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How to get your cat to take a pill

Just like you, at some point in your cat’s lifetime, your cat will get sick and will require some form of medication. Initially it doesn’t sound bad, but medicating cats can be so difficult that jokes have been written about it.  To read the joke, scroll to the bottom of these instructions.  We hope these instructions will be helpful.

Some cats get so upset by the pilling process that they start avoiding their pet parents altogether.  We don’t want to ruin your relationship with your cat, but when medication is indicated to keep your cat healthy, then it’s worth the time and effort to teach your cat to take medication.  Luckily, we have a lot of tricks and tips to help you in this endeavor.    

Teach Your Cat to Take Medicine…

Time permitting and if medication can be started after a few days, consider behavior training to help your cat accept medication:

  1. First, call your cat to a place she likes, such as the area where you keep her food dish. When she comes, give her one of her favorite cat treats. (If your cat doesn’t like cat treats, try something more exciting, like small pieces of fish or chicken.) 
  2. Gently put your hand on her jaw and hold it for a very brief moment. (Try to release her before she tries to get away.) Just before you release your cat, give her positive verbal praise such as “good” and then quickly give her a treat. 
  3. Practice steps 1 and 2 for a couple of days or a week, gradually increasing the time that you hold your cat’s jaw. Progress in very slow steps. First, increase from one second to two seconds. When your cat seems totally comfortable with that and doesn’t struggle to get away, you can increase to three seconds. Then increase to four seconds, then five, etc. 
  4. When your cat will let you hold her jaw for 8 to 10 seconds, help her get her used to letting you stick your finger just inside her mouth. Again, start slowly. Only put your finger in her mouth for a second at first. Say “Good” just before you remove your finger, and then quickly give your cat a treat. When you can put your finger in your cat’s mouth for about three seconds, proceed to the next step. 
  5. Now you can teach your cat to allow you to open her mouth. Open her mouth, just a little, for only a second. Before letting go of your cat, say “Good.” Then give her a treat. Repeat this step until your cat doesn’t resist when you try to open her mouth. 
  6. When you can open your cat’s mouth wide enough, slip a small bit of treat inside, say “Good,” and give her a second treat. When your cat seems comfortable with this step, you can move on to Step 7. 
  7. Finally, open your cat’s mouth, slip in a treat with medicine juice on it, say “Good,” and give her a real treat. 

More Useful Tips…

  • Many pills and tablets can be crushed, most capsules can be opened and mixed in with some canned food.  Most cats accept pills readily this way; however, you must make sure the medication is in a VERY small amount of food and NOT his regular cat food. 
  • We can also have certain medications compounded into flavored liquids, mini-melt tablets or chews to make it easier to give to some cats. Compounding medications costs a little more, but it is well worth the trouble it saves.
  • Get the pill ready before you get your cat; holding your cat & opening a pill vial at the same time may be too much of a challenge.
  • Always read the instructions on the pill vial carefully and give all the medication as directed by your veterinarian.
  • Sometimes even the most experienced animal handler cannot get oral medications into a cat without being bit. For more anxious cats, a pet pilling device may be used to place the pill into the cat’s mouth instead of your fingers.  A pet piller is a plastic tube, similar to a syringe, with a rubber tip.  These devices can be found on Amazon or purchased from us.  
  • If you don’t get the pill down the first time, your cat may get a taste of the medication. Many medications like antibiotics are very bitter tasting and will cause your cat to drool. Don’t worry; the drooling will stop as soon as the bad taste goes away.
  • If you are splitting pills, putting a bit of butter at the cut end reduces the likelihood of your cat tasting the medication and may even make the pill go down a little easier.
  • The best tip ever: Do it fast, cats are not big on patience.

Some options for treats for your cat to hide the pills in: 

  • Pill pockets or Pill pouches 
  • Canned cat food that is NEW to your cat
  • Cream cheese
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Sour cream 
  • Whip cream 
  • Spray cheese (Easy Cheese Cheddar n Bacon)
  • Tuna or salmon juice or whole tuna or salmon
  • Baby food
  • Canned pumpkin
  • Boiled pieces of chicken
  • Spam

Below are easy to follow steps on pilling your cat…

Step 1

Step 1: Get your cat. If you have help, one person should place your cat on a table or counter and stand behind the cat while holding the shoulders; this prevents the cat from reaching up and scratching the person doing the pilling.

