How to Give a Cat a Pill

When it comes to taking pills, there isn't a feline equivalent to peanut butter. (Photo: Henk Badenhorst /iStockphoto).

Giving a cat a pill can be an unpleasant experience for you and your cat, but with the right approach, the whole process can be a lot easier to swallow.

If your veterinarian says it's OK for your cat to take the pill with food, one of the simplest solutions is to hide it in the food.

You can slip it into wet food or purchase soft treats like Pill Pockets, which have space to enclose a pill.

However, some cats will eat around pills or spit them out, so you may want to try crushing the tablet and mixing it thoroughly with wet food — but only if your vet says it's all right to crush the pill.

If your cat won't voluntarily eat the pill in food, you'll have to give it by hand.

One method of doing this is to crush the pill and mix it with water or a little oil from canned tuna or cat food. Put the mixture into a syringe and dribble it into the side of your cat's mouth.

If the pill can't be crushed, there are a few ways you can proceed.

Often, you'll have to restrain your pet, so it helps if there's someone who can assist you.

To restrain your cat, have her sit on a non-slippery surface in front of you and facing away from you. Gently hold the front legs above the joint and press firmly against the cat's sides.

You can also restrain your cat with a towel, which is a good idea if you'll be giving her a pill by yourself. Simply place your cat on top of the towel and then wrap the sides of it around the animal up to the neck and hold the cat firmly.

Now that your cat is restrained, place one hand on the top of the cat's head and extend your thumb and forefinger to either side of the animal's jaw. Gently tilt the head upward.

If someone is assisting you, have them lower the cat's jaw and quickly place the tablet as far back on the cat's tongue as they can. If you're doing this alone, have the pill between your thumb and forefinger in your free hand and use your middle finger to open the cat's mouth.

Once the pill is in the cat's mouth, hold the jaw closed for several seconds and wait for the animal to swallow.

Gently stroking the cat's throat may help. When your cat starts licking, you know he's swallowed the pill.

You may also want to use a pill popper, a syringe-like device with a plastic plunger at the end, to administer medication. The pill fits in the nozzle at the end and is released when you push down on the plunger. Such a device keeps you from having to put your fingers inside your cat's mouth.

If you'll be giving your cat medicine frequently, Best Friends suggests using behavior modification to help your cat learn to take pills on a regular basis.