How to Give a Cat a Pill

The age of your cat substantially affects the ease with which you can dole out medicine. Additionally, cats who are adopted as adults may be the most difficult patients – especially if they were not given medical care before. Fortunately, there are a few methods of administering medicine, whatever your cat’s age might be. However, kittens are the easiest to handle because of their small size and lack of strength.

Two Ways to Administer Pills

A full tablet can be given to your cat if it is small enough for her to swallow. Fill a syringe with a small mouthful of broth or water. Next, lubricate the pill with oil or butter. Gently hold the cat’s head and tilt it back very slightly while prying her mouth open. Using your thumb and index finger, drop the pill as far back in her mouth as possible, without making her gag. Hold her jaw closed, and she will automatically make swallowing motions. Squirt the broth on the back of her tongue to chase the pill down her throat.

If the pill is too large, you can use a tiny mortar and pestle to crush it down into a powder. Create your own suspension by mixing the powder with a couple of drops of water. Do not pour the powder into another receptacle, for this will result in a loss of medicine. Hold your cat’s head gently and ease open her mouth. Slip in the syringe as soon as you have pried her mouth open slightly, and immediately inject the medicine as far back towards her throat as possible. You should inject with enough momentum to force her to swallow the liquid. Since you should only administer a small peanut-sized amount at a time, you may need to repeat the process a couple of times.

Some residue may be left in the mortar. Mix in a small amount of water again, fill a syringe with the resulting suspension, and once again dispense it to your cat. Repeat this process until there is only a negligible trace of residue in the mortar.

Pill guns can be purchased for a few dollars, although the reviews are mixed. Many complain the guns do not function properly resulting in failed attempts or the lumen sizing is too small or large.

Folding the pill in a treat or a piece of food is not recommended; cats are too wily for this method. They do not usually swallow morsels whole; they like to shred food with their teeth. Thus, the pill will most likely fall out.

Liquids or Suspensions

I’ve had to play nurse to many cats and I’ve always found that liquids or suspensions are the most efficient way of giving them medicine. Ask your veterinarian if the pill you need is available as a liquid. If it is, the vet will give you a small syringe marked with measurements. Make sure you understand the dosage and the markings on the syringe, as some cats only require a tiny fraction of a milliliter. Antibiotics are usually available as a liquid but they often must be refrigerated.

Other Suggestions

Ask your vet to give the first dose. Watching someone else dosing an animal is so much more effective than just written instructions alone.

Before medicine time, you might want to rub your cat’s head while giving her a treat. This will relax her before dosing.

Don’t mix medicine in with their food. Most cats eat small portions at a time, which would render the medicine ineffective. If you have other animals living under the same roof, they will have access to any uneaten portions of the food and medicine.

After making your cat go through such an unpleasant process, ply her with her favorite treats. Playing with her and massaging her will help her to forget about going through such a torturous experience, if only until the next time!

By Gabrielle Allemeier


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About the Author
Gabrielle Allemeier volunteers her free time as an animal rescuer and foster pet parent. As an animal lover, she enjoys sharing the knowledge she has gained from her experience with a variety of animals. Along with being an animal lover, Gabrielle is a globetrotter. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her terrier, Thisbe.