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How to Administer Pill Medication to Your Cat

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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Many cats only need to visit the veterinarian for routine health care, but sometimes they need treatment for illness or injury. This often requires giving medication, which can be a confusing, scary and difficult thing to do. Medication is sometimes given in pill form. With practice, giving pill form medications can be quick and easy.

Some medications can be hidden in a small amount of food, such as tuna, peanut butter, small amount of butter, canned cheese spread (Cheez Whiz®) or cream cheese, but you must make sure that your cat swallows the medication. You must also be sure that the medication can be taken with food. Some cats will eat the food and spit out the pill. If hiding the pill in food is not working, try the following.

  • Firmly grasp your cat's head using your non-dominant hand. If you are right-handed, use your left hand. Grasp on top of the head, just on top of the ears with the thumb on one side of the face and the fingers on the other. Avoid holding the lower jaw and do not hold it so tight that it is uncomfortable or the cat cannot swallow. You may need someone to help hold the front legs and chest of your cat to hold him still. Some people find that wrapping their cat in a towel or blanket is a good restraint technique.

  • Once his head is held in place, raise the nose to point toward the ceiling. The mouth should then open.

  • Use your other hand to administer the pill. Place the pill between your thumb and forefinger. Use your little finger, ring finger or middle finger to lower the jaw by applying pressure to the teeth between the lower canine teeth.

  • After the mouth is fully open, place the pill as far back in the mouth as possible. Avoid placing your hand too far into your cat's mouth. You may stimulate the "gag reflex" and this will make the experience unpleasant and make future medication administration attempts more difficult.

  • Close your cat's mouth and hold it closed. Gently and briefly rub your cat's nose. This should stimulate him to lick his nose, which results in swallowing.

  • The quicker you perform this procedure, the more cooperative your cat will be.

  • Always remember to praise your cat and maybe offer a treat after receiving medication. This will help make future medicine times easier.

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