Getting pets to take their medication is probably one of the most challenging tasks pet owners face. Cats are especially difficult because they don’t just spit out pills; they also claw and bite and put up a major fight that spills spit, half-dissolved tablets and your blood everywhere. It’s traumatic for both sides, for sure. Here are some tips on how to give your cat tablets and other meds.

All is not lostIt's not easy to give your cat medicine

The most difficult part of giving your cat medicine is restraining her so that she doesn’t take a pound of flesh in compensation for her suffering. Fortunately there are some techniques you can use to swaddle your cat carefully and safely to protect you both. You can then follow additional tips to give your cat a pill – and other medication.

Preparation is key

The trick to successfully give your cat meds is to prepare well beforehand. Start off by understanding exactly what the medication is, how it works and what the dosage is. For example, take note of whether your cat’s medication is time release. Some tablets are made to a ‘slow release’ formula which means that the active ingredient is released over a period of time. These types of tablets must NOT be crushed.

Note whether your pet’s medication should be taken on an empty stomach or with food. Some tablets need to be taken with food so that the active ingredient is more easily absorbed. Other meds must be taken on an empty stomach so that food doesn’t interfere with active ingredient absorption. Not following the directions stipulated may well render the medication ineffective.

Prepare a space for administering the tablet. Have a large towel or sheet on hand so you can swaddle your cat. This stops her from struggling and keeps her claws well away from your arteries. It’s always easier to have another set of hands, so ask a family member or friend for help with medicating your cat.

cat burrito

Working on a counter top or table will ensure a comfortable working height so you or your friend can hold your cat easily and prevent her from heading for the hills until suppertime. Always be very gentle and avoid sudden movements while you place your cat comfortably on the towel. If you have a helper, ask them to hold your cat’s shoulders while you carefully wrap the towel around your cat. Your cat should be swaddled like a baby with just her head peeking out – like a burrito.

Getting down to business

Ask your assistant to will hold your cat steady while you do all the dirty work. Make sure you have two free hands so you can open your cat’s mouth and pop in the pill.

With one hand hold your cat’s head firmly yet gently, place your forefinger and thumb on your cat’s forehead making an upside-down U-shape, with your fingers resting along your cat’s cheekbones.

Raise your cat’s head gently so that her nose is angled towards the ceiling. This position will automatically make her jaw open slightly. Now you can gently press your thumb and fingertip into her mouth (keep her lips between your fingers and her teeth). This should make her open her mouth.

You’ll need to open her mouth a little wider with your other hand by pushing gently down on her chin. Now you can drop the pill into the back of her mouth. With the pill at the back of her mouth, she can’t spit it out and if she tries, the contraction of the tongue will push the pill further back into the throat, forcing her to swallow the pill. Job done.

If you suspect that the job hasn’t, in fact, been done and your cat is craftily hiding the pill in her mouth so she can spit it out, you can hold her mouth closed (gently) and blow softly in her nose. This usually triggers the swallowing action.

Try to encourage her to drink some water immediately so help the pill down her oesophagus. If there are no instructions regarding food, you can also give her a treat so she doesn’t hold a grudge … for too long.

Pill popper: The easy way to give your cat pills

If painful experience has taught you that you would rather not stick your fingers in your cat’s mouth, then you can buy a pill-popper. Pill poppers allow you to quickly and easily ‘pop’ a pill into the back of your cat’s mouth so she swallows instinctively. You will still have to go the swaddling route if your cat is particularly feisty, but at least you don’t have to worry about getting the pill in the right place. Pill poppers are available at pet shops and vet shops.

It’s not a pill

You can use a syringe to administer liquid medication. Be careful when tilting your cat’s head backwards because you could accidentally squirt the medicine down her windpipe. If you are too nervous to take the risk, you can ask your vet to administer the liquid medication,. However, this means you’ll have to go back and forth a lot. It’s better to ask your veterinarian to show you how to do it properly and then take the plunge and do it yourself.

All of these techniques aren’t just to make it easy to give your cat meds. They also work for difficult dogs and other small animals, like rabbits and hamsters.