How to Pill a Cat

Confidence, patience, and optimism are key factors in this process. Realize this is new for you both and may take a few tries until you get the hang of it. We are happy to answer your questions and offer free training for our clients. Our step-by-step pictorial and video below are great places to start.

how to pill a cat

How to pill a cat:

Put your cat in a new location like a bathroom counter or table top. Something at least waist high will give you better leverage.

pilling a cat

1. Grasp your cat over the top of the head. Go in front of the ears with your thumb on one side and either the index or middle finger on the other side of the head. Your fingers go where the jaw bones come together.





tip the nose to the ceiling

2. Gently, but firmly, tilt the cat’s head upright. You want to have the nose pointing to the ceiling. The cheek bones may provide a nice handle for lifting. Your cat may try to back away from you, so block him with the crook of your arm.




use finger to lower cat's jaw

3. When the head is fully upright, the lower jaw does not have strength and can be lowered with your free hand (try your middle or ring finger to lower). Quickly place the pill into the back of the cat’s mouth (pinch the pill with your thumb and index finger). If the head is straight up, the cat cannot bite in this position.




rub the cat's throat to make her swallow

4. Quickly close the mouth and hold it shut while rubbing the nose or blowing gently on the nose or stroking the throat. These things stimulate swallowing and increase the odds of the pill going down. Don’t forget to give lots of love or a treat afterwards. Swallowing a treat will make sure the pill doesn’t get stuck in the throat and is a positive reinforcement. You deserve a treat, too!

See it in action!

Other tips for pilling a cat:

  • Ask if the medication can be a liquid (easier to give) or an injectable (we can do for you or show you how). Many medications can be compounded into a transdermal gel and rubbed on the inner ear flaps.
  • Coating the pill (butter or Vaseline or Laxatone) can make it easier for the cat to swallow, but slippery for you to administer.
  • Use a “pet piller” or a “pill gun.” This is a plastic syringe with a special tip that holds the pill. You use this device instead of your fingers to get the pill into the back of the mouth.
  • Try putting the food in small delectable treat, like a bit of shrimp, to disguise the pill.
  • Try crushing the pill and mixing it into runny baby food. You can use a syringe to give the meds like a liquid.
  • Try putting the pill into a Pill Pocket. This is a treat with “play doh” like consistency you can mold around the pill. We sell them or most local pet stores do as well.
  • You can crush the pill and mix into canned cat food. Sometimes this makes the food taste bad and your cat may refuse to eat it. Be sure he eats all the food to ensure the medication is consumed as directed.
  • If your cat tries to scratch you, you can wrap him in a bath towel, like a burrito, which keeps the front limbs still while you access the head and mouth.
  • Give us a call, 319-232-5292, if you need a pep talk.