How to give your cat a pill

Eventually your cat will need to take some medication. Cats often have certain conditions, such as bladder or kidney infections, respiratory problems, or oral inflammation, and these are traditionally treated with antibiotics. Some cats are easier to medicate with liquid preparations, administered with a dropper, but sometimes a pill is necessary.

It’s not always medication, either. You may want to provide your cat with some vitamins, and they can also be obtained in pill or capsule form.

You can fool a dog by wrapping the pill in a slice of cheese or a hamburger, but cats are more demanding and are not easily fooled. The only way to do this is with the direct approach. The cat just has to learn to accept that you are the boss and that this pill thing is going to happen. (Don’t shake your head… you can do this!)

Much like getting a reluctant cat into a pet taxi, a towel may also be your best option. Calmly and gently wrap the cat so that you end up with a “papoose,” with the mouth exposed at one end. Everything else needs to be well wrapped, or you might get scratched. Or worse yet, the cat will run away and you won’t be able to catch it again very soon.

Place your “cat-papoose” on a table or counter, then slightly lean over it with your upper body. Watch out, you still need to breathe! If you have a pill making tool, use it. If not, caution here is essential, as even a domesticated cat can bite as a simple reflex that it cannot avoid. With one hand, hold the back of the cat’s head by the fur. Pull back firmly. (Yes, this gives them a streamlined look.) Sometimes this opens your mouth. If not, and you have a helper, grasp the skin on the chin and pull the jaw down.

Insert the pill tool so that it sits on the back of the tongue. Stick the pill down your throat, then quickly close your mouth and stroke the cat’s neck to help it swallow. Do not let him open his mouth until you are sure that the pill has been consumed.

If you don’t have a pilling tool, you may need to have a good aim. Mix the pill directly in the throat. If you forget, you may need to place the pill on the back of your tongue and push it down with your finger. This is a delicate deal. Be very careful and very fast so that it does not bite you. Once the pill is in, close your mouth and hold it, stroking the throat area to help you swallow it.

If you need some training or a good demonstration, ask your vet to show you how to do it.

When you’re done, release the cat gently…slowly, calmly, and talk to her to reassure her. You don’t want to let him go on a streak afterwards, as this will reinforce the idea that he has escaped some torture you’re administering to him. As he gently unwraps it, tell him what a great cat he is and what a great job he did. Then calmly put it on the ground. Cats respond to compliments, so use them liberally. It can run away, but if you act nonchalant, the cat will also learn to relax.

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