Unless your cat is a rare, pill-loving little fur ball, attempting to give him/her a pill can be quite a challenge. It does not have to be too difficult though. In just a few steps, you can give your cat a pill with ease. Here are 4 simple steps on how to give a cat a pill orally; as a bonus, there are also 2 additional steps on how to give a cat a pill with food.
STEP 1: Restrain Your Cat
Don’t worry, this is not as intense as it sounds. The easiest way to prepare your cat is to take a soft towel and wrap them up so their legs and paws are restrained. Essentially, it looks like a baby wrap for your cat. If it often referred to lovingly as the “Burrito Wrap”. So long as you do this calmly, it will reassure your cat that nothing bad is going to happen to him/her. Then you can complete the rest of the steps on how to give a cat a pill.
An alternative if your cat is a more easy-going pet, or if they tend to be overly anxious, is to lay a towel down on a countertop or table. You can then set the cat down on top of the towel; this will keep their legs (and claws) out and usable, but the towel helps keep them from sliding around too much.
STEP 2: Opening Your Cat’s Mouth
- First, you will need to tilt your cat’s head back a bit. Place your hand on their head and slowing brush back as if you were petting them, but apply very slight, gentle pressure towards the back of the head to cause them to look up naturally.
- Next, place the thumb and forefinger of your non-dominant hand on either side of your cat’s upper jaw and apply gentle pressure. This will open your cat’s jaw slightly.
- Using the same, non-dominant hand, place your forefinger on the tip of your cat’s jaw (between the two lower canine teeth – the pointed ones). Again, apply a very slight, gentle pressure and your cat’s mouth will open
STEP 3: Inserting The Pill
- Use your dominant hand to insert the pill; hold it between your thumb and forefinger
- Aim to drop it at the back of your cat’s tongue so that he/she cannot spit it out
- If you drop it on the tip of your cat’s tongue, use the middle finger of your dominant hand to carefully push it towards the back of their throat
- How to give a cat a pill with a pill popper (optional): You can use a pill popper if you do not want to use your hands. This is a small pincer-like tool that will hold the pill (much like your fingers) and ‘pop’ it to the back of your cat’s throat.
STEP 4: Ensuring Your Cat Swallows The Pill
- Once the pill has been placed properly in your cat’s mouth, release your cat’s head
- If you have not seen them swallow, gently hold his/her mouth shut so that they cannot spit the pill out
- Gently stroke downwards on their throat to encourage swallowing
- If your cat is stubborn, or if stroking their throat does not work, blow gently on their nostrils; this usually triggers a swallowing reflex
- A good rule of thumb is that once your cat has licked his/her lips, they have swallowed the pill
- ALWAYS provide your cat with a drink of water after they have taken a pill – for especially anxious or feisty cats you can also provide them with a treat to reinforce the pill-taking.
Giving Your Cat Pills in Their Food
An alternative to giving your cat a pill orally is to give it to them with their food. Pills given this way tend to be smaller (and thus easier to hide) and it can often be easier than putting something in their mouth and attempting to keep them from spitting it out. This is not an option for all medications; it is always best to consult with your vet before giving your cat a pill in their food. Here are the steps for how to give a cat a pill with their food:
1. Make Sure They Are Hungry
In order to ensure that your cat will take the pill, it is best to ensure they are hungry first. Take away their food for several hours to ensure that they will actually eat when you are ready to give them the pill.
2. Make Sure They Eat The Pill First
Once your cat is sufficiently hungry, it’s time to give them the pill. Make sure you use wet food in order to best hide it. Serve your cat about 1/4 of the food with the pill inside. Make sure that they completely finish that portion – pill included – before serving them the rest.
Use A Pill Pocket (optional)
If your cat is so picky that they will not eat a pill even when hidden within their food, consider pill pockets. These are tasty treats with a hollow center where you can place the pill. The treat encases the pill and is often a great alternative to hiding it in wet food or administering the medicine orally.
Giving your cat a pill does not have to be a stressful ordeal full of scratches and bites. Knowing your cat’s temperament helps when considering how to give a cat a pill. Calmer cats may be able to take it orally, while anxious or spunky cats may need some creative camouflage techniques. Do you have a new trick that you’ve tried? Share your tips and tricks on how to give a cat a pill here!
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