’t reuse the pill.”

What should you do if your cat just won’t take his pill?

Let’s be real: Cats are stubborn. So, there’s a chance that no matter what you try, he’ll just straight-up refuse to take his pill.

If that happens, you’ll need to turn to the professionals for help.

“If your cat still refuses to take a pill, talk to your veterinarian about other options,” Dr. Bonk said. “Fortunately, drug companies realize how hard it is to pill a cat and so they have come up with alternate administration routes for many common medications.”

So now that you know what your options are, giving your cat a pill shouldn’t feel so impossible anymore.

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