HomeResource CenterHow To Give A Cat A Pill

7 min read

How to Give a Cat a Pill: 8 Expert Tips

Medically Reviewed by

Tracy Isenberg, LVT

Cats are smart animals and most cats can be stubborn, especially when they're sick. No pet parent wants to see their cat sick or in pain, but accidents and illnesses happen.

You may need to give your cat medicine in pill form during their lifetime. This task can be tricky, but learning how to give a cat a pill is important. Giving your cat a pill the right way can be the difference between getting your cat the medicine they need and getting scratched or bitten.

In this article, we'll cover what to consider before giving your cat pills. Plus, 8 expert tips to keep you and your cat safe throughout the process.

What to consider before giving your cat a pill

What to consider before giving your cat a pill

If your cat has a health problem or is injured, they may need to take medicine in pill form. Before you try to give your cat a pill, read the medication's label carefully. And, talk to your vet about how your cat's medicine should be administered.

Ask your vet the following questions:

  • How should this medication be given?
  • Is this medication offered in liquid form?
  • How many times a day should I give it to my cat?
  • Are there any medications my cat should avoid?

Some pills are allowed to be mixed with food, while others are not. Plus, not all pills are able to be crushed or divided due to the risk of the medication damaging your cat's esophagus.


Always read your cat’s medication label carefully to be sure you follow the dosing instructions.

8 expert tips to keep cat parents and cats safe

8 expert tips to keep cat parents and cats safe

When learning how to give a cat a pill, keeping your cat safe and comfortable is most important. Use these 8 expert tips to keep you and your cat safe while giving pills.

1. Be calm and confident.

Be calm and confident

It can be stressful giving your cat a pill. But, try your best to stay calm throughout the process.

Cats may notice if you are stressed out about the situation. In turn, they may also become anxious about taking their medication.

2. Build trust with your cat.

Build trust with your cat

Bonding with your cat may help build trust in your relationship. If your cat trusts you, they may cooperate easier when you give them their medication.

The more you and your cat bond, the easier it will be to give your cat a pill. Plus, bonding is beneficial for both you and your pet.

To build trust before you start the process, gently stroke your cat's back and head. Offer a small amount of treats, and get your cat comfortable with you being in their space.

3. Try a pill crusher.

Try a pill crusher

If your cat's medication can be crushed, try mixing the crushed pill in their food. Use a pill crusher to smash the pill, then mix it in their food.

The design of pill crushers makes crushing pills easy. It also maintains the dosage of the medication when crushed, because the pill does not spill.

Avoid crushing your cat’s medication with a spoon or your hands. The dosage may fluctuate if you do not use a pill crusher.


Stay close to your pet while they eat food mixed with their medication. Do not let other pets consume medication that is not prescribed to them.

4. Hide the pill in wet cat food or canned food.

Hide the pill in wet cat food or canned food

Hiding the pill in your cat's food is one of the easiest ways to give them their medicine. At mealtime, hide your cat's medication in their favorite food.

You can also try hiding your cat's pills in human foods like baby food, yogurt, tuna juice, or chicken broth. Be sure to only give your cat a small amount of human food. And, take note of any allergies your cat has.

As your cat eats the food, watch to see whether or not they swallow the pill. If your cat detects the pill and spits it out, try another method.

5. Wrap the pill in a pill pocket.

Wrap the pill in a pill pocket

If your picky cat finds the pill hidden in their food, try a pill pocket. Pill pockets look like a soft treat and wrap around a pill.

Here’s how to use a pill pocket:

  1. Hold one pill pocket with your thumb and forefinger.
  2. Insert the pill into the pill pocket with your other hand.
  3. Avoid touching the pill pocket with the hand you held the pill in. It may transfer the smell and taste of the medicine to the pill pocket.
  4. Using the hand holding the pill pocket, squeeze the top half closed.
  5. Feed it to your cat.

6. Give the pill by hand.

Give the pill by hand

If hiding a pill in their food or pill pockets doesn't work, you may need to give your cat their medication by hand.

Here's a quick step-by-step guide to give a pill to a cat by hand.

Place your cat on a non-slip surface.

Find your cat and place them on a non-slip, flat surface like a carpet or area rug. While handling your cat, you'll want to be sure they aren't slipping and sliding.

Grease the pill.

Cover the pill in a small amount of gravy or tuna juice. You can also use a lickable cat treat to cover the outside of the pill.

Or, wrap it in a soft treat. This will make the pill easier to swallow. Plus, it will taste like a treat for your cat.

Hold your cat gently.

Hold your cat gently but firmly. Wrapping your cat in a towel with just their head exposed may be helpful.

Wrap your non-dominant hand around the top of your cat's head. Gently hold your cat's head with your thumb on one side of their upper jaw and your fingers on the other.

Tilt your cat's head backwards.

Gently apply pressure to tilt your cat's head backwards until their nose points at the ceiling. Then, gently open your cat's mouth. To do this, put light pressure on their lower jaw and front teeth.

Place the pill in your cat’s mouth.

Grip the pill with your dominant hand using your index finger and thumb. Or, use a pill popper to hold the pill and place it in your cat's mouth.

Quickly put the pill on the back one-third of their tongue, so it easily falls down their throat. Then take your fingers out of your cat's mouth to let it close.

Gently rub your cat's nose or throat.

Rubbing your cat's nose and throat, or lightly blowing on their nose, stimulates their automatic swallowing reflex. Wait a few seconds. If your cat has swallowed their pill, they may lick their nose and will return their head to a normal position.

Reward them with treats and praise.

After they swallow, give your cat a few treats and offer verbal praise. Rewarding your cat with treats and pets is a form of positive reinforcement.

After a few repetitions of this method, your cat may associate giving pills with a positive experience.

Use a pet piller.

Use a pet piller

Pet pillers or "pill guns'' are used to deliver pills to the back of your cat's mouth. This method is an option for pet parents that need to give their cat medication quickly.

A pill gun has a soft, rubber top that holds the pill on one end. The other end of the pill gun looks like a small plastic plunger and is used to push the medication into your cat's mouth.

If your cat gets aggressive and stressed when you try to give them pills, the pet piller may be the best option for you. Many cats may enjoy this method more than using your hands to give them pills.

8. Ask your vet about alternative medications.

Ask your vet about alternative medications

If giving your cat a pill is too tricky, talk to your vet at your cat check-up about other forms. Some medications can be made into gels that are rubbed onto your cat's ear flap.

You may also want to try a liquid form of your cat's medicine. While a liquid form may not taste like a treat, it may be easier for your uncooperative cat to swallow than a pill.

Topical medications for cats may be a better solution for your cat. Paws Plus® for Cats is a topical flea and tick solution that protects cats from fleas, ticks, and chewing lice.

Topical medications can be messy, and they are most effective when they are applied correctly. So, knowing how to apply flea treatment the right way is important.

Learning how to give a cat a pill can be intimidating. But, doing it the right way will keep both you and your cat safe throughout the process.

Treat your cat with tasty, all-natural Bug Bites.