How To Give Your Cat A Pill

Last month when I left the vet, neither my cat nor I were in a particularly good mood. She was upset because she was in her new ultra-comfortable carrying case, which she likes to celebrate riding in by immediately and repeatedly throwing up. I swear when my cat eats she says to herself, “I’m pretty full, but I better have a few more bites just in case I gotta go in that carrier thing later and puke the living hell out of it.” I was upset because the vet had given me a giant jar of pills and the worst homework assignment ever: give your cat one of these daily until the end of time. Your instinct is to feel bad for my cat, but seriously, don’t. She’ll be fine. She just has to swallow some vitamins everyday — the one to feel bad for is me, because I’m the one that’s gotta make her do it. Giving a cat a pill is like playing paddy-cake with a bear trap, but we are cat people, so this is what we do. On my way out of the office, I saw how the other half lived. A dog owner was in the waiting room giving his pooch the daily pill, and clearly they were having the time of their lives. “Here ya go, buddy!” the human said, stuffing the medicine in a piece of bread and tossing it in the air. His dog leapt, like it was the greatest gift he’d ever seen, caught the bread in his mouth, then gobbled it down and looked around for more. The dog finished his medicine AND LOOKED AROUND FOR MORE! What a showoff. Dogs, am I right? If my cat wasn’t there to restrain me, I totally would’ve given him the finger.

If this article was titled “How To Give Your Dog a Pill,” it would be one sentence long. “Shove the pill inside a food your dog likes,” it would begin, and then “let your dog eat it” would be the stirring conclusion. Dogs are neanderthals, they would eat their own tail if you could find a piece of cheese big enough to stuff it in. Cats are, however, a refined pain in the ass. Getting a cat to swallow a pill is like teaching an elephant to make a chocolate souffle, except much much harder. It’s just you against a dagger filled mouth, and that mouth wants nothing to do with the medicine you’ve got tucked in your hand.

After several weeks of trials, here now is the method I’ve established for getting any cat to take any pill. In 11 easy steps. Enjoy!

1) Pretend your cat is a dog and hide the pill in her favorite food, like chicken or tuna fish. Watch your cat sniff the food and walk away.

2) Pretend your cat is stupid and mix a crushed pull in with the the fanciest wet food money can buy. Watch your cat sniff the food and walk away.

3) Pretend your cat is desperate and sandwich the pill in between two of her favorite treats, like a glorious Oreo cookie for kitties. Watch your cat sniff the food and walk away.

4) Call your pet store and find out if you can return “lightly used” cans of food and treats.

5) Say “OK, no more screwing around” to no one in particular. Pry open your cat’s mouth and get bit. Put the pill inside your cat’s mouth and get bit again. Hold your cat’s mouth closed around the pill and get scratched. Certain that your cat just swallowed, let her mouth go and get bit and scratched simultaneously. Say “Well, at least that’s over with” as the pill falls out of your cat’s mouth and she runs under the bed. Shake bloody fist at the heavens.

6) Turn to the internet for answers. Discover the “Burrito Method,” wherein you wrap a towel around your cat like a burrito so she can not claw you while you give her a pill. Forget that burritos fall apart when they’re filled with nothing but rice and cheese, so it’s hard to imagine how filling them with angry feline would go any better. Tentatively approach your cat with a ratty old towel who somehow knows exactly what’s coming. Get scratched and bit, and realize that the chief benefit to the Burrito Method is having a towel handy to clean up all your blood.

7) Clean up all your blood.

8) Call your vet. Listen to her suggest sneaking the pill into your cat’s food, or maybe this surefire thing called the Burrito Method? Tell your vet to go f-ck herself.

8) Realize your cat now recognizes the sound of the pill jar being opened, and immediately runs and hides. Turn on loud music so your cat can’t hear you open the jar. Receive a complaint from your landlord wondering why the music is so loud. Explain. Understand that now everyone in your building thinks you’re insane. Totally get where they’re coming from.

9) Reason with your cat. Look her in the eyes and say “You really need to take this medicine. Trust me. It will make you feel better.” Hold it in your hand. Get excited when it seems that she miraculously understands you. Watch her cautiously lean in and examine the pill. Applaud yourself for treating her with respect and dignity. Say gleefully, “See, this is why cats are the best! A dog would never understand simple reason!” Watch your cat sniff the pill, wait, and walk away. Start to cry.

