Cats are notoriously difficult to medicate. Unlike their less discerning canine counterparts, cats are sophisticated and discreet about what they eat. You typically can’t hide a pill in a meatball or a piece of cheese and expect a cat to wolf it down on command. That just ain’t happenin’. Here’s a few pointers on how to give a cat a pill.
Although most cats won’t eat a pill hidden in food, one of the most effective ways to give a cat a pill is to camouflage it in the center of a chunk of tuna. This often works for a while, until the cat expertly learns to eat the tuna and leave a spotless pill behind.
Pre-packaged soft cat treats with a hole cut in the center are available, designed specifically for administering pills or capsules. Drop the medication into the hole, then pinch the treat closed. Some cats love the treats and will scarf them down — until that day when they bite right into the center and taste the medication. Trust me, they will forever look at these treats with disgust, and they will never eat another one again. You’re back to square one.
Crushing the pill into a fine powder and mixing it into their wet food sometimes works; however, if the cat decides to only eat 60 percent of her food that day, then she’s only gotten 60 percent of her medication dose. I often tell my clients to mix the powdered medication into a teaspoon of something very palatable (baby food usually works like a charm) and, once they see that the entire dose has been administered, the rest of her breakfast (or dinner) can be given.
This may or may not work. Cats are finicky about their food, and what is caviar to a cat on Monday may become Brussels sprouts on Tuesday. Many pills are bitter, and trying to mask a bitter powder with tuna or sardines often misses the mark. Rather than make the medicine taste better, it only makes the food taste worse.
Clients often ask if they can crush the pill into a powder, and then mix it with a little milk or water and syringe it into the cat’s mouth. In theory, this sounds promising but, again, many medications are bitter, and milk or tuna juice is not enough to mask it.
There’s no way around it: At some point in your cat’s life, she is likely going to need to be administered some pills. Here’s the method I prefer (The description below assumes that you’re right-handed. If you’re left-handed, substitute the word “left” for “right”):
There is no shortage of videos online that show you how to give a cat a pill. These two illustrate how to get your cats to take pills:
Of course, they manage to find the most cooperative and well-behaved cats for these videos, so don’t feel like a failure if things don’t go as smoothly. As with everything in life, the more you practice, the more proficient you’ll become.
Thumbnail: Photography by Elenica / Shutterstock.
Tell us: What are your tips on how to give a cat a pill?
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Dr. Arnold Plotnick is the founder of Manhattan Cat Specialists, a feline-exclusive veterinary practice on Manhattan’s upper west side. He is also an author of The Original Cat Fancy Cat Bible. Dr. Plotnick is a frequent contributor to feline publications and websites, including his own blog, Cat Man Do. He lives in New York City with his cats, Mittens and Glitter.