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How To Give A Cat A Pill

Petmate Academy

November 1, 2022

You’ve seen it before – your cat walking around like a boss, all independent and aloof. But when it comes time to give them their medicine, they turn into a total diva. If you’re struggling to get your cat to take their medication, don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. Read on for our tips on how to make the process as painless (for both of you) as possible.

Before You Begin

Before following any of the tips below, make sure that your cat has been prescribed the medication you are attempting to administer. Common household medications such as ibuprofen are relatively safe for people and can be extremely harmful to cats. Never administer medication to a pet without proper guidance or recommendation by a veterinarian.

To help keep your cat as calm as possible throughout the process:

  • Find or set aside a safe space free of distractions to work in.
  • Pay attention to your cat’s mood and what they’re doing before attempting to give them medicine.
  • Never interrupt mealtimes, grooming, or litter box usage to give your cat their medicine.

If you’ve got permission to administer veterinarian-approved medications to your cat, here are three ways to give your cat a pill.

Giving Your Cat a Pill by Hand

The first method of administering medication to your cat in the form of pills or tablets seems simple: by hand. While cats are notoriously fussy creatures, if you haven’t tried the by-hand method, you might be surprised at how your cat reacts. The key is to be patient, be gentle, and have a clear plan.

1. First, you’ll need to gather all of the supplies you’ll need: the pill, some water, and a treat. You’ll want to have everything ready to go before you get your cat, so you’re not scrambling around with an anxious kitty. You’ll also want to have a safe space free of distractions to work in.

2. Next, get your cat into a helpful, yet comfortable position. It often helps to hold your cat close to your body. Some cats prefer to be in your lap while others might need to be wrapped in a towel or blanket with their heads exposed.

3. Tilt your cat’s head back, open its mouth gently with your fingers, and place the pill as far back on its tongue as possible.

4. Gently hold their mouth shot and stroke their throat until they swallow.

5. Once your cat successfully swallows the pill (and doesn’t spit it back out), reward them with a treat or some snuggles.

6. If your cat resists, you can try again with an extra set of hands. Have someone else hold your cat while you give them the pill.

Giving Your Cat a Pill by Tools

If you find yourself struggling to give your cat a pill by hand, there are pilling tools out there that can help make the process easier. One effective tool is a pill shooter, also known as a pill gun or pill popper. These tools look like syringes with no needles. The pill or tablet is placed at the end of the shooter, and released into your cat’s mouth when you push down on the plunger. To familiarize your cat with the pill shooter, you can practice with cat treats in place of pills.

Here are some step-by-step tips for administering medication with a pill shooter:

1. Prepare the tool before collecting your cat. Place the pill in the pill shooter and make sure the pill and plunger are securely positioned and in contact.

2. Restrain your cat. You may want to hold them in your lap or place them to get your cat to take their medication on their side.

3. Gently open your cat’s mouth by applying a tiny bit of pressure to its lower jaw.

4. Once your cat opens their mouth, quickly insert the pill shooter so that the pill is as close to the back of your cat’s throat as possible. Press on the plunger so that the pill is released.

5. Hold your cat’s mouth closed to discourage them from spitting the pill out. Gently stroke their throat to encourage them to swallow.

Giving Your Cat a Pill with Food

If your veterinarian gives you the green light, you can try hiding the pill in a small amount of wet food or a cat treat. Some owners find it helpful to use a pill pocket, which is a small pouch designed specifically for giving pills to pets. If you’re unable to find a pill pocket, simply cut the pill up into small pieces and mix it in with your cat’s food.


If you have a cat, it’s important to learn how to give them pills when they need them. No matter what method you choose, remember to be patient and gentle with your cat. It can be a daunting task, but with a little practice and some helpful tips, you’ll be able to get the job done quickly and easily.

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