How To Give Your Cat A Pill (Successfully)

How to give a cat a pill (successfully)

Giving a cat a pill can be a nightmare. No cat wants something shoved down his throat, and he will fight you tooth and nail to prevent it.


Cats may be small in size, but they are strong, wriggly and wily.

If You Have Time To Introduce Your Cat To Taking A Pill

It is preferable to prepare your cat for taking a pill as a kitten. If that isn’t possible, it’s best to introduce them at a time when you don’t need to actually give them the pill.

Get Your Cat Used To The Idea

First, get your cat used to being touched around the face and mouth. Have some treats ready as a reward. Just touch your cat at this stage, and give him a reward for allowing you to handle him. Have some playtime after each session. Do this a few times over a couple of weeks.

Trying Out The Actions

After your cat is used to you touching his face, you can use the action that would be used to give a pill.

  • Set aside a little bit of food that can be easily swallowed whole, plus some treats.
  • Holding your hand above your cat’s face, place your thumb on one side of his mouth and your fingers on the other side.
  • Place the piece of food at the back of his tongue and close his mouth.
  • Hold his mouth until he swallows. Stroking his throat may help.
  • As a reward, give your cat some treats, and follow up with a playtime session.

Getting Your Cat Used To A Pill Popper

After getting him used to your touching his face, let him sniff the pill popper and get accustomed to it.

  • Put some moist food on the tip and allow him to lick it off.
  • Place a small amount of food into the popper and gently release this into his mouth.
  • Do this a few times over a couple of weeks. After a while, he’ll love the pill popper!

If You Don't Have Time To Introduce Your Cat Slowly

Putting Together A Plan

Do Your Homework First

Some pills are designed to be taken in a specific way, and may not be effective if it is not administered according to that design.

In order to choose the best method, you will need to have the following information:

  • Can the pill be crushed or divided?
  • Or does it need to be taken whole?
  • Can the pill be taken with food?

Be Prepared

  • Have everything you need close by.
  • If possible, get a family member to help you. They can be behind the cat and restrain his front legs while holding his body in place.
  • Choose a closed room.
  • Consider how you will hold the cat.
  • You could use a countertop, so you don’t need to crouch. Place a towel on the counter, so the cat won’t slip.
  • If you choose to be seated, you can use your elbow to hold the cat in place.
  • If you (and your cat) have had bad experiences with giving pills in the past, you could wrap your cat in a towel with only his head visible. Hold him firmly, but be gentle. Give him a treat after the deed is done; he will deserve it after the humiliation of the towel.
  • Stay calm and businesslike.
  • Try to do the whole thing as quickly as possible with no messing about.

How To Open Your Cat's Mouth

  • Get yourself and your cat settled into the position you have selected for holding your cat.
  • Holding your hand above your cat’s head, place your thumb on one side of your cat’s mouth, and your middle finger on the other side of this mouth.
  • Gently squeeze until he opens his mouth.

Methods For Giving A Pill To A Cat

If The Pill CAN Be Crushed And It CAN Be Taken With Food

  • Make sure your cat is hungry.
  • If the pill is small, you could hide it in some of your cat’s favorite food. It needs to be a soft food, such as wet cat food, a soft cheese such as cream cheese or even butter. After you make sure he has actually swallowed the pill, you can give him the rest of his meal.
  • The easiest way to give a cat pill is to crush it into a powdery form by pressing it between the backs of two spoons. Or you could use a pill crusher.  Once the pill is powder, mix it in with some wet cat food. Some cats that are used to eating dry cat food will see the wet food and think of it as a treat. They will normally eat it up, unaware that they just took their medicine.
  • If the medicine happens to be in capsule form, pry the capsule apart then mix the medicine into some wet food and serve it to your pet.
  • A pharmacist who is qualified for compounding can crush the pill and mix it with a liquid that is attractive to cats. Ask your Vet for their recommendation.

If The Pill Needs To Be Taken Whole or Can Be Divided and CAN Be Taken With Food

The Pill Pocket

A pill pocket is a treat with an opening in it to hide the pill.

  • Give your cat a pill pocket without the pill first.
  • Give another pocket with the pill hidden in it.
  • Give your cat another pill pocket as a reward.

A pill pocket can be an easy answer to giving a cat a pill, as long as the pill can be taken with food.

If The Pill Needs To Be Taken Whole and Should NOT Be Taken With Food

The Pill Popper

If your pet is sick, chances are he won’t be hungry. In this event, you could look into using a pill popper. They are plastic rods that hold the pill until you press a plunger. Make sure you get a long one with a softer tip.

The popper will shoot the pill into the cat’s mouth, and down his throat. Once you have his mouth open, you squeeze the trigger and then pull the popper away quickly.

A pill popper is useful when the pill needs to be taken whole and without food.

Giving Pills By Hand

If you aren’t comfortable using the popper, you can always try giving your cat his pills by hand.

  • Hold your cat still according to your preparations mentioned above.
  • Open his mouth.
  • Aim for the back of his tongue and drop the pill in.

After The Pill Is In Your Cat’s Mouth (by hand or pill popper)

  • Close his mouth and hold him. Don’t hold his mouth tightly closed because it will be difficult for him to swallow.
  • Stroke his throat gently to encourage him to swallow.
  • Blowing gently in his nose may also persuade him to swallow.
  • Cats are experts in making us think they have swallowed the pill, only to spit it out as soon as they get away.
  • Hold him until you are sure he has swallowed it. When your cat puts his tongue out and licks his mouth, it means the pill has been swallowed.
  • We humans generally take a pill with a liquid to help it go down, and this applies to cats as well. Offer your cat some water or some moist food to help the pill move down.
  • After your cat has settled down, reassure him. He won’t understand that this was for his own good, and he needs to know that you are still his friend.

Under “necessary evil” in the dictionary, they should put “giving your cat a pill” as the definition. It is an absolute necessity for your cat’s health, but it’s not fun for anybody. Make sure everybody gets treats afterward, including you.

If you have any tricks that might help someone else, please leave a comment below.

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