One of the questions often asked on our cat forums is, how can I give a pill to my cat? Unless you find a super-tasty pill your cat happens to love (like the one shown in the picture here), you need to know how to properly administer a pill.
Technically speaking, the procedure itself is simple enough. Here’s how you can give a pill to your cat:
Place your thumb and forefinger on each side of the cat’s mouth and apply gentle pressure to get the mouth open. Using your other hand, gently press down the lower jaw and pop in the pill so it goes deep inside, onto the back of the tongue. Close the cat’s mouth and hold gently but firmly, while massaging the throat until the cat swallows. Notice the cat’s tongue popping out to lick the nose? Well done, the pill is in!
Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? The problem is that the majority of felines refuse to go along with the aforementioned scenario, and this is where the fun begins… How do you actually get your cat to let you gently press its jaws and pop in that little pill? Therein lays the real challenge of the question “How can I give a pill to my cat?”
One approach, almost magical to watch in action, is that of the Cat Whisperer. The Cat Whisperer is usually extremely experienced and has that extra-special touch which allows her to casually walk up to an unsuspecting cat, regardless of its temperament, and within seconds have the pill down its throat. She works effortlessly, without any resistance, just smoothly and efficiently and above all, quickly.
Most of us have neither the experience nor that special touch that the Cat Whisperer has, but keep her in mind as you contemplate pilling your cat, because she applies the two most important principles in the process – speed and calmness. You should always remember these two guidelines, especially the absolute need to remain calm and tranquil, before and during the process. If you approach your cat all a-jitter, she is likely to pick up on that, and pilling her becomes even more challenging.
Restraining the CatChances are you will have to restrain your cat to some extent. With some cats, just putting the cat up on a table and then holding him firmly under your arm, while using your hands to administer the pill, may be enough. An alternative technique is for you to kneel on the floor and fold your feet under you. Then place the cat between your legs so that her head is in the front. The cat is likely to try to back away, but your folded legs will keep her securely in place.
With other cats, you are likely to need someone to help you restrain the cat. Make sure that your helper is well acquainted with cats and approaches this calmly and with confidence. It’s better for all involved if the helper is acquainted with the specific cat you are going to give to pill to, and vice versa. The helper needs to firmly hold the cat, preferably by grabbing hold of the scruff with one hand, while firmly supporting the cat’s body. If the cat is likely to claw at you or your helper, you may want to consider restraining the cat within a tightly wrapped thick towel, so that only the cat’s head is showing.
Whichever method of restraining you end up using, remember the guidelines: Keep calm and make it quick. You don’t want to restrain your cat for any longer than absolutely necessary, and you want to keep the process as stress-free as possible by remaining calm as possible throughout.
A Few Important Tips on How To Give a Pill To your Cat
- Cover the pill with a little bit of butter. This will not only make it taste better but, more importantly, help it slide down the cat’s throat.
- Use a pill popper to quickly and effectively shoot the pill into the cat’s mouth and get it positioned properly over the inner part of the tongue. Keep in mind that you are not trying to shoot anything directly down the cat’s throat. The point is to get the pill on the surface of the tongue, deep enough to get the cat to swallow, without risking your fingers.
- Don’t break the pill. Some pills are covered in a flimsy coat that keep away the bad taste of the medicine. If you break the pill, you lose that effect and are more likely to end up with a foaming cat.
- Some types of medication are available in flavored versions, developed specifically for pets. Ask your vet about this option.
- You could try hiding the pill inside a cat treat. Some cat treats have a hollow center for this purpose, or you could work your way through a soft cat treat using your fingers. This doesn’t work with all cats, and not with just any type of medicine either. Many cat will smell the medicine through the camouflage and will either ignore the treat, or take it and make sure to spit the pill out in disdain.
- Ask your vet if you could get the pill in liquid form. Medicating a cat with liquids, using a syringe (without the needle!) can be easier with some cats.
Whatever technique you apply, and whichever tips you wish to follow, always remember this: Plan ahead, and then make the procedure itself as quick and as calm as possible.
When You Can’t Give a Pill to Your Cat
Some cats can be very difficult to pill. The truth is that with some cats and some owners, the answer to the question of “How can I give a pill to my cat?” sometimes has to be, “You can’t”. As one of our forum members described it, they turn into Tasmanian Devils and even a team of two handlers can’t get them to take a pill, not without the risk of serious injury. If you have such a devil of a cat to deal with, talk to your vet about other options for administering the necessary medication. Your vet may be able to provide the same treatment in the form of either pastes or even injections, and with some felines these may actually prove to be less stressful, for both cat and owner.
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