At my veterinary practice, I have occasionally seen cats that will take tablets from my hand as if they were treats!! But most people are not lucky enough to have a cat that will take tablets that easily! My cat is a nightmare to give tablets to, and as a vet nurse, I have struggled giving medication. Getting your cat to take oral medications is famously difficult. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix but we can help you find out what is the best option for your furry friend. From pill putty to pill poppers, there’s a few tips that we can give you to try at home.
The first step is to get advice from your veterinarian professional regarding the medication that has been given for your cat. Some drugs come into different forms especially for cats, as vets and vet nurses know how tricky it can be to give medication. The pharmaceutical companies are trying to come up with new and easier ways to give medication to cats.
If you know your cat can be difficult to give tablets to, find out if there is a “spot-on” or a liquid alternative that might be easier to administer. Find out if you can crush the medication into a powder to place in food. Some tablets need to be given as a whole and not crushed to be effective. Some cat medication comes with a “palatable” label (they are formulated to be better tasting than other products). Other tablets need to be given with food, some on an empty stomach. Once you know what you can do with the medication, then you can look at your options and find out which one is the best for your cat.
Pill putties and soft treats
You can try hiding tablets in soft treats such as pate, cooked chicken, cheese or ham. You can also use pill putties that are available on the market, such as Easypill (by Vetinnov) and Webbox Stick (Cat’s Delight tasty stick), by wrapping the pill in the tasty putty. You may need to split the tablet in half if it is very big. Offer the treat before putting any medication in it to make sure your cat likes it. If your cat doesn’t take the treat as it is, then it is very unlikely that he will eat the treat with medication in it. It is best to give medication in a treat when your cat is very hungry before a meal for example. Your chances of success will be much higher if your kitty has an empty stomach!
Before crushing a pill, always check with your vet first as some medications are specifically formulated to be given as a whole, as they have a special coating that protects the pill from stomach juices to then be absorbed in the small intestine, or to protect the stomach from the medication itself.
If the vet gives you the go ahead, you can crush the tablet using a mortar and pestle, or a commercially available pill crusher. I suggest trying to offer the powder on a treat or food that your cat loves. I’ve found that Lick-E-Lix from Webbox works wonders at work, or try tuna, Pilchards or sardines. If that fails, you can mix the powder in 2ml of water (using a syringe that your vet can provide) and syringe it to your cat. This is a good option if you find it easier to give liquid to your cat as opposed to giving him the pill directly in his mouth.
Use a pill popper
Try using pill givers, also called pill poppers, which have a soft rubber end to reduce risk of injury.
Put the pill at the end of the pill popper, where the soft rubber is. Have a 2ml or 5 ml syringe filled with water at hand. If you have someone to help you, ask them to hold your cat by putting their hands on its side by the shoulder blades with the cat facing you. If you are by yourself, try making a cat “burrito” by wrapping your cat in a towel so only his head is out of the towel. The aim is to stop your cat using his front paws to get your hands away from his mouth.
Once your cat is in position, use your left hand to tilt his head back so his nose is upwards by placing your thumb on one side of his jaw and the other fingers on the other side. It’s a bit as if you are holding his cheeks. This way, you have good control of his head.
Now place the pill popper on the side of his mouth which will open your cat’s mouth and direct towards the back of the mouth, and depress the plunger.
Immediately afterwards, hold your cats jaw closed. Grab your syringe of water with one hand, and gently and slowly syringe feed a bit of water on the side of his mouth. That will help the tablet go down the oesophagus and prevent any tablets stuck in the food pipe which could create inflammation. It’s important to give the water slowly as you don’t want your cat to swallow the water down his windpipe. Instead of water, you could place a small knob of butter on your cat’s nose, or offer it on your finger, so that the tablet goes down his oesophagus successfully.
You can also use the same technique by using your fingers, only if your cat is not too difficult to pill. Once you have your cat in position with his head tilted back, you can try dropping the tablet at the back of his mouth, without putting your finger in his mouth. I’ve found this technique to be successful in some cats at work. And then follow with 2ml of water.
Try offering a treat afterwards to finish on a good note!
Chilling strongly flavored medication in the fridge
Chilling strongly flavored medication in the fridge may reduce the flavor, and it may make them easier to hide in food or treats.
Use gelatin capsules
For bitter tasting medication, you can try hiding the pill inside an empty gelatin capsule. These capsules are often available at vet practices. You can also use gelatin capsules to administer a few pills at once. It saves from pilling your cat multiple times and it can hopefully be done in just one go.
How to Give a Cat a Pill Demonstrated by a Vet
There are many ways to give a pill to a cat, and it is usually best to try to make it a positive experience for the human-cat bond relationship. Unfortunately, if you have a cat like mine, you may have to pill your cat directly into his mouth. Always make sure you follow with a treat or food to try to make it a positive experience.