If you’ve found this article, chances are you have an unwell cat who requires some kind of medication. You may have already tried to get your cat to take this medicine. In any case, I hope your scratches heal soon and no furniture was damaged in the process.
The reality is that giving medicine to a cat is not the easiest thing you’ll ever try. Not only will you be fraught with worry for the well-being of your precious pet, but you’ll have to fight to get your baby the care that it needs to get better. Just because your cat isn’t feeling well, it doesn’t mean they’ll make it easy for you to give them the medicine they need. Expect resistance.
While you can dupe a dog with a pill disguised in a piece of ham or cheese, your cat is far more discerning and suspicious.
How to get a cat to take a pill
Depending on the nature of your cat, giving a cat medicine can be a tricky business. Most cat owners dread this task, and for good reason. Even if you can get close enough to your feline friend to administer a pill without getting scratched or bitten, cats are pros at spitting out pills.
Before you decide which method you’re going to try, it’s important to chat with your vet. Not all pills can be mixed with food. Some pills can be crushed or broken up while others should never be as they could cause damage to your cat’s digestive tract without their protective coating intact.
If your vet says it’s ok to give your cat a pill with food, you have a few options. You can try to sneak the pill into your cat’s favorite treat. A handy hint here is to ensure that the treats are small enough so that your cat won’t need to chew them. Chewing will ruin the ruse and your cat will spit out anything that tastes foreign.
If you thought of hiding the pill in your cat’s food, there are some things to consider. For starters, don’t give the pill to your cat in a large portion of food. You’ll have no way of knowing if the pill was in fact consumed. So put the pill in a small about of food, so your cat will clear the portion and you’ll easily be able to see if the pill is gone.
Leaving a pill in food for a long time can cause the pill to dissolve – the resulting taste will all but ensure that it won’t be consumed. Hiding a pill in food also poses a risk to other household pets who may gobble it up unknowingly.
The best way to give your cat a pill with food is to crush the pill (if possible) and add it to a small portion of wet food which will hopefully disguise the taste of the pill. Make sure your cat consumes it all.
If your cat’s medicine is not suitable to mix with food, you’ll need to get that pill into your cat’s mouth manually. The trick is to get the pill as far into your cat’s mouth as possible to encourage swallowing. Aim for the center of the tongue at the back of the throat.
Make sure your cat has access to fresh, clean water to wash the pill down with.
The success of this method relies entirely on your approach and handling of your cat. We’ll cover tips on this later on, but a firm and calm approach will help greatly.
How to give a cat liquid medicine
If your cat refuses to swallow a pill or if they can’t eat normally, the vet may prescribe medication in a liquid formula. Unfortunately, not all medications have a liquid variant but it’s worth asking if you’re struggling with how to give a pill to a "difficult" cat. Let’s look at the best way to give a cat liquid medicine:
With a syringe
Many liquid medicines require refrigeration. While this is essential, it does make the medicine less palatable to cats that don’t enjoy very cold things. To avoid giving your cat brain freeze (Yes, cats get brain freeze. No, it’s not funny.) draw the medication into the syringe and warm it up slightly in your hands. Medication should never be microwaved.
Find an area where you have enough space to handle your cat and your cat won’t feel trapped. If your cat is very skittish, you may want to wrap your cat in a towel or blanket to help restrain them.
Allow your cat to sniff and lick the syringe to become familiar with it. Gently grab your cat by the scruff of their neck. This is how their mother carries them when they’re kittens and doesn’t hurt them if done correctly. Your cat’s mouth should open lightly.
Using your dominant hand, place the syringe just behind your cat’s canine teeth (fangs) and direct the tip of the syringe slightly to the side so the medicine is deposited on the tongue.
Don’t try to squirt the liquid into your cat’s throat as this can pose a choking hazard. Rather depress the plunger slowly so your cat has time to swallow. It’s expected that some of the medicine will end up being spat out or dribbling out. This has been accounted for in the dosage, so you don’t need to give more medication.
