Simple Strategies to Get a Cat to Take a Pill

When Treats Aren't an Option

Disguising pills in a food your cat likes is the simplest way to get your feline to take her medicine. But this approach doesn’t work in every situation; some medications are not prescribed in pill form, while others need to be taken without food. For these reasons, it is important to know how to give your cat medication by hand or with a tool like a pill gun or syringe.

Start by learning how to pill a cat. The ideal time to do this is before your feline needs medication. Ask your veterinarian to show you the right way to give your cat a pill. This may sound scary, but it's fairly simple: Hold the top of the cat’s mouth on both sides with one hand while you use the other hand to open the cat’s lower jaw and drop the medicine in. You can also use a pill gun in place of a hand, if that is easier for you and your cat. If you think your cat will bite you, ask your veterinarian to show you this method first.

Change the delivery system. A dropper or syringe is another option for delivering some types of medication. This can be filled with liquid medication or crushed pills dissolved into a liquid or soft base.

Practice, practice, practice. Start training your cat to take a pill as soon as possible — ideally, well before she actually needs any medication. The more practice you and your cat have, the better. Use treats in place of pills, and go slowly: In the beginning, you may need to reward her just for letting you touch her face or hold the pill gun or syringe near her mouth. To get your cat used to the syringe or pill gun, you can cover the end in a soft, spreadable treat. As with all training, follow up with a reward, either a treat or play time or a special toy. If your cat is adverse to being handled, wrapping her in a towel may make giving medicine easier for both of you.

Ask about other options. Finally, consider talking to your veterinarian about alternatives to the medication your cat has been prescribed. Sometimes medications are available in forms that can be given through the skin or injected by your veterinarian. Another alternative may be to have your cat’s medication compounded by a pharmacy into a tasty liquid or a solid treat the cat will willingly take.

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