Pilling Your Cat

There are probably a lot of things one would rather contemplate than administering medication to a cat. After all, cats are usually very independent and extremely agile. How can you give a cat a pill without traumatizing the cat or yourself?

Pilling a Cat with Food or Treats

The easiest way to pill a cat is to put the medication directly in the cat’s food. If your cat is a good eater and will eat all that is put in front of him, this method is about as simple and painless as any.

However, as is often the case, the simplest method may not be the most practicable. If your cat is finicky or particularly clever, he may not eat all of his food and may avoid the pill altogether.

Another similar method of pilling your cat is using treats specially designed for the task. Pill Pockets® are moist treats that have a small space to accommodate a pill. Once you insert the pill, you can pinch the top of the treat to seal the medication inside. A cat may be more amenable to this method of pilling. You can also try placing the pill inside tuna or wet food for the same effect.

Ask your veterinarian if your cat’s pills can be crushed or opened. It is often easier to mix the pill in with food this way. However, some medications lose their efficacy if crushed or opened, so it’s important to check.

Pilling a Cat by Hand

If your cat just won’t go for these methods, you will have to try another tactic to give your cat a pill. This will require a more interactive approach.

Before attempting to pill a cat by hand, make sure all of the necessary components are on hand and ready to go. Waiting until you have a wriggly feline in your arms is not the time to try to unscrew a medication lid. Make sure:

you have a towel or something to hold around your cat to protect you from being scratched

you have something to follow the medication up with (water in a dropper or a little bit of wet food work well)

you have the pill ready to go.

After all your equipment is ready to go, follow these steps:

  • Approach your cat from the side or behind, as he will likely run away if you come at him straight on.
  • You can either use both arms or enlist a friend to help hold your cat. Hold the cat from behind, with his body under your elbow and your hand around the front of his neck.
  • Use your free hand to pick up the pill and bring it close to the cat’s mouth. The best method of getting the cat to open its mouth is by tipping his head back. From there, you can use a finger to open the cat’s bottom jaw. Be careful, but keep in mind that this is an unnatural position for the cat and will make it difficult for him to bite.
  • Pop the pill as far back in that cat’s mouth as possible.
  • Squirt the water from the dropper into the cat’s mouth to wash the pill down or give him the wet food. This will help the pill go down easier and will also help prevent choking: Studies have shown that giving a cat a dry pill can cause the pill to get lodged in his throat.
  • Be sure to double check the cat’s mouth before letting go of him. Cats can be sneaky. You don’t want to have to start all over because your cat spits the pill out as soon as you let him go.

Also, try to keep the environment as calm as possible each time you give your cat a pill. Once your cat realizes what you are doing the first time, he will try to avoid doing it again. By staying calm and trying not to manhandle him, it will help with his reaction the next time medication is due.

Cat Pilling Alternatives

What if your cat just won’t take pills? Luckily, there are some alternatives. Speak to your veterinarian about cat pilling devices and methods. Some medications are even available in liquid form.

It may seem a bit cruel, but often the best time to give a cat a pill is when he’s sleeping. If he’s caught off guard and drowsy, he will have less notice and energy to struggle against your efforts.

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