Learning How to Give a Cat a Pill

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It’s stressful when your pets are sick. What’s even more stressful is having to administer medication, especially to clever animals that pull a Houdini and spit the pill out time and time again. Thankfully there are tricks to getting your animal to take their medication. In this article, we will discuss how to give a cat a pill specifically. 

How to Give a Cat a Pill the Easy Way

Pilling a cat can be easy if your cat is tolerable. Cats are known to be clever. So getting them to take medication is not always an easy task. The first and easiest way to administer oral medication would be by hiding it in your cat’s food. Using a highly palatable food (one that they can eat) like salmon, tuna, or chicken to hide the pill is your first step. You could also use pill pockets to hide and administer medication. 

Cat eating a fish, Learning How to Give a Cat a Pill - I Love Veterinary

We know you may think using more food to hide the pill is better but, a smaller amount will allow you to see if your cat has actually eaten it. We also recommend giving it right before your cat’s breakfast or dinner. This way your cat is eager to eat because they are hungry. Also, creating little meatballs (as we like to call them), one that has the pill in it and two without. If you give the empty one, followed by the one with the medicine, and then another empty one, your cat may not have time to realize they are eating medication. It’s important to note that cats are super smart and have a powerful sense of smell. This can make putting medicine in their food a challenge. 

There are other ways to get your cat to take their medication. You can grind up the pill into a powder or get it compounded into a liquid for easier administration. There are also intradermal options from certain compound pharmacies as well. 

How to Give a Cat a Pill – Complete Instructions

So you tried all the above options, and your cat keeps spitting it out. You’re stressed, your cat has a funny taste in their mouth from disintegrating medication, and now you’re not sure what to do. 

Owner giving cat a pill, Learning How to Give a Cat a Pill - I Love Veterinary

If your cat allows it, you can try giving the pill by hand or “pilling” your cat. If your cat is fractious or will not allow this, then you and your veterinarian should find a way that works best for all of you. You do not want to end up stressing your cat to a point where they feel the need to defend themselves, and then both you and the animal get hurt. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to pill your cat:

  • Step 1: Make sure you and your cat are in a stress-free mindset and that you are in a smaller space so it’ll be easier to contain your cat. 
  • Step 2: Get all your materials around you, such as a towel, the medication, and a syringe with water. 
  • Step 3:  Restrain/hold your cat in whatever way is comfortable for both of you. Some cats are better wrapped in a blanket or towel. 
  • Step 4: Once your cat is in a proper hold, take the pill in your dominant hand and hold it between your thumb and pointer finger.
  • Step 5: Using your other hand, gently grasp your cat’s head, placing your thumb on one side and the rest of your fingers on the other.
  • Step 6: Your cat’s jaw should relax after step 5. Using the hand with the pill in between the thumb and pointer finger, pull down the lower jaw and place the tablet on the back of the tongue. 
  • Step 7: Close your cat’s mouth, gently rub their throat, or lightly blow in their nose to stimulate the swallow reflex. If your cat swallowed the pill, they would usually lick their nose.
  • Step 8: Give your cat some water using a syringe to help the pill go down and ensure it’s not stuck in the esophagus. 
  • Step 9: Stay nearby to make sure your cat does not spit the pill out; in that case, it is best to start over.
  • Step 10: Use treats and petting for positive reinforcement.  
Giving a cat a pill, Learning How to Give a Cat a Pill - I Love Veterinary

Safety Tips for Giving a Pill to a Feline

Pilling your cats can pose a threat to you and them, so make sure to take all the necessary safety tips listed below:

  • Use a towel or blanket to keep your cat’s paws confined and for safe restraint.
  • Have someone provide an extra pair of hands if need be. 
  • If you or your cat are really stressed, then it’s best to stop and try again after you both regain your composure.
  • Keep your hand that is restraining your cat’s head away from their mouth to avoid a bite. If you do get bitten, seek medical care immediately. 

Suitable Alternatives to Giving your Cat a Pill by Hand

If pilling your cat is simply not going to work, regardless of how many things you’ve tried, do not fret there are other options!

Pill popper- There are pill popper tools that eliminate the need for your hands to be in your cat’s mouth. This option can work if you can use it correctly. If used incorrectly, it can cause damage to your cat’s throat. 

Giving cat a pill with pill popper, Learning‌ ‌How‌ ‌to‌ ‌Give‌ ‌a‌ ‌Cat‌ ‌a‌ ‌Pill‌ - I Love Veterinary

Different pill compositions- As stated above if a pill is not working for your cat, your veterinarian can provide other compositions. Tablets can be compounded into liquid forms, intradermal forms, or can even be crushed into a powder. If none of these other compositions work then, it is best to find another solution with your veterinarian. 


If you’ve exhausted all methods listed above, it is important to contact your veterinarian. Together, you both should come up with a plan that best suits your kitty getting their medication. Avoiding the medication is not an option because this can promote serious health risks. Your veterinarian should be on the same page with you and kept in the light.

How to Give a Cat a Pill

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Jaclyn is a Licensed Veterinary Technician (LVT) who has a bachelors degree in journalism. Combining her two interests of writing, and veterinary medicine is a true passion. Jaclyn has already created her own blog called The Four Legged Nurse. She is blessed with two children, a wonderful husband, and four devoted fur babies. In her free time she loves spending time with her family, reading, and riding horses.