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Giving Cats Pills

Source: Canadian Veterinary Medical Association Updated on July 16, 2015
General Care Guide:


Though many cats tolerate pill administration, it is not unusual for a cat to resist quite aggressively. There are a few strategies you can adopt for effective pill administration. Your veterinary health care team can demonstrate cat pilling for you at the clinic with a resident clinic cat or your own cat, watch you do an administration, and provide tips that will work for your cat.

Common Techniques

Tablets can be hidden in soft food if the medication tastes okay and if your veterinarian has confirmed that it can be administered with food. Bitter pills often cannot be given this way, no matter how tasty the food it is hidden in. It is important to give a small lump of soft food containing the pill in the dish ahead of the main meal so that cat is hungry. This also helps you determine whether or not the pill was eaten. Sometimes the cat will lick the food off the pill, and leave it for you. Once the pill is ingested, dinner can be fed.

If placing the pill directly in the mouth, putting a bit of butter on it will make it both tasty and slippery, thus harder to spit back out. Some people also put a bit of soft cat food on the pill, though this may cause an aversion to the food if the cat develops a negative association with pilling and the flavor associated with it. Peanut butter and cheese are not good choices for coating pills since they are too sticky. Do not crush a pill into food unless advised to do so by your veterinary health care team. Some pills should be swallowed intact.

In a cooperative cat, gently grasping the upper jaw with one hand and raising the head will open the mouth allowing you to place the tablet at the back of the mouth where the tongue meets the roof. Place the pill back as far back as possible. As you put the tablet in place, hold the lower jaw open with a finger of the hand you are pilling with. When the pill has been administered, gently hold the mouth closed and stroke the throat under the chin to encourage swallowing. Once the pill has been swallowed, feed about a teaspoon of cold water to help rinse the tablet down into the stomach from the esophagus. Studies have shown that it is important to do this in cats to prevent tablets from becoming stuck partway down, causing choke or damaging the esophagus.

If the cat is not cooperative, you may need to gently wrap kitty in a bulky soft towel to restrain her. Make sure all the claws are included inside the bundle.

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