13 min

How To Give A Cat A Pill

Giving your cat a pill might seem intimidating, but you can make it easier by following these simple steps. Keep your cat healthy with these simple steps.

Bridget Reed

Updated January 12, 2023 • Published August 30, 2021

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How To Give A Cat A Pill

If you find yourself struggling to give your pet cat their required pills, it’s totally understandable. This task can prove to be challenging for even highly experienced veterinarians, let alone pet owners. Luckily, there are a couple of relatively easy ways to do to give a cat a pill yourself.

Today, Pawp is going to provide you with the resources you need to do precisely that. First, you’ll get some background information on your cat, and then you’ll learn how you can administer a pill. The information provided includes two different methods, so you can choose the one that is the most successful for your individual cat.

Everything will be wrapped up with some important tips to help you give your cat a pill. You might be surprised to learn that there are easy ways that you can make this task significantly more manageable. 

What do you need to know about cats?

Cats are one of the most popular pets in the United States. There are actually over 500 million cats in the world. 

Cats and humans have been associated for over a thousand years. There are a myriad of reasons why cats and human beings have a special relationship, and you’ve likely experienced this unique bond yourself. Studies have even proven that cats, while they are sometimes more standoffish than their canine counterparts, also bond with their humans. 

It’s time to run through some fun facts about feline behavior. Cats actually sleep for an average of 13 to 14 hours per day; this is to conserve energy. These animals have powerful night vision, and they’re able to see light sources that are six times lower than human beings can perceive. 

These animals are also very sneaky and can be excellent hunters for small animals such as mice. You’ll notice that your cat also has an excellent sense of hearing and smell too. 

Your domesticated cat enjoys playing. This proves especially true with kittens, as they love to play-fight, and chase toys, too. The play fighting could be a way for kittens to practice their hunting skills.

Now that you know some of the details about pet cats, it's time to dive into the subject at hand and answer the question: how do I give my cat a pill? Hopefully, by the time you’re done reading, you’ll feel better prepared to tackle this task. 

How do I give my cat a pill?

So, you’re wondering how you can give your pet cat a pill. As mentioned, this can truly be a challenge, so don’t worry if it takes you a few tries. The most important thing is to ensure that your pet gets the medication that they need. In other words, it doesn’t matter how long it takes, just that your cat gets their pill. There are a couple of ways that you can tackle this. The first way to give your cat a pill is by hand. The second way is to hide their pill in a piece of food. There’s usually a bit of trial and error associated with finding a method that works for you, so don’t panic. 

It’s understandable that giving your cat their medication can prove to be intimidating and even a bit anxiety-inducing. Nevertheless, try your best to be confident and calm, too. This is because your feline is able to pick up on your stress, and this could make them nervous, too. 

The direct method of giving a cat a pill

If you’re anxious about your cat not getting their pill, you can give it to them directly. While this isn’t as “appealing” for your cat as the food method, it could definitely work better for some pets. 

The first thing you need to do is prepare a safe place where you can give your cat their pill. Be sure that the pill is easily accessible and ready. You don’t want to get your pet to the room to give them the pill and then have to run and fetch it.

Once you’re there, you might opt to place your cat in your lap. This is especially useful if you’re the sole administrator of the medication. Another tactic is to wrap the cat securely in a towel or a blanket with just their head exposed. 

Next, lubricate the pill using a small amount of either butter or margarine. This will help guarantee that the pill doesn’t stick to your pet’s mouth. By greasing the pill, you’re helping make it easier for your cat to swallow. This is also extremely helpful when you’re administering capsules.

The next step is to hold your cat’s pill in between your index finger and thumb. Be sure to use your dominant hand for this task. Next, gently hold your cat’s head from above, using your other hand. Put your thumb on one side of their upper jaw, and place your fingers on the other.

Now, you have to gently tilt your cat’s head back over their shoulder. Their nose should be pointing to the ceiling, and their jaw should drop open, slightly ajar. Now, take your pilling hand, and use your ring and little finger to gently open your cat’s mouth further. Place a little pressure on their lower lip and front teeth. Remember: being gentle is key!

Once you’ve done that, quickly place the pill as far back over your cat’s tongue as you can. Attempt to place it on the back one-third of their tongue. This will stimulate an automatic swallowing reflex and be the most effective way to get it done.

Then, close your cat’s mouth. Gently hold it closed while you return your head to a normal resting position. It’s a good idea to lightly rub your cat’s throat or nose. Another option is to lightly blow on their nose. This will also help stimulate swallowing. Usually, if your cat has successfully swallowed the pill, they will lick their nose. 

The food method for giving pills to cats 

Another way to tackle giving your pet their pill is to craftily hide it inside of food. This is typically the most effective if you hide the pill in a small, manageable amount of salmon, tuna, yogurt, or cream cheese. 

You want to ensure that your cat swallows their pill. This means that it’s better to put the pill inside of a small amount of food that your cat will definitely eat. Hiding it in a large portion of food is risky, as your cat might not complete it and, therefore, won’t get their pill.

The treat method for giving pills to cats

Soft treats are another excellent way that you can hide your pet’s pill. Some treats were even created with this treatment in mind, and you can mold their treat around the pill. Sometimes your cat might spit out the pill, so be sure to keep a mindful eye on your cat while they’re eating the food — and afterward, too.

Tips and tricks for giving a cat a pill

There are so many different tips and tricks to help you give your cat their pill. Some of these might surprise you, but they can prove to be extremely effective, and that’s the end goal.

Try tuna juice or flavored broth to wash the pill down

The first tip, if you’re opting for the direct way to give your cat a pill, is to follow the pill with some tuna juice, flavored broth, or water. This can be gently squirted into your cat’s mouth with a syringe, or you could offer it in a bowl or in a teaspoon.

Give your cat lots of positive reinforcement

The next suggestion is to give your cat positive reinforcement once you give your cat their pill. This could include treats, petting, playing, or brushing. The best way to do this is to be sure you’re doing something your individual cat enjoys.

Talk to a vet

If you’re still struggling, there are several things you can do. The first is to reach out to a trusted veterinarian for advice or even buy a pet piller device.

Get the medication compounded

Another way you can tackle this is by potentially having the medication you’re attempting to administer compounded into a flavored formulation. Reach out to a veterinary pharmacy about this.

Besides changing the flavor, veterinary pharmacies have other capabilities. Pawp veterinarian Dr. Laura Robinson says that these pharmacies can “change the form of the medication. For example, if you cannot give your cat a pill, they can change the form to liquid, which is typically easier to administer to cats."

How do I keep my cat healthy?

There you have it: how to give your cat a pill simply and effectively. Of course, if any questions pop up, you can reach out to a trusted veterinarian. At Pawp, vet care is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

You’ll love the affordable online vet with emergency coverage, too! Don’t wait another second to join the qualified vets at Pawp and get answers to all of your questions about giving your cat a pill. 


Giving Pills to Cats | VCA Animal Hospital  

Fun Cat Facts for Kids | Traverse Mountain Pet Care

Yes, cats really do bond with people, study says, even if they don't always show it | CNN  

Number of cats in the US 2017 | Statista 

How to Give a Cat a Pill—And Actually Get Your Cat to Swallow It | Reader's Digest 

Pilling Cats and Dogs Safely | Cat Info 

Giving Your Cat Medication | Cat Friendly 

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