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How to pill your cat … and still keep all 10 fingers

May 5, 2015

hiding cat

Keeping your cat healthy can sometimes be a challenge.  Many pet owners avoid taking their cat to the veterinarian for routine check-ups because they find taking their cat anywhere to be an unpleasant experience.  And when cats really do get sick, we know that they’re excellent at hiding their symptoms until they’re severely ill and debilitated.  Nevertheless, we know there are tried and true methods for getting your cat used to being in a carrier (which is the best way to transport them).  And we can offer safe and effective diagnostic and treatment methods for many common feline health problems once they visit our hospital.

So that brings us to the next problem: giving your cat his medication.  We’re cat owners, too, so we know how much of a challenge it can be to give your cat the medication he or she needs.  And too often we see cat owners give up on providing important medication because it’s just too difficult.  So for cat lovers everywhere, we’re happy to share these “Fear-Free Tips: How to Pill a Cat in Seven Easy Steps,” courtesy of Firstline.  (There are some tips for liquid medication, too.)

1. First ensure the medication can be given with food. The type of treat the pill is hidden in is important. Try out different types of treats to find what works best for the cat.  Some suggestions – deli meat, tuna, soft cheese, canned cat food, or PIll Pals.*

2. Have precut portions of the treats ready when you’re pilling so you can easily dole them out in fast order.

3. To build the excitement and hide the treat further, randomize the number of treats you give and the order of the pill to keep the clever kitty from learning the pilling order and turning her nose up at the treats.

4. Whichever hand you use to hide the pill inside the treat, use the other to seal the pill in the food so picky cats can find no trace of medication on the outside part of the food.

5. Keep the portion size small enough or soft enough so your cat doesn’t chew, only licks and swallows. This prevents chewing up the pill that can be problematic with metabolism of certain medications. Chewing may also release a nasty taste when the outer coating is broken.

6. Get your cat used to the pilling motion. Part of the fear factor of being pilled is the frightening situation of having their face held and head held back. But if your cat is used to this move and associates it with something pleasurable, it’s not such a big deal.

> Train your kitty to be used to touching around the face and mouth area. Find ways to reward your cat during this type of handling, such as soft treats.

> Follow up handling with something your cat enjoys, like their meal, petting or play. As your cat is comfortable, practice lifting up slightly on their mouth with the thumb and middle finger, forming a C shape above the cat’s mouth. Immediately give a treat after or place a treat inside the cat’s mouth that’s extremely palatable to the cat, like a small morsel of lean turkey meat that’s small enough it doesn’t need chewed. The goal is for the pilling motion and action to be associated with positive results.

7. Teach cats to eat broth or canned cat food from a syringe or pill gun. You can place liquid or soft treat inside of the syringe or tiny pieces of treat placed inside of the pill gun. Start by smearing a soft treat on the outside of the syringe or pill gun for cats to lick off to accustom them to the object near their face.

Doesn’t sound too difficult, does it?

[Want some tips on how to bring your cat to see Dr. Davidson?  Here’s a link: ]

* Pill Pals are soft chewable treats made to wrap around a pill for easier dosing.  We have them available for sale at West Kendall Animal Hospital.


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