Step 2

Tip: If you are alone, face your cat away from you and wrap him in a towel to keep his claws from scratching at you.  Make sure the wrap the towel tightly and create a “kitty burrito”.  Cats feel more secure when they are.

Step 3

Step 2: Hold the pill between the thumb and index finger of one hand. This method can only be employed when the medication is NOT an extended release medication.

Step 4

Step 3: With the other hand reach from behind and gently grasp your cat’s head. Your thumb and index finger should be on either side of the face holding the top of the upper canine teeth.

Step 4

Step 4: Gently tilt the head up until your cat is looking straight up. Once your cat’s head is facing upward the mouth will open a just little bit.

Step 5

Step 5: Bring your other hand to your cat’s mouth. Place your pinky or middle finger on the lower incisors and gently push downward on the lower jaw to open your cat’s mouth. Drop the pill to the back of the throat.

Step 5 - Tip

Tip: Notice the “U” shape created by your cat’s tongue at the back of the mouth. Drop the pill into that “U” shape.

Step 6

Step 6: Close your cat’s mouth. Gently stroke your cat’s throat, or blow on or rub the nose to encourage swallowing.
Tip: Immediately after pilling your cat, smear a small amount of sour cream, cream cheese, peanut butter or butter on your cat’s nose.  This will force your cat to lick her nose and swallow.


Step 7

Step 7: Reward your cat for good behavior with gentle attention or a favorite treat.



Pick up cat and cradle it in the crook of your left arm as if holding a baby. Position right forefinger and thumb on either side of cat’s mouth and gently apply pressure to cheeks while holding pill in right hand. As cat opens mouth, pop pill into mouth. Allow cat to close mouth and swallow. 

Retrieve pill from floor and cat from behind sofa. Cradle cat in left arm and repeat process. 

Retrieve cat from bedroom, and throw soggy pill away.

Take a new pill from foil wrap, cradle cat in left arm, holding rear paws tightly with left hand. Force jaws open and push pill to back of mouth with right forefinger. Hold mouth shut for a count of ten.

Retrieve pill from goldfish bowl and cat from top of wardrobe. Call spouse from garden.

Kneel on floor with cat wedged firmly between knees, hold front and rear paws. Ignore low growls emitted by cat. Get spouse to hold head firmly with one hand while forcing wooden ruler into mouth. Drop pill down ruler and rub cat’s throat vigorously.

Retrieve cat from curtain rail, get another pill from foil wrap. Make note to buy new ruler and repair curtains. Carefully sweep shattered figurines and vases from hearth and set to one side for gluing later.

Wrap cat in large towel and get spouse to lie on cat with head just visible from below armpit. Put pill in end of drinking straw, force mouth open with pencil and blow down drinking straw.

Check label to make sure pill not harmful to humans, drink 1 beer to take taste away. Apply Band-Aid to spouse’s forearm and remove blood from carpet with cold water and soap.

Retrieve cat from neighbour’s shed. Get another pill. Open another beer. Place cat in cupboard, and close door on to neck, to leave head showing. Force mouth open with dessert spoon. Flick pill down throat with elastic band.

Fetch screwdriver from garage and put cupboard door back on hinges. Apply cold compress to cheek and check records for date of last tetanus shot. Throw T-shirt away and fetch new one from bedroom.

Call fire department to retrieve the cat from across the road. Apologize to neighbor who crashed into fence while swerving to avoid cat. Take last pill from foil wrap.

Tie the cat’s front paws to rear paws with garden twine and bind tightly to leg of dining table, find heavy-duty pruning gloves from shed. Force cat’s mouth open with small spanner. Push pill into mouth followed by large piece of filet steak. Hold head vertically and pour pint of water down throat to wash pill down.

Get spouse to drive you to the emergency room, sit quietly while doctor stitches fingers and forearm and removes pill remnants from right eye. Call furniture shop on way home to order new table.

Arrange for vet to make a house call.