How to Give a Cat a Pill: 6 Tips and Tricks

Owning a cat is a great way to expand your family. Their affectionate, playful demeanor makes them favorite pets to hold and watch on the internet. While they are a joy to own and love, it can be heartbreaking when your kitty needs to have medication. Learning how to give a cat a pill is a struggle in and of itself.

If your cat needs to take its medication, but you find yourself struggling to get him or her to take their pills, then this article is for you. We’ll take a look at top recommended ways to get your cat to take their pills without the hassle of fighting them every time they need their next dosing.

How To Give A Cat A Pill

Grind Up Their Pill


​Grinding up your cats pills and hiding the content in wet food is the typical go-to method when it comes to fighting your stubborn cat. You will want to consult with your veterinarian to make sure that the pill you’re going to grind up is safe to use in that fashion before doing so, as some medicines react differently depending on how taken.

Use a wet food that your cat is fond of before sprinkling the powered pill in his diet. Mix it up well and add a little bit of chicken stock to mask any residual flavors of medicine so your cat won’t turn their nose to it. This method is one of the more natural ways to get your cat to eat it, but even still, some cats are wise to your attempts and will still refuse to eat it.

​​The Manual Method


While this may be the method that your cat hates the most, it’s also the quickest way to get your cat to take their pill. To start, place your cat on a solid surface before gently wrapping your arm around the back of your cat's body. You will want to make sure that your body is facing the same direction as your cat and position your torso to keep your cat from backing up.

Gently raise the corners of your cat's mouth with the arm that’s holding them in place

With your other arm, grab the pill and encourage your cat's mouth open with your thumb and forefinger pressed at the back molar line.

Once your cat gives in and finally opens their mouth; push the cat's pill on the back half of his tongue, nearly at the back of his throat, and let him swallow the rest.

This effort may take several attempts because cats are very good at preventing a pill from being consumed and may spit it out.

Usually, when your cat licks their lips, the pill has been swallowed, but check the inside of their mouths just in case. If you realize that your cat is having difficulties taking medicine, it may be a good idea to cut the pill in half and give your cat a half a dose at a time instead to reduce the chances of choking or struggling too much.


​​If Your Cat Is A Biter


If You're wondering how to give a cat a pill-- use a pilling gun. This little plastic device is a safer alternative than letting Snowball take a chomp out of your fingers, and its simple handling means that your cat gets their medication quickly while limiting stress for the both of you.

To start, you’ll want to assume the same position that you would if you were to manually pill your cat by placing yourself behind your kitty and positioning an arm around their bodies. Gently urge your cat's mouth open and put the pill gun with the loaded pill on the cat's tongue so that the end of the syringe angled at the back of his throat.

​Release the pill by pushing the plunger and immediately remove the pill gun. For more difficult cats, close their mouths and blow on your cat's nose while you massage their throats. What this does is stimulate their need to swallow and in so doing will take care of that pill so they can’t spit it out.

Once you feel them swallow and lick their lips, open their mouth again and check that the pill has successfully moved down their throat.

If your cat is a squirmer and an overall fighter, you’ll want to grab a towel and tightly wrap your cat in it. At this point, it may be easier to pill your cat if you had another person to help you out, one to hold your cat, and the other to properly pill them.

​​Pill Pockets


If your cat is a foodie, using pill pockets may be a great alternative to a lot of headaches. These great little treats come designed with a divot in the middle where you can place your medicine, and they’re soft enough that you can then mold the pill pocket around the pill until completely covered. Once you’ve accomplished that, give your cat his reward and watch them eat it.

Sometimes they figure it out and still spit out their medicine, in which case it needs to be manually inserted. A trick that can help combat this issue is to give a few of the pill pocket treats to your cat before you enter your pill. That way they’re less likely to suspect that there’s more to it than needed.


These treats are a much safer alternative than using things like cheese to cover up the pill primarily thanks to the fact that cats become lactose intolerant after they wean from their mother's milk. Sometimes your cat will have stomach upset or diarrhea because they ate something that they should be staying away from.

​Liquid Pills


​If you’re having no luck with successfully pilling your cat, your vet may recommend having their prescription be converted over into a tasty liquid or gel that entices them instead. Thankfully, they are not strangers to stubborn pets, and some pharmacies can mix up a unique blend of your prescription to make it easier to dose them.

For dosing, you will want to measure out the appropriate amount using a syringe which will come included with your liquid. Find a corner of the mouth on your cat and slip the tip in just past the teeth before administering the dose.


Typically your cat will take a few moments to lick it and swallow it, but there’s not nearly as much of a fight to get them to eat it.

​​Other Alternatives


​If nothing has worked and your cat still needs medication administered, the best option to consider how to give a cat a pill is to talk to your vet. Some medicines have the capabilities to be injected instead, and that may be an excellent alternative to stressing them out by shoving pills in their throats.

Cats aren’t usually bothered by injections, so opting to have injections instead may be the best solution for your pet. Another option that relieves the pressure off of everyone is transdermal patches. These patches work by administering medication through the skin, typically placed in the ear where there’s less interference from fur.

​Medication Safety

Always make sure you’re following dosing instructions when it comes to your pet's medication as well as supporting proper storage instructions. Liquid medications typically need to be refrigerated to keep them away from areas where younger children can easily reach for them.

It's also important to keep your medications out of the reach of your pets, as there are many reports throughout the year of overdose problems in cats and dogs. Just because your cat doesn't want to eat the pills that you've brought home, that doesn't mean another animal in the house might not get into the medication; especially if it's a flavored form of drugs.

Cat pills should also be kept out of reach of children as well as separated from other medications in the household to prevent any mixups. Children might perceive cat medication as candy, And as a result, they may try to get a hold of your cat's medication to eat. Try always to make sure that any drugs are out of sight and out of reach of your animals and children.

Never give your cat human medications like aspirin or Benadryl as these medications may make your cat sick. If you feel as though your cat has gotten into there medicine, and you notice signs of vomiting, then you should contact your veterinarian immediately to see what needs to be done about their care.

​In Conclusion

​​Figuring out how to give a cat a pill can be a daunting task. Pilling your cat isn’t always a walk in the park, and cats are smart enough to know when they’re about to get wrangled to take their medications on time. After each dosing, reward your cat for putting up with the stress with a small portion of wet food in his dish or even some treats that aren’t hiding nasty little pills.

This process can be made easier with alternative forms of medication, but it’s important to remember that regardless of what you choose to do to make it easier on yourself it’s just as stressful for him as it is for you.  Your cat still loves you in the end despite how irritated he may seem at the moment but don’t forget to praise him for sticking to it.

Featured Image: Image by Karin Laurila from Pixabay

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Dr Stephen Atwater

Stephen W. Atwater, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVIM (oncology) is a board-certified veterinary oncology specialist. His professional interests include utilizing emerging therapies for difficult to treat cancers.

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