November 15, 2022
Based on an article that first appeared at

Cats are notoriously stubborn when it comes to taking medication. Trying to get a feisty feline to swallow a pill is no easy task, but with a little bit of practice and patience, you can get the job done without traumatizing your cat or risking injury to you or your cat. As veterinarians, we've seen the look of concern that often crosses cat owners' faces at the mention of administering medication. We understand your concerns and are here to make things a bit easier. In this blog post, we're sharing tips on how to pill a cat using the table method or the floor method. We'll also offer some advice for stubborn kitties. Keep reading to learn more!

The Table Method

The first step is to understand how to properly position your cat for pilling. Most pet parents agree that the table method is the easiest and most effective way to give a cat a pill, since it's the most comfortable for them. Start by placing your cat on a sturdy table or another solid surface. Since their natural instinct will be to back up when you approach from the front, you'll want to approach from the back for the best results.

Once your cat is in position, it's time to administer the medication. Gently but firmly grasp the top of their head using your non-dominant hand. Your fingers should be on one of your cat's cheeks and your thumb on the other. Hold the pill between your thumb and index finger on your dominant hand, and use your middle finger to pop open your cat's jaw. Quickly drop the pill in their mouth as far back as possible.

Hold the jaw shut for a few seconds until you feel them swallow. You can also gently puff air on their nose. This typically makes cats want to lick their noses, which causes them to swallow the pill. Once they've taken their medicine, offer your cat some pets and treats so they learn to associate taking pills with positive experiences.

Woman giving a pill to sick domestic cat

The Floor Method

The floor method is an alternative to the table method, and it works well if you don't have a table or countertop that puts your cat at a comfortable height. Pilling your cat on the floor may also be safer if they tend to react negatively since it eliminates the risk of them falling from a high surface. Start by placing your cat on the floor in front of you with their back toward you. You'll want to be in a comfortable kneeling or sitting position so you're not towering over your cat and making them feel uncomfortable or threatened.

Grab the top of your cat's head as described in the table method, and use your middle finger to open their jaw. Drop the pill into their mouth and hold their jaw shut for a few seconds until they swallow. You can also gently puff air on their nose, as described above. Once they've taken their medicine, offer them some pets and treats to create positive associations. Again, you always want to make it a happy experience—especially if you need to give your cat medication regularly.

Pilling a Stubborn Cat

The techniques above work great for docile cats, but what about the ones who are more stubborn? If you have a finicky feline who refuses to swallow or attempts to scratch or bite you when you administer medication, you may need some extra tools.

One way to get a stubborn cat to take their medication is by hiding the pill in food or using Pill Pockets. You can also try offering your cat some tuna juice or chicken broth as an incentive. Some other food ideas include human baby food (ham or turkey), canned cat food, lickable treats that come in a tube, vanilla ice cream, yogurt, or whipped cream, cream cheese, butter, or Vienna sausages. Once they've eaten the food or treat with the pill hidden inside, offer them some pets and extra treats as usual. In most cases, your cat won't even realize they've taken their medicine.

The towel wrap method is another option for pilling a stubborn cat. This technique is often used by veterinarians and professional groomers, so it's definitely effective. Start by placing your cat on a towel with their back toward you. Fold the top half of the towel over their body so they're effectively wrapped in it like a burrito. You want to be able to still see their head, but they should be snugly wrapped so they can't move around too much. The key is to make sure your cat is snugly wrapped so they can't move too much, but not so tight that they're uncomfortable. If done correctly, this method will usually result in your cat taking their medication without any fuss.

White round tablet in hand. In the background is a gray Scottish Fold cat

Using a Pill Shooter

If you're having difficulty getting your cat to take their medication, you may want to try using a pill shooter. A pill shooter is a small, handheld device that allows you to insert a pill into your cat's mouth without having to manually open their mouth. This is a great option if your cat is particularly resistant to taking their medication and works in conjunction with the table, floor, or towel method.

To use a pill shooter, start by loading the device with your cat's pill. With the pill loaded, gently insert the shooter into your cat's mouth and press the plunger. This will shoot the pill into their mouth, and they should swallow it pretty quickly. It works best if you can insert the shooter between your cat's back teeth, so the pill comes out near the back of their throat. You may need to practice a few times to get the hang of it, but using one of these devices is a good way to pill stubborn cats quickly.

Conclusion

Pilling a cat can be tricky, but with a little practice, it's definitely doable. If you're having difficulty getting your cat to take their medication, give us a call to make an appointment. We can offer additional suggestions or help you find a better way to administer the medication. Once you've gotten the hang of it, the entire process will be less stressful for both you and your feline friend. We promise!