Pilling cats: Here are 4 methods for doing so

Every long-time cat owner has had to find ways to give their cat a pill. In fact, pilling cats is often so difficult that there are entire humorous stories dedicated to it. So how the hell do you do it without getting shredded and stressing out your poor cat to boot?

The easiest method for pilling cats is to turn it into a treat

pilling cats

One great method for pilling cats involves using something tasty, such as a pill pocket, her favorite treat, and even certain types of people food. This helps get her to eat the pill without really realizing that it’s even there. Chase and Gizmo are both on long-term medication, and we’ve found using pill pockets works very well. They hear the pill bottle and they come running, instead of hiding. Unfortunately, many cats will eat some of the treat, spit the pill out, and then finish the treat (or not). We’ve found that giving them empty pockets regularly helps keep them from learning there’s a yucky filling and spitting it out.

The old-fashioned way of pilling cats is stressful and can be dangerous, but here’s how you do it

There’s the old-fashioned way of pilling cats, which involves holding your cat down, forcing the pill into her mouth, then trying to make her swallow. According to Dr. Dawn Ruben of Petplace.com, the proper way to do this is:

  1. Firmly hold your cat’s head in your non-dominant hand, avoiding the lower jaw and neck/throat as much as possible. You don’t want to restrict your cat’s ability to swallow.
  2. Raise her nose upward, toward the ceiling, which should force her to open her mouth. This will also make it harder for her to bite you.
  3. Hold the pill between the thumb and index finger of your free hand. Use your ring finger, pinkie or middle finger, gently press on her canines, which should make her open her mouth wider.
  4. Place the pill on her tongue, as far back towards her throat as you can, but avoid putting more of your hand in her mouth than is necessary. If you make her gag, the pill will come back up too and you’ll have to do it all over again. It might also be more difficult to pill her in the future if this happens.
  5. Close her mouth and gently hold her that way. You can then stroke the tip of her nose, which can make her stick her tongue out to lick away the tickle. That should make her swallow the pill. You can also very lightly stroke her throat, which can also make her swallow. The latter method is not always effective, however.

Remember to praise your cat, and even reward her with a treat, as soon as she’s swallowed it. You don’t want her to remember being frightened and uncomfortable.

I personally hate this method for pilling cats, though.

There are devices you can use to shoot the pill into the back of her throat

There are certain devices available for pilling cats that you can use without having to stick your fingers directly in her mouth. Devices like pill guns are basically a type of syringe that holds the pill in place, with a plunger that helps you get it onto the back of her tongue. This can help to save your fingers and time, because they’re less likely to be able to spit it out.

If you’re good at getting the pill onto the back of her tongue, but she’s stubborn about holding it on her tongue, try coating it with a little butter. This can help it slide down faster and prevent her from holding it in the back of her throat.

If none of these methods for pilling cats works, then consider this option

You can always take her medicine to a compounding pharmacy, if there’s one near you. These pharmacies make the medication easier and more convenient for your cat to take. They can even make it tasty so that she might find herself thinking of it as a treat, and want to take it. You can take a look at this list to see if there’s one near you, or ask your veterinarian for recommendations as to where to go.

Ideally, one of these methods should work. Remember, though, that one method will not work well with every cat. If you have a multi-cat household, you might find that what works well for one of your cats doesn’t work at all for another. The biggest keys are patience and staying calm.

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