As cat parents, we’ve all been there. Your vet prescribes oral medication for your kitty, and you leave the clinic happy that your feline friend is getting some much-needed treatment. On the way home, you start to wonder how you are going to get the pills or drops in your cat. You remember your past experiences: the food left uneaten after medications have been mixed in or sprinkled on top, the wrestling matches and the gooey pills spit up on the floor, the time spent trying to coax your kitty out of its hiding place when it’s time for its medication.

Fortunately, there’s a better way! Getting cats to take pills or drops will probably never be completely hiccup-free, but there are proactive things you can do to make the process less stressful for you and your cat.
One of the best things you can do, especially if you have a young cat or kitten, is start them early. Get them used to the process so it’s not something scary for them. The amount of time it will take for you to train your cat greatly depends on your cat and you. Keep repeating the process until your cat is comfortable and associates the actions with something good like a treat or affection.

  • First, many medications can be compounded into flavored treats, pills or liquid. Flavors usually include chicken, tuna, or beef.
  • Encourage your cat to sit in a place that it favors and enjoys. For example, try a favorite blanket or near the food dish. To help train your cat to go to a particular area, give it one of its favorite treats when it approaches the spot you’ve chosen.
  • Once your cat is settled in a place it likes, start petting your cat softly making sure to stop before they start to pull away. Then offer a treat.
  • Next, gently put your hand on its jaw and hold it for very few seconds. Try to release before your cat tries to get away. But just before you take your hand away, say something reassuring and give your cat another treat. Remember always stay calm and speak in a slow soft voice.
  • Repeat this process once a day for a few days or even a week. During that time, gradually increase the time that you hold your cat’s jaw by a few seconds each time. Be sure to proceed very slowly.
  • Teach your cat to allow you to separate its jaws and open its mouth. This will be begin to set the stage for the pilling device or dropper you’ll be using. Every time your kitty lets you do this, open its mouth just a little bit then release and offer your cat a treat.

If you’re not able to train your cat in this way (or if you just don’t have the time and patience!), there are still things you can do to make the process easier. Here are some tips for medicating your cat:

  • Place your cat on a counter top or table top with its rear facing you. This allows you to maintain a secure hold on your cat when it attempts to back up and escape. Then gently lay over the top of your cat not applying pressure or body weight but simply blocking another escape route. Then place both arms on either side of your cat using one hand to hold your cat in place and the other will be used to gently open your cat’s mouth.
  • Gently tilt your cat’s head back. This should cause your cat’s lower jaw to open naturally. If your cat refuses to open its mouth at this point, don’t give up. Simply place your thumb and forefinger at the corners of your cat’s mouth, which causes your cat to open their jaw slightly. Make sure that your fingers are NOT too close to sharp teeth!
  • Next, hold the pill between the thumb and index finger of your dominant hand and have a syringe of water (about 1 ml) ready to go to help chase the pill down. If you’re giving a liquid medication instead of a pill, follow the same steps. If it’s a large amount of liquid – go slow to prevent your cat from foaming or spitting it back out.
  • Finally, drop the pill as far back in the cat’s mouth you can, then immediately close your cat’s mouth and gently blow on its nose to force your kitty to swallow. Gently rubbing your cat’s throat can help them swallow as well. Then using the already prepared syringe of water, gently administer the water into the corner of your cat’s mouth to help chase the medication down.
  • Pilling devices can help get the medication over the base of the tongue and keep you from having to put your finger inside your cat’s mouth.

Remember all cats are different and some cats are certainly trickier to medicate than others, but it’s important to find what works for you and your cat. If you try these tips and still have trouble, call your Just Cats team for help!