I Have to Give My Cat a WHAT?!

Giving a pill to a cat is just one of those things – it gives people the shivers! But it doesn’t have to be stressful for you, your cat, or your spouse. Here are a few key points to making it an easier experience for all.


* Pills ready

* Wrap each pill in a small amount of pill pocket

* Relaxed atmosphere

* Restrain properly

* Wait for the swallow/lip lick!

* Positive experience


Before you even find your cat, have the following things ready in a quiet location away from other pets:

* Take the pill out of the container and split it if required.

* Wrap a half of a feline pill pocket around the pill.

* Have a thin blanket or towel ready (if needed)

* Have a syringe of 1-2 mL of water ready (if needed)


Even if you’re really good at pilling your cat, it will go best if you’re calm and the household is quiet. Trying to do this in the midst of dinner preparations for your in-laws coming to visit is not going to be the easiest approach! So find a quiet 10-minute window.


Pilling most cats is a less-is-more proposition. Overrestraint is a common cause of pilling woes! There are two approaches that I find useful. Try each one and see what works best for you.

Kneeling on the Floor

Kneel on the floor with your cat tucked in between your legs. This has the advantage that your cat will have a hard time backing up. This is the method I generally prefer for most cats.

Cat on the Counter

Alternatively you can have your cat on a counter or table or chair. In this situation it might be easiest to have a second person gently holding her body. It’s important that the second person is as calm and relaxed as you are. In rare instances, wrapping your cat in a towel or light blanket might help keep your cat calm and relaxed. If this is the case, you want to wrap her so that all of her feet are within the towel (figure 1).


Place the pill in your dominant hand between your thumb and first finger. Place your cat so that your non-dominant hand is over the top of her head. Grasp her head so that your fingers and thumb are beneath her cheekbones and then point her nose directly up toward the ceiling (figure 2). With your dominant hand, drop her lower jaw with your ring finger pulling down just in front of her teeth (figure 3). Drop the pill into the back of her mouth just behind her tongue (figure 4). For most cats this will be a straight shot as long as the tongue isn’t moving a lot. If it is, try to time your pill drop for when the tongue is not blocking the back of the throat.


Release your cat’s lower jaw so that she can close her mouth but keep her head pointed upward with one hand gently under her jaw and the other still over the top of her head. Wait for her to swallow before releasing her head. In most cats, you’ll see the tongue come out and lick the nose as an indication of swallowing (figure 5).

If you haven’t wrapped the pill in a piece of pill pocket, give your cat a small amount (1-2 mL) of water to help her swallow.


Ensure that this experience is as positive as possible – gently pat your cat as you’re releasing her from your hands. Offer her a favorite treat or her regular meal. For cats that enjoy playing, engage in their favorite game. If your cat just wants to leave the room, that’s fine too.

This video shows the process I’ve just described:


What?? You want me to practice?

I want you to consider it. Give this a try with just a portion of a pill pocket. If your cat realizes that this isn’t going to be about getting a dry pill shoved down her throat but rather it’s about swallowing a treat, it won’t be so hard.

Thank you to “Reba” Little and “Geronimo” Gullo for participating in the photos and the video.