How to give your cat medicine

Written by Dr. Colleen Fisher  | Published on: 6/15/2020


It takes practice to give your cat a pill, and it’s important to teach them how to accept medication. If you are struggling with giving your cat medication, you’re not alone. Hiding pills in foods or treat pockets might work once or twice, but our feline friends are too smart for that.

The easiest way to give cats medication involves early handing and gentle head manipulation when they are kittens so they can get used to that feeling. You can use the same technique with adult cats. The key is to practice the technique on healthy cats who are not nauseated or in pain.

Follow these steps to practice giving your cat medication

Step One: Teach your cat that looking in their ears or their mouth is fun and always results in a small morsel of food – a lick of canned cat food will do! As you go further, give a reward at each step. Once your cat allows the handling involved, you can move on to the next position.

Step Two: Cradle the back of your cat’s head in your palm and reach forward with your thumb and middle finger toward the back corners of her lips on either side of the jaw. Your fingers will be pointing toward the nose end of your cat. When practicing, give a lick of food.

Step Three: Using the hand position from step two, slowly point your cat’s head so she is looking up and her nose is pointed straight at the ceiling. Cats tend to hold their mouth slightly open at this stage. When practicing, give a lick of food.

Step Four: Use the middle finger of your opposite hand and gently open your cat’s lower jaw. If your cat is comfortable, she will not struggle with this movement. When practicing, place a small lick of food on the roof of her mouth – enough to get your cat to lick her lips. Use gentle petting and quiet verbal praise to soothe your cat. Offer her a spoonful of canned food or a couple of her favourite treats as a reward.

When you’re ready to give your cat pill medication

Use your thumb and index finger on your opposite hand to hold the pill or capsule. With your cat’s nose pointed at the ceiling and your middle finger holding the lower jaw open, drop the pill or capsule straight down behind your cat’s tongue.

When practicing, try using a small empty gelatin capsule. They have no flavour and are tolerated by most cats. You can often find them at your local human pharmacy or veterinary clinic.

Make sure your cat swallows right away! Close your cat’s mouth with your opposite hand. You should see her lick her lips and nose. If not, try to blow softly in her nose until you see a visible swallow.

When you’re ready to give your cat liquid medication

Use the same head handling techniques you practiced but position your cat’s head at a natural angle to allow her to swallow the liquid medication slowly until finished. Try practicing with plain water since many medications have a bitter taste. After giving any medication, it helps to gently give some water from a syringe to help clear your cat’s throat.

Your pet’s medication is critical for improving their health

If you haven’t had a chance to practice, you may need the help of a second person to hold your cat’s shoulders. If you are still experiencing challenges, check in with your veterinary team for more help.

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