This is the easiest way to trick your cat to take liquid medicine. Simply mix the medicine with a small amount of wet food to ensure they eat it all and get the full dose of medicine.
Eye and ear drops
Cats sometimes require eye and ear drops, especially in the case of allergies. Similar to giving your cat liquid medication, you’ll need to get a good grip on your cat. A blanket or towel goes a long way in keeping your cat restrained and saving you from being scratched in the process.
For eye drops, try not to get right in your cat’s face. Cats are rarely receptive to feeling hemmed in or smothered. Instead, it’s a good idea to come from above so your cat doesn’t necessarily see it coming. Gently pull back the upper eyelid while supporting your cat’s head with your other fingers. Don’t let the dropper or your finger touch your cat’s eye.
For ear drops, you’ll once again need a firm hold on your cat. Сat’s hearing is vital for them, so they won’t take getting anything in their ears kindly. Prepare for resistance. Once you’ve got the drops in, gently massage the base of the ear to get the medicine to travel deep into the ear canal. You’ll hear a squishing sound when you do this.
Technique tips: how to open a cat’s mouth to give medicine
Giving your cat medicine relies on a few key elements – how you approach your cat, how you handle your cat, and how you open your cat’s mouth to give them medicine. What follows are some handy tips to help you make giving your cat medicine smooth and stress-free for all parties.
- Set up a suitable space. Make sure you have a safe area with plenty of room to maneuver. Make sure the medicine is within easy reach and you have a bowl of fresh water nearby for your kitty to wash the meds down with.
- If you’re doing it alone, then you may want to have a towel or blanket nearby to wrap your cat in. This will help restrain them and protect you from kicks and scratches.
- Get your cat. Cats are smart. They’ll know something’s up. Approach them gently and in a non-threatening way. If your cat is eating, using the litter box, or grooming – now’s not the time to give your cat medicine. Wait until they’re done.
For giving a cat a pill:
- If you’re giving your cat a pill, it helps to lubricate the pill with some butter or margarine. This stops the pill from sticking to the inside of your cat’s mouth or throat. This is especially useful with capsules.
- If you’re right-handed, use your right to grab the pill. Hold it between your thumb and forefinger.
- Gently grab your cat’s head from above with your other hand. Tilt your cat’s head back so its nose points at the ceiling. At this point, your cat’s jaw should open slightly.
- Using the hand that you’re holding the pill in, use your little finger and ring finger to apply gentle pressure to your cat’s bottom lip and front teeth.
- Push the pill onto your cat’s tongue as far back into the mouth as you can. The sweet spot is about two-thirds of the way on the tongue, towards the back of the mouth. This will stimulate a swallowing reflex.
- Close your cat’s mouth and hold it closed while dropping the head into a normal position to facilitate easy swallowing.
- You can blow gently on your cat’s nose to further stimulate swallowing.
- Make sure your cat has swallowed the pill and doesn’t spit it out. Let your cat drink some fresh water to wash the pill down.
- Reward your cat with some positive reinforcement – a treat, a cuddle, or playtime.
Giving a cat liquid medicine:
- If you’re giving your cat liquid medicine with a dropper or syringe, make sure you’ve loaded the dropper with the correct dosage before you begin and place it within easy reach.
- Once you’ve got a hold of your cat, grab the dropper or syringe in your dominant hand.
- Get a grip on your cat’s head with your other hand, using the thumb of this hand to lift your cat’s check to expose its teeth.
- Insert the tip of the dropper or syringe in the space just behind the canine teeth (fangs).
- Aim the tip of the dropper or syringe to the side so the contents are deposited on the tongue. Squeeze the medicine out slowly so your cat is forced to swallow.
- Don’t be alarmed if some runs out of your cat’s mouth. This loss has been accounted for in the dosage so there’s no need to give your cat more medicine to make up for this.
- When the dropper/syringe is empty you can let your cat’s head go and allow them to drink some water.
- Once again, make your cat happier with positive reinforcement – a treat, a cuddle, or playtime.