10) Cry loud and long enough that your cat begins to worry about you. Lie still as she sniffs your face, trying to figure out what’s wrong. She may be a pain in the ass, but your cat does understand when you’re upset. Do nothing as your cat guiltily licks the pill out of your hand and swallows it, apologizing for her behavior. Give her a big hug as your use her fur to dry off your tears. Love your cat more than you ever have in your entire life, right up until the time you have to give her another pill.

11) Repeat everyday for the rest of your life.

See, not so bad, is it? TC Mark

image – Shutterstock


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  • Stephani

    actually, though I know this column was written with humour [I totally understand as I have grown up with cats], the best way to give them a pill is to pry open their jaw, stick it in, close it and gently blow into their nose. it forces them to swallow.
    a friend taught me this before I had to fly with my hateful little cat from Anchorage to San Francisco, and when I had to give the critter another cat Xanax at our connection in Portland, I did it in a handicapped stall holding the little brat under his armpits. piece of cake.

    • Brian Donovan

      I’ve tried that. I think my cat’s reaction to having her nose blown on is to bite the closest human finger.

  • Doug Hart

    Or you can just run it down the garbage disposal. That’s works too. Although in a sort of elleptical way.
    But we have five cats so one gone missing wouldn’t be noticed.

  • Clara

    I feel your pain. My cat has a kidney deficiency that means he has to have 3 medicines orally administered everyday for the rest of time. He still attacks me every time I get that plastic syringe out. To top it off he recently had to have ear drops, I think he feels like its abuse.

  • nola

    i don’t even have a cat and this was hilarious. i like your style, boy

  • Kiara

    I loved this. I’m becoming a massive fan of your writing. This article made me laugh harder than any TC article has in a while. Brill.

    My cat had to have some gross liquid syringed into his mouth three times a day for three weeks once… The liquid was bright yellow and smelt like off milk. I have so many fluorescent stains on my floor/quilt/couch… But in my cat’s defence, I would have hated me, too.

    • Brian Donovan

      Thanks, K + N!

      Every time I need to syringe something into my cat she gags dramatically. I can’t tell whether she’s actually choking or just doing what I did when I was 10 and my parents made me eat asparagus.

  • Ashley

    LOL. Best TC article I’ve read in weeks.

  • thecontradictoryoptimist

    I’m looking at the scratches on me as I read this and feeling your pain. I figured a way you might want to try though. Crush the tablet and mix it with a drop or two of honey. put the mixture on the cat’s mouth and he’ll lick it up.

    Their obsession with cleanliness thankfully comes in handy!

    • Brian Donovan

      I tried that one with cream cheese. She just ended up with a bunch of medicated cream cheese on her paw. But it makes sense, I may give it another try…

  • Kanksha

    This was hilarious, I loved it! I only wish my dog was like the dog you saw. I have to follow the exact same steps to get my dog to take his medicines. I do steps 1 through 5 and then repeat 5 as many times as it takes. This usually takes a while because my dog has figured out how to pretend to swallow.

    I’m intrigued by this ‘blowing into their nose’ tactic though. I’ll try it tomorrow morning.

  • Rose Georgia

    we used to try the burrito combined with a tactic similar to the ‘blowing into the nose’ where we dropped tiny dribbles of water onto her mouth until she licked it and had to swallow. there are some excellent photos.
    combing our fluffy long-haired cat was the task to avoid. if she wasn’t scratching you she was biting you, and that was before we’d even started.

  • Nick

    loved this. deal with this all the time.

    How REALLY to give your cat a pill

    1. crush pill into powder between two spoons.
    2. mix with one teaspoon melted butter
    3. suck up pill/butter liquid w/ eye dropper
    4. pick cat up by scruff of neck (will essentially paralyze kitty)
    5. shove eyedropper in cat’s mouth and squirt down his/her throat
    6. toss cat away from you like grenade and run

    • Brian Donovan

      Ha! Toss like a grenade made me laugh. I always feel so guilty when I do the scruff of the neck thing. Did I mention I’m a wuss?

