It's a hard fact to swallow but our feline friends, like us, are not invulnerable to illness. The good news is veterinary medicine has become more and more effective in treating illness and keeping our cats healthy. Treatment often comes in the form of a pill, and while it can be a challenge to give cats pills, there are a few tips and tricks that make the job much easier.
Hiding it in Food
One of the most successful methods for giving a cat a pill is to hide it in their food. There are even treats specifically designed for this purpose, like pill pockets, that have openings just for pills. You can usually find these treats at your vet's office or your neighborhood pet supply store. Offer an empty one to your cat first, then try one with a pill.
Pilling by Hand
Some suspicious felines may pick up the scent of the pill and avoid the food or treat. If this happens to you, you might need a more hands-on, physical approach – i.e., putting the pill in the cat's mouth with your hands or a pill shooter. Be sure you remain calm when giving your cat a pill by hand. If they sense you're nervous, they'll get nervous as well. And a nervous or anxious cat will be much harder to deal with.
Before you begin, make sure you read the dosage instructions carefully. Then close the door to the room you're in – you don't want your cat to run and hide – and give your cat some reassuring pets. Remember, remaining calm is key for you and your cat. Wrap your cat up in a towel or blanket with just their head sticking out, holding them much like you would a human baby. This keeps the cat contained and keeps you from getting injured by their claws.
Open the cat's mouth by putting your thumb and middle finger at the hinge of their jaw, and tilt their head back. Drop the pill into their mouth and aim for the back of their tongue. Then close their mouth, being gentle with your feline friend, and softly rub their throat. If the cat licks their lips, congrats! That means you are successful and they have swallowed their pill.
Using a Pill Shooter
For some crafty cats this method won't work. You can try a pill shooter or pill gun, available at many vet offices and pet stores. After loading it up with a pill, put the shooter in the back of your kitty's mouth and push the plunger. Again, gently close the cat's mouth and stroke their throat until it seems they have given in and taken their medicine. If they refuse to swallow, blow gently (not too hard!) across their nose. This will usually trigger a reflex that makes them swallow. Once you're done and the pill is swallowed, be sure to give your cat food and water as well as lots of praise and pets.
By Niels Ingvar
About the Author
Niels Ingvar is a freelance writer specializing in animal care and behavior, as well as Nordic film and literature. Niels, a native of Aarhus, Denmark, has been living in Los Angeles, CA for 15 years where he writes and actively volunteers at various animal rescues throughout the area.