How To Give Your Cat A Pill
- Most cats don’t like being given medication, so it will be much easier for you, and significantly less stressful for your cat if you have a tabletting technique you are confident with.
- Before attempting to give your cat tablets it’s a good idea to check with your vet if there are any easier alternatives, such as a liquid or spot-on medication.
- Always check with your vet before giving your cat their tablets with food because some don’t work unless they are given as a whole, unbroken pill, or on an empty stomach.
- It’s important that your cat takes all their medications as prescribed, so if you’re having trouble with this speak to your vet for advice.
- Want information about dogs? Check out our article ‘How To Give Your Dog a Tablet’.
If you need to give your cat a tablet and it can’t go in their food, then follow these steps to make it as easy and stress-free as possible.
Step 1 – Preparation
- Get a small syringe of water ready and take the tablet out of its packaging.
- Place your cat on a non-slip surface such as a bath mat or towel and ask someone to gently (but firmly) hold their front legs.
- If you are on your own, hold them against your body facing away from you.
- If necessary, wrap them in a towel so they can’t use their front paws.
Step 2 – Open your cat’s mouth
- Hold the tablet between your thumb and first finger with one hand, then gently wrap your other hand around the top of your cat’s head.
- Slowly tilt your cat’s head upwards until their nose is facing the ceiling.
- Using the hand that’s holding the tablet, gently pull your cat’s lower jaw down to open their mouth.
Step 3 – Place the tablet in your cat’s mouth
- Place the tablet as far back on the tongue as possible, be quick but also very gentle and careful not to get bitten. Avoid dropping the pill into the mouth as this can cause gagging.
Step 4 – Help your cat swallow the tablet
- Gently hold your cat’s mouth closed and syringe a small amount of water into the side of it to encourage them to swallow. Sometimes it can help to stroke their throat.
Step 5 – Treat your cat
- Once they’ve swallowed the pill, reward them with a treat, game, or some praise. Hopefully, they’ll start to associate pills with something nice which can make it easier with time.
Step 6 – Wash your hands
- Don’t forget to wash your hands afterwards and wear gloves if your vet or the instructions on the packet, tells you to.
Some cats can be really tricky to pill, so if you’re struggling then speak to your vets for advice. Your vet or vet nurse will be happy to give you some tips and show you some handy techniques.
Alternatives to giving your cat a pill
It is often easier to give your cat medication as a liquid or spot-on, so check with your vet whether their tablets come in an alternative form.
If you have to give a pill to your cat, check with your vet whether you can put it in their food. Unfortunately, some medications don’t work properly unless they’re given as a whole (unbroken) tablet, or on an empty tummy. If your cat’s medication is okay to be given with food or crushed, you could try hiding it in a treat or their normal food – you’ll just need to make sure they get all of it.
- In a treat – give your cat a couple of treats without the tablet, then a treat with the tablet hidden inside, and then another plain treat. Try using a small amount of meat, fish, or something that you can mould around the tablet, such as a tiny piece of cheese or butter. If this doesn’t work, try using a very strong-flavoured treat – your cat is less likely to smell the medication.
- In their food – wait until your cat is hungry then give them a small portion of food with the tablet in, before their main meal, to make sure they get the whole dose.
- What are the best foods to hide cat pills in?
- Can I crush my cat’s pills?
- Can I use a pill popper?
- Can I stop my medication if my cat is better?
- What should I do if I miss a dose?
What are the best foods to hide cat pills in?
Always check with your vet before you hide your cat’s medication in their food because some tablets don’t work unless they are given whole, or on an empty stomach. You can use their normal food or a treat to hide the pill in. If this doesn’t work, try something strong smelling that you know they really like, for example, a small amount of meat or fish, or something that you can mould around the tablet, such as a tiny piece of cheese or butter.
Can I crush my cat’s pills?
Check with your vet first as some tablets don’t work properly if they are crushed or split. If you are able to crush your cat’s medication, you can buy special pill crushers to make it easier.
Can I use a pill popper?
Special pill administrators, sometimes called “pill guns” or “pill poppers”, can be useful for very bitter-tasting medication, as they reduce contact between the tablet and the tongue. Ask your vet to recommend a safe option and show you how to use one, as incorrect use can damage your cat’s mouth. Always give your cat some water afterwards, to help keep the tablet from sticking in their throat.
Can I stop my medication if my cat is better?
No, you need to complete the course of medication as prescribed by your vet. Some medications cause side effects if they are stopped suddenly and others, like antibiotics, need to be finished to help prevent bacteria from developing drug resistance.
What should I do if I miss a dose?
If you have missed a dose of your cat’s medication you should check the instructions inside the packet or contact your vet for advice.
Published: May 2023
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Written by vets and vet nurses. This advice is for UK pets only. Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst.