5 Useful Ways to Give Your Cat A Pill (Even Difficult Cats)

Perhaps your cat had just been spayed, or just came home from the vet visit after feeling under the weather.

Now, you have a pill on your hand, which your cat needs to eat.

For each of my 4 cats (and their various levels of resistance), I’ve had to use different methods to pill them successfully.

Let’s look at the 5 tried and tested ways to give a cat a pill!

Note: All videos in this article are embedded at a specific timestamp, so you can skip all intros and see how the cat is actually handled straight away.

Method 1: Open cat’s mouth, place inside (The vet way.)

This is the most direct method that ensures your cat eats the pill completely. It’s also commonly used by vets.

pill popper to give cat a pill
Pill popper

Vets often manage to give the cat the pill within the blink of an eye. No assistance is needed. But if you’re still inexperienced, the process will be easier with two people.

One secures the cat, the other opens the mouth to place the pill.

If your cat tends to bite your fingers, you can also use a pill popper (or pill gun) instead.

Pill poppers are often sold at vet clinics and pet supplies retailers.

how to give a difficult cat a pill
Gabe, the pill hider. Only the pill popper and extra treats can guarantee that he swallows the tablet.

Lastly, to ensure that your cat isn’t secretly hiding the pill in their mouths, you can quickly give them some treats right after so they’ll be sure to eat and swallow everything.

Opening a cat’s mouth and placing the pill inside.
Situate yourself behind your cat to prevent escape.
The pill popper shown here has a soft silicone tip. But mine (pictured above video) doesn’t come with the tip – careful not to prod too far into your cat’s mouth with those.

Method 2: Hide pill in some meat or treats (For greedy eaters!)

If your cat is an enthusiastic eater, you can do away with Method 1 and simply adopt the peaceful process of giving your cat his/her favorite food.

This method works for tiny-sized pills.

Simply wrap the pill in a small piece of cooked chicken meat, or a bite-sized soft treat.

Your cat will be none the wiser and everyone’s happy. 🙂

Method 3: Crush pill, mix with wet food in cat’s bowl (Again, for the greedy ones.)

Some pills are too large to hide in a treat, so an alternative is crushing and mixing it into wet food.

black white tabby cat resting on grey blanket
Little Sister does not differentiate between tuna and crushed pills as long as the food is delicious enough.

You can use a wooden dough roller, or any other solid object.

Ensure that the object is dry to prevent the powdered pill from adhering to it, which causes wastage.

Then, simply hide the powder on a small section of your cat’s wet food!

Method 4: Crush pill, mix with paste-like food to syringe feed.

If your cat is ill and has a poor appetite, you probably need to syringe feeding food – might as well include the medicine in one of the syringes (no needles, of course.)

  1. Crush the pill into powder with a dry, solid object.
  2. Mix it with just a ½ teaspoon of paste food.
  3. You can draw the mixture up with the syringe. OR separate the plunger and the barrel completely, then scoop the food carefully into it. I use a 3ml syringe.
how to place food and pill into syringe to feed sick pet

I recommend preparing 2 syringes: 1 for solely food feeding, 1 for this food-pill mixture. This way, you can be sure that your cat has eaten most of the pill.

How to syringe feed your cat.

Method 5: Crush pill, mix with water to syringe feed.

black white tabby cat in pirate scratcher parvo survivor
Example of an extremely difficult cat: Quacky. The water method was the only way that worked when he had parvo.

Often, very sick cats have zero appetite. For example, cats with parvo may even gag and spit if we get food into their mouths.

If all methods above are not working for you, replace the food with water to syringe feed.

It’s not the most ideal, given the pill likely tastes awful. But at the very least, it minimizes the mess should your cat start gagging and spitting out anything.

  1. Crush the pill into powder with a dry, solid object.
  2. Mix the powder with 1 to 2ml of water. Using as little water as possible allows you to feed your cat with just 1 syringe, instead of multiple syringes where your unwilling cat might end up resisting more and more.
  3. Draw the mixture up with the syringe.

Again, remember to go slow when syringe feeding. Aim at the side corner of your cat’s mouth.

How to syringe feed liquids.

Which Type of Syringe to Use for Cats?

The usual syringe sizes I use for my cats are 3ml and 1ml. Two common tip types are the Luer lock and slip tip.

3ml vs. 1 ml – Which size is better?

syringe sizes to pill a cat
3ml syringe (top) and 1ml syringe (bottom)

To syringe feed food, the 3ml one is more feasible. It’s difficult to draw or place food into the 1ml syringe.

For liquids, both 3ml and 1ml works fine. However, if you’re worried about accidentally pumping too much into your cat’s mouth at once, you can start with the 1ml syringe until you’re comfortable with the hang of it.

Luer lock vs. Slip tip – Which type is better?

syringe types to pill a cat luer lock and slip tip

If you’re presented with both types, I’d recommend the slip tip over the Luer lock one.

My cat, Quacky, resists by shutting his mouth tightly and even pursing his lips to make sure it was 100% syringe-proof.

Combine this cunning move with his fluffy white fur, it was very difficult for me to locate and insert the bulky Luer lock tip into the corner of his mouth properly.

Once I bought a slip tip syringe, I’m able to get the job done faster. Convenient for both cat and human.

Where to buy syringes for cats?

The 3ml syringes can be bought from pharmacies. But so far, I only found 1ml syringes from vet places, or pet supplies retailers that provide vet services.

Best Ways to Give Your Cat A Pill

Besides the 5 methods described above, one extra piece of advice is to carefully observe how your vet handles your cat.

Look at how your vet overcomes your cat’s typical resistance style. Replicate those movements when you get home.

Still, no one becomes a trained professional overnight. Getting your cat to take the pill is always a challenging task.

Remember to be patient with not only your cat but yourself as well. You’ll get better at handling your cat and giving them the pill with each successive session.

Take a deep breath. Steady yourself to tackle that little furball. You can do it!

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