  • Cara

    fantastic! as a cat owner with a demon cat i’ve been there!!! you made me laugh out loud in the middle of my silent office.. THANKS!!!

  • Doug Hart

    We have 5 cats. All biters. I’m sticking with the garbage disposal.

    • Brian Donovan

      Wait, are you not giving your cats the pills? You have to give them the pills, Doug. Doug?!

      • H

        I thought he meant he was putting the cats in the garbage disposal :/

      • Doug Hart

        My revolutionary cat management system is still on the drawing board. But eventually yes. We will sidestep the out moded clinical remedy school of thought and just shove’em down. My philsophy is to always keep at least one pair of unspayed and unneutered male and female in stock. Thus keeping one step ahead of the war of attrition that having no breeders would present. The savings on vet bills alone are projected to be more than thirty five or forty dollars a year. When compared to cat value, I think this is a staggering amount. I also anticipate a return on the motivation factor in detering the habitual offenders that walk hundreds of feet over hard wood floors to puke on the one piece of carpet, which happens to be a five thousand dollar one of a kind oriental rug. Our lab is open to the public. Visit anytime. I will be the guy in the corner covered in cat hair.

  • Doug Hart

    And welding gloves.

  • esther

    this is the best thing ever!!!!!! makes me miss my cat sooooo much :( my baby

  • Carly Fowler (@JonTargaryen)

    I’m laughing so hard and then sharing this with some friends. I had one cat, when I was young, who loved the liquid antibiotics. He’d suck it right out of the eyedropper and then look for more. It’s a shame he didn’t live very long, because he was the easiest cat to take care of.

  • Charley

    Dear crazy cat guy,

    LOL on getting your cat to swallow pills. I know how she feels. I don’t swallow either BUT I would sit on your face.


    • Danielle Page (@TheDaniellePage)

      I second the above comment.

      • Charley

        I’m gonna go ahead and double down on both comments.

  • keerthikasingaravel

    I have a finicky Siamese and have been down the road.Now I just admit defeat and ask the vet to give him a shot or at least a syrup which he can take at the hospital.They have to do the scruff thing and he still spits medicine for the next half hour.In desperation I have tried powdering the pills and mixing it with his fish or wetting the powder and rubbing it all over him.But I guess he gets just a fraction of the dosage.

  • Anjie Pham

    Brian, 3 magic words: Laughing Cow Cheese
    1) Get “Light” Swiss version.
    2) First few times before her pill, break off 2-3 TINY chunks of cheese and feed her as snacks. Do not give more than that. She should always be wanting more of this “special treat”.
    3) If she won’t even try the cheese first time, spread some on her paw to force her to lick it off. Guarantee she will love it.
    4) Pill time, size matters. Cut it small then wrap the soft cheese in a nice layer around it completely. The whole package MUST be small enough for your cat to swallow easily without much chewing!
    5) If she chews too much, finds the pill and spits it out, no worries. Pill is now much smaller, just repeat Step 4 till it’s gone.

    • Brian Donovan

      My cat is very very good at licking the good tasting things that surround pills and then leaving the pill. It’s like her super power. As good as Hulk is at smashing, that’s how good she is at avoiding medicinal intake. That being said, I’m going to buy some laughing cow cheese.

  • lizzie

    I’ve worked at a cat sanctuary for about eight years and close to 90% of them take medicine twice or even three times a day.

    You know what saved all of our lives (and hands)? Pet pillers/bullseye guns. These things are amazing. Otherwise I would have fled the first time they told me I had to medicate all 100+ residents by hand!!

    • Doug Hart

      I used to have a corgi. Lost her in the divorce. You could hide the pill in the most delectable doggie treat known to man and she would sit there and strain her head around licking and nipping in the air. And 3.2.1. Patooey. Out comes the pill. It was so fascinating I would wrap tic tacs in slices of cheese just to watch her.
      Yes we have five cats. No we don’t run’em down the disposal. A good disposal cost well over a hundred dollars. A cat would just clog it up.
      Charley. If you’re a chick call me.

    • Kerry K.

      I second Lizzie. I’ve used a piller and it works most of the time, though with much resentment and protest on my cat’s part. Since I’d get that reaction from her anyway, seems worth the effort. ;)

      • Brian Donovan

        I