Cat Tips

How To Give a Cat a Pill

You’re probably reading this after trying to give your cat a pill without much success. Even professional DVMs (aka doctors of veterinary medicine) who have done it countless times sometimes struggle to get cats to swallow their medicines without pill pockets or a special pill popper. These pills can be essential for a cat’s health, so pet parents want to know how to get their cats to take them.

Most dogs, from the Catahoula leopard dog to the French bulldog, won’t give you much trouble. Cats, on the other hand, will put up a fight. If your cat won’t take their medicine, this guide may help make it easier for you.

How do you give your cat a pill hidden in food?

One of the best ways to get your cat to take their medicine is by hiding it in their food. When your cat swallows their food and it goes to the back of the throat, the medicine enters their esophagus.

Here’s a simple guide to giving your cats pills with food:

Check with your vet

You need to confirm if the cat medication comes with specific instructions from your vet. Checking the manufacturer label lets you know if you can crush the medicine or administer it whole with food. If the cat bites down on the pill instead of swallowing it whole, some of its effectiveness might be compromised.

Ensure your cat is hungry

If your cat has just had a meal, they might not be interested in taking food with medicine hidden within. If possible, delay the medicine till it’s time for your cat’s next feeding. Otherwise, your cat might turn down the pill, even if it’s hidden in cream cheese or another treat.

Another option is to postpone their feeding till it’s time for their medicine. Your hungry cat won’t spend too much time investigating the hidden content of the food. They’re also less likely to spit it out.

Use the right amount of food

You don’t want to bury the medicine under a large pile of food. Your cat might not even get to it. Instead, use a small portion of your cat’s favorite snack.

Soft foods work best. Try jelly cat food, peanut butter, cheese, or a soft piece of meat or fish. The right amount of food should be enough to cover up the medicine. Make sure to use pet-friendly foods; foods with xylitol should be avoided at all costs.

Crush the medicine

Some cats won’t be easily fooled. They’ll spit the food right out if there’s medicine hidden within. A great way to avoid this is by using a pill crusher.

Turn the drug into powder and mix it with a small amount of food. However, note that you can’t do this with every pill. Speak with your vet to be sure that this is okay.

Mix liquid medicine

Your cats are more likely to accept liquid medication mixed with a small amount of food. Consequently, choose something they like, so they won’t reject it. However, if your cat doesn’t consume the entire meal, they might leave some critical medicine behind.

Confirm that they swallowed the medicine

Despite your best efforts at hiding the pill inside your cat’s favorite snack, they can still find it. Confirm that your cat has swallowed their medicine before giving them the rest of their food.

How do you give your cat pills by restraint?

Some cats will never take medicine with food. They’re much too clever for that. If that’s your cat, you’ve still got other options. You can get your cat to swallow their medicines using gentle restraint.

Here’s how to do it:

Choose a suitable surface

Place your cat on a non-slippery solid surface. If you’re using a table, ensure that it’s not wobbling. You can throw on a towel to add some grip to the surface.

Position your cat

Place your cat upright on your chosen surface. They should be in front of you, looking ahead.

Hold your cat

Gently grab your cat’s front legs above their elbows. Firmly hold their legs against their body. Don’t hold your cat so tight that they’re in pain but not so loosely that they can run away.

Use a towel

Some cats are especially wriggly and will try their best to get away from you. In that case, you can use a towel to keep them in place. Some pet owners have success with wrapping their cat in a blanket to create a “cat burrito,” giving the cat an added sense of security.

Place a towel on the surface and place your cat on it. Lift the sides of the towel and wrap it around your cat’s neck. Use a midsize towel to give you a firm hold on your pet.

Give your cat the medicine

This step is tricky, and you may require some assistance. You can have someone else restrain your cat by hand or with a towel while you give them the medicine.

Here’s a guide on how to give your cat medicine:

  • Hold the tablet between your thumb and index finger.

  • Place your non-dominant hand on your cat’s head — your thumb and index fingers should extend towards your cat’s mouth and jaw.

  • Tilt your cat’s head upward.

  • Pull down your cat’s lower jaw to open their mouth using the middle finger of the hand holding the pill.

  • Drop the pill into the back of your cat’s mouth or use a dropper or syringe for liquid medicine.

  • Hold your cat’s jaw closed till they’ve swallowed the pill.

If your cat spits out the tablet, you can try a few more times till you get it right, as long as your cat isn’t in distress.

You can tell that your cat has swallowed the pill when they lick their lips or nose. Massaging their neck helps them down the medication. Your cat can enjoy a quick snack afterward.

What tools make giving your cat pills easier?

Giving medicine to your cat is challenging, particularly if it’s your first time. Fortunately, it can get easier with these tools.

Pill giver

You won’t need to insert your hands into their mouth if you have a pill giver. This tool looks like a syringe. Pushing the plunger sends the pill to the back of your cat’s mouth.

You’ll need some practice to master this tool. Once you do, it becomes invaluable. A tip for using the pill giver is to make sure you’ve prepared it before restraining your cat.

Pill splitter

Sometimes your cat doesn’t need to take the whole pill. If your vet asks you to give your cat half a tablet, splitting it into accurate halves can be difficult. A pill splitter helps you divide medicines into halves and quarters with ease.

Place the pill in the tool, close the lid, and it splits into halves. It’s best to check with your vet before splitting tablets for your cat. You shouldn’t break medicines that have a protective coat into smaller pieces.

Gelatin capsules

If your cat has to take multiple pills, thinking of going through this long process of administering medicines several times can be unnerving. If the tablets are small enough, you can put them in a single gelatin capsule. This allows you to dispense all of them at once.

Furthermore, capsules have a shape that makes them go down your cat’s throat smoothly. You can use a pill giver too.

Pill crusher

Although this tool is helpful, consult your vet because crushing every drug isn’t ideal. Once you get the all-clear from your vet, you can use your pill crusher to create a fine powder that you can mix with tasty food for your cat.

Final thoughts

It’s not unusual for cat owners to get a little nervous when the vet has sent them home with pills for their cats. They’re not the most cooperative pets, and getting them to swallow their medicines can be challenging. You can successfully administer oral medication to your cat with some practice.

Hiding pills in cat treats is the easiest technique. You need a small piece of your cat’s favorite food to hide the pill. If your cat can find the medicine hidden in their food and spits it out, you can try the gentle restraint technique.

Restraining your cat with your hands or a towel allows you to insert the pills into their mouths. It takes some practice to master these methods. Thankfully, tools such as the pill crusher, pill giver, gelatin capsules, and pill-splitter make it a little easier. No matter what method you do, make sure to shower your cat in love and affection afterward.

Learn more about pet health from Spot Health Insurance.


  • Giving Pills to Cats | VCA Animal Hospital

  • Paws Off Xylitol; It’s Dangerous for Dogs | FDA

  • Tips For Feline Medi-cat-ion Administration | Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences

Follow us on Instagram

Follow us everywhere else: