Struggling to give medicines? Learn handy ways!


Garima Singhal
From deworming tablets to antibiotics, you need to give your cat different kinds of pills. Learn handy ways.
Most cats are experts at spitting them out, or they refuse to eat them altogether. If you are part of the likely majority of people owned by cats, pilling little Fluffy, otherwise known as trying to place a tiny, hard object into the mouth of an unwilling creature with sharp claws and teeth is not something that most pet parents look forward to. However, there are various strategies and ways you can learn to pill a cat with the least amount of stress to you and your kitty!
Prep and more prep is the first step The first step of course is to train the cat to tolerate the pill. These steps are taken long before giving your kitty the pill or supplement. The goal is to help the cat learn to tolerate the handling that will be necessary to pill her, and also to take liquids from syringes and solids from a pill gun or something similar.
Make your pet comfortable in being handled around her face and mouth. You can use treats to reward her for allowing the handling and to associate the activity with something pleasant for her. Make the initial sessions of teaching the handling process short, and follow up with a meal, petting or playtime. As the kitty gets more comfortable with having her face and mouth touched, you can begin to insert your thumb and middle finger to lift up on her mouth, forming a C with your fingers. Place a special treat, like a small morsel of meat that doesn’t need to be chewed into her mouth or immediately, upon letting go.
Get the basics right and your kitty won’t bite
First: Make sure that you ask your vet or check the manufacturer’s instructions so that you know whether the tablet can be divided or crushed or whether it can be mixed with food.
Second: Find the simplest and easiest method that is comfortable for the pet, you and everyone involved to give your cat the pill.
Third: Have a confident approach and keep calm at all times. If you run into difficulties, or cannot manage, contact your vet. Here are some things to do before you approach your cat with the pill.

  • Make sure everything is prepared and ready in advance.
  •  Be gentle and kind to your cat.Remember, she is only following her natural instincts.
  •  If you keep calm, your cat will be calm and it’ll be smooth sailing for everyone.
  •  A second handler is always welcome to help you with your cat. This person can administer, while you retrain, or vice versa. Make sure that the person is without fear of animals and cats in particular.
  •  Some tablets are manufactured so that they are yummy and cats will willingly take them. Others not so much.
  •  Remember to place the tablet at the tip of your fingers rather than in the palm of your hand.
  •  Often cats will not eat a tablet voluntarily because (even if designed to be palatable) the flavour and/or texture may be unfamiliar.
  •  If the tablet is small, hide it inside a small morsel of your cat’s favorite food, chicken, raw fish, tuna, soft canned food, cheese, whatever the cat goes nuts for. The tablet must be completely hidden so that the texture and smell do not permeate the food morsel.
  •  You can offer the food in the cat’s normal bowl or from your hand/fingers, as you prefer.
  •  If your cat eats the food, check to make sure she has also eaten the tablet and not left it behind or spit it.
  •  You can then give your cat the rest of her normal meal.
  •  Some cats are clever at finding the tablet buried in food and spitting it out, or just eating the food around the tablet. If it is safe (check with your vet or the instructions that came with the tablets) you may be able to crush the tablet and mix it thoroughly in a small amount of very tasty food. This works best with palatable tablets, and with a strong- flavoured tasty treat that your cat really loves (such as some tinned fish in oil).

Pamper and spoil them a little – give pills by hand
There are some cats who will deny the pill no matter how much you tempt them. In such a case, it is best to give them pills by hand. Gentle, safe restraint of your cat is important, and it helps enormously to have two people – one person to give the tablet and the other to hold the cat.
Tips to make pilling as easy as chilling

  • Cats are slippery, so the surface you put them on should be non slippery, and should allow for a gentle but firm grip. Floor works best, otherwise a good table, mat or work surface are your other options.
  •  The cat should face away from you, in an upright position so that you can avoid some of the scratches, if they do happen.
  •  Restrain the cat by holding the forelegs above the elbows and press your palms against the cat’s body to prevent escaping or wriggling and injury to the handler from paws and claws and the front legs.
  •  Use a mid-sized soft towel – not too large, as those are hard to use. Put the towel on the floor or a flat stable surface and then put the cat on top of the towel, facing away from you.
  •  Wrap the cat up in the towel like you would swaddle a baby. Bring up both sides of the towel and around the cat’s neck, and once your cat is thoroughly wrapped, make sure that she cannot get her front legs out of the towel. Once the cat is restrained, gently give her the pill. This is easier if there are two handlers, one restraining the cat, and the other opening the jaws and facilitating the swallowing. Try to do this quickly but calmly, make sure in advance that you have everything ready, so that your cat does not
    get upset.
  •  The handler administering the pill must hold the tablet between the thumb and forefinger of one hand.
  •  The other, free hand is placed on top of the head of your cat, approach the cat from the side as this is the least threatening position (given the current scenario). The head must be held between the thumb and forefingers and these same fingers are used for extending downwards both side of the jaw, starting at the corner of the mouth.
  • Gently tilt the head upwards, and use the middle finger of the hand with the table to pry open, very gently, the lower jaw and open the mouth.
  •  Keep the head tilted and quickly drop the tablet as far back on the cat’s tongue as your fingers can reach. The farther it goes, the less likely it is to be spit back up. Now close the jaw and keep it so for a few minutes. Gently massaging the throat helps in swallowing. Once the tongue comes out and the cat licks her lips or nose, the swallowing action has occurred. Syringing a little water will help the process along. Just like small children hate the idea of swallowing pills and medicines, the same is with cats. Handle them with love and care, because giving your pet that pill is important for her health. Patience and a little more patience will always be helpful. Remember, if you have problems and/or your cat gets upset, contact your vet.

(Garima Singhal is a behaviourist, neurobiologist, school teacher and a long-term pet parent).
Commercial tools to make pill giving easy
Pill giver

  • Any plastic syringe, or a commercially bought one, without a needle, but with the plunger, will work. The commercial pill givers have a soft nozzle at the end, where the tablet will fit, and this can then be pushed using the plunger. Always practise the movement before handling the cat.
  •  A pill giver can help you administer the tablet right at the back of your cat’s tongue while avoiding any need to place your fingers in your cat’s mouth.
  •  Make sure you have everything ready, with the pill placed in the implement before restraining your cat, to make the task as stress free as possible.

Pill splitter

  • This small device makes it easy to divide tablets accurately into halves or quarters. This can be useful when your cat does not need a whole tablet or when giving two smaller pieces may be easier than giving one whole tablet.
  •  Always check first to make sure the tablet is suitable for dividing – some tablets have a special coating, for example, and must be administered whole and not divided. If in doubt, always check with your vet.

Gelatine capsules

  •  These are empty gelatine capsules, which can hold two or more pills, and this is particularly helpful when more than one pill needs to be administered. There is also a little lubrication on the surface, which makes the pill easy to swallow. The capsule with its oval shape and lubrication makes it easy to swallow.
  •  Make sure that the medicines that you are putting in the capsule are meant to be given together.
  •  This works with the pill giver, pill splitter and by hand.

Pill crusher

  • This device is not really necessary, as the back of a spoon will work just as well.
  • However, this device does have some very interesting qualities, as the crushed powder is of a regular consistency.
  •  No dose is lost when using this device.