How to Give a Pill to a Cat

It can be a bit tricky to give medications to your cat, but there are a few tricks that you can try to make the process easier for owner and kitty!

Cat Medications in Pill Form vs. Liquid

Firstly, whenever possible, opt for medication in pill form instead of liquids. Pills can be easily concealed in food items and treats (we’ll discuss this shortly). Liquid medication is more difficult for a few reasons:

Liquid medication is flavored, so unless your cat enjoys the taste of the medication (extremely rare), it’s very difficult to conceal it in a food.
It’s easier for the cat to spit out liquid (the pill is sticky once in the cat’s mouth).
Liquid meds are less precise in terms of dosing.

On the latter point, dosing can get quite dicey if your cat struggles and resists taking his or her medication. You may end up in a situation where the cat only gets a partial dose and this is problematic, as many medications require very precise dosing in order to be effective. What’s more, it’s virtually impossible to determine how much medication your pet actually ingested; if you try to give your pet additional meds to make up for the spillage, you risk an overdose situation.

With pills, it’s an “all or none” situation, and it’s safe to attempt to re-dose if necessary.

Tips for Giving a Pill to Your Cat

There are several ways to give pill medications to your cat. Pill shooters are always an option, but this requires holding the pet, forcing its mouth open and “shooting” the pill to the back of his or her throat. Pill shooters are small — like a pencil — so they’re much less invasive than your hands, but it’s still not a real pleasant experience.

So before you attempt to wrestle with kitty, try to get your cat to take the medication willingly. There’s one surefire way to do this: food!

Try hiding the pill in one of the following foods. Each cat’s tastes differ, so you may need to try a few different options before you find a food that works for your pet:

  • Cream cheese
  • Cheddar or American cheese
  • Cold cuts
  • Hot dog bits
  • Tuna
  • Mini meat balls

When using cheddar or American cheese, place a small amount of cheese in the microwave for a few seconds to warm it, then roll it into a small dime-sized ball, with the pill placed at the center.

For tuna, put a few chunks on a plate and embed the pill into one of the pieces. The same goes for hot dog bits and mini meat balls. For cold cuts, wrap the meat around the pill.

Greenies makes a product called “pill pockets.” They’re cat and dog treats, with a hollow center where you can place the pill. In my experience, these are very hit or miss. Your pet will either love them or hate them, but if your cat is in the former category, you’re in luck!

One word of caution: never, ever place a pill in your cat’s normal pet food. Cats (and other pets) have an extremely powerful sense of smell. They’re extremely familiar with how their dinner normally smells. In short, they will be able to smell the medication from a mile away!

Problems can arise if your cat detects medication in his dinner. This can lead to a food aversion — the pet will come to associate his food with the medication, and as a result, he’ll refuse to eat.

If your pet only eats dry food, you may opt to try offering a pill inside a bit of canned cat food. But be sure to offer the wet food as a treat, rather than in lieu of a meal. You want to avoid any association between medication and dinner time!

For more pet care tips, see the Pet Health section of the PetLvr archives!

Photo Source: Aleksandra P. on

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Mia Carter is a professional journalist and animal lover. Her furry family members include 6 dogs and 12 cats. She is also a feral cat colony caretaker. Carter specializes in pet training and special needs pet care. All of her animals have special needs such as paralysis, blindness, deafness and FIV, just to name a few. She also serves as a pet foster parent and she actively rehabilitates and rescues local strays and feral kittens.

  1. Lisa
    | Reply

    We use Greenies Pill Pockets Salmon flavor – work great too!
    Cream cheese, what a good one.
    Thanks for the tips.

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