How To Give Your Cat Medicine And Tablets

picture of ginger cat sniffing tablet

Administering cat medicine can be a challenge, to say the least. Picture the scene... Kitty has been ill, you take him to the vet who says "Nothing to worry about. Just an infection that will be cleared up easily with a week long course of antibiotics. Two tablets a day, morning and evening."

Your day is instantly ruined, then panic sets in. Fourteen chances to be bitten, scratched and spat at. Better check your tetanus booster is up to date...

Cats have a well-deserved reputation for being nigh-on impossible to give medicine to, especially tablets. Some cats will take tablets easier than others, but very few are willing recipients.

This page gives you tips on successfully administering cat medicine without emerging like you've lost a fight with a giant cactus.

I've included some photos with the instructions to show you more clearly what I'm saying (apologies to my cat Priscilla who I shamelessly exploited to get these!), and there's a video at the end of the page to help you too.

Tips For Successfully Giving Kitty A Pill

1) If you're inexperienced, this is a 2 person job!

It's much easier to give Kitty a pill if you have someone holding him while you do it. Unless you're experienced and confident at giving a cat tablets, I'd definitely recommend having a second person there to help you.

2) How to hold Kitty correctly while he's getting his pill

The "holder" should get Kitty on a table and hold him from behind, with their hands firmly holding his front legs. The "holder" should stand directly behind Kitty so that Kitty's back is touching the holder's stomach. This way, if Kitty attempts to jump back as the pill approaches, he'll have nowhere to go. Holding his front legs helps to prevent scratching.

If you have a particularly strong Kitty who's really objecting to taking his medicine, you can wrap him in a towel which will help to prevent him from kicking out, scratching etc. To do this, lay a fairly large towel out on the table, stand Kitty on it, then literally wrap it securely round him so his paws and legs are tucked firmly inside. The "holder" should still hold him as described above when the pill is given.

3) Pill administrator - gently but firmly hold Kitty's head

picture of persian cat about to be given a tablet

Put your hand round the back of Kitty's head with your middle finger on one side of his mouth and your thumb on the other side. Tip his head back - you'll notice his mouth starts to naturally open

4) Give Kitty the pill

picture of cat being given tablet

Continue to hold Kitty's head back as described above. With your other hand, use your middle finger to gently open Kitty's mouth further (you'll be surprised at how little force it takes and it's really important you don't overdo it.) Put your finger on his little bottom teeth at the centre - not on his fangs! Simultaneously hold the tablet between your thumb and forefinger. Pop the tablet in Kitty's mouth as far back as you can, then remove your fingers.

5) Hold Kitty's mouth shut and wait for him to swallow

Gently hold Kitty's mouth shut. You only need to apply enough pressure so he can't open his mouth wide and spit the tablet out; he should still be able to move his mouth and lick his lips. Within a couple of seconds he should give a big swallow, followed by licking his lips. This lets you know he's swallowed the tablet.

Other Points To Note:

  • Crushing tablets into food. This may seem like a good alternative if you have a particularly difficult Kitty, but you should check with your vet before you do this. Not all tablets can be crushed into food - some lose their effectiveness and some can't be taken with food
  • Using a tablet dispenser. This is an alternative to using your fingers, and some people like them. Personally, I find it much easier to give tablets using fingers, but if you want to try a dispenser, the video below shows you how to use one
  • Giving liquid cat medicine. This is usually dispensed by a dropper or a syringe. The same principles apply - you need to tip kitty's head back, insert the dropper / syringe towards the back of his mouth, dispense the liquid then hold his mouth shut until he swallows it. You do need to be careful here not to dispense the liquid too quickly - if you do there's a risk of some of it going down the "wrong way" - i.e. into his lungs - which will likely cause a nasty coughing episode

Finally, I'd like to say that it does take practice to become good at administering cat medicine. The more you do it, the easier it gets. So don't give up if your first few attempts are unsuccessful - Kitty needs you to be able to do this for his sake (though he may not quite view it that way!)

Video - The Correct Way to Give Your Cat Medicine

Go from cat medicine page to cat care page

Go to Cat Behavior Explained home page