How to Pill a Cat

cat_staring_at_pillAs virtually every kitty parent who has ever had to administer meds to their pets knows, attempting to pill a cat is one of life’s most daunting challenges.

Even the most docile of kitties may become akin to ferocious jungle cats when faced with the prospect of having to swallow pills.

And while your vet may recommend that you sprinkle the meds into your cat’s food or water, you can’t always be sure that the kitty is actually ingesting the meds. And not all cats like those flavored pill pockets many vets recommend.

As someone who has a great deal of experience as a kitty nurse, due to the battery of meds my late kitty, Omar, was on for months, I possess a particular expertise when it comes to the most effective ways to get felines to take their meds.

Below are some foolproof tips.

The Crusher and Baby Medicine Dropper Technique


I find this to be the easiest way to administer both pill and liquid meds to cats.

If the pills are in granular capsule form, follow the steps below. For whole pills, I purchased a pill grinder.

For easy dosing, I bought a rubber-topped medicine dropper designed for babies at a pharmacy (you can also find them in the baby section at many supermarkets), which pulls liquid into the tube via squeezing the bulb at the top.

I would draw the proper amount of water (you can also use broth or tuna juice) in which to dissolve the pill powder into the syringe, and then squirt it into a small glass. I next would sprinkle the pill powder into the glass, and swirl and mix the powder and liquid with the tip of the dropper until the powder was fully dissolved.

Next, I would draw the liquid mixture into the syringe, hold my kitty on my lap, gently pry his mouth open by placing my hand on top of his head, with my thumb and forefinger on either side of his jaw. Lastly, I would quickly squirt the liquid into his mouth, toward the back of the throat.

Tip: If the medicine is bitter, you might want to try dissolving the crushed pill into some warm, low sodium chicken or beef broth (just make sure it doesn’t have garlic, onion or other ingredients that can be toxic to kitties), or tuna water.

Or, you can take the prescription to a pharmacy that offers compounding, and have the medicine transformed into a flavored liquid that will appeal to your kitty.

Very Important Note: Be sure to ask your veterinarian if crushing the pills or administering granular meds in this fashion is okay. Some meds are meant to be timed-released, and should not be given as such.

For Pill-Popping Kitties

Kitty_BurritoSome cat parents find it easier to just open their cat’s mouth and quickly pop the capsule in, toward the back of the throat.

If your kitty is agreeable to this, lucky you! If your cat tends to put up a fight, many experts recommend something called the “burrito method.” This involves securely wrapping the cat in a large, thick towel so that only his head of exposed, rendering him immobile. Then you gently pry open his mouth as described above, and pop the pill in.

Important Note: You should never dry pill a cat. They can get stuck in the throat, and they can choke on them. At the very least, this can irritate a cat’s throat and esophagus.

Instead, purchase the medicine dropper mentioned above – or ask your vet for a needleless syringe – fill it with water or broth, and then squirt the liquid into the kitty’s mouth immediately after administering the pill.

Regardless of the method you choose, it’s important to remain calm and speak to your pet in a soothing voice, tell them what a good kitty they are and, if appropriate, follow up with a treat. For the record, Murphy enjoys a little piece of cheese after he gets his meds.

If you have any useful tips that you would like to share, you are welcome to post them here.

Photos from Wikimedia Commons and Vet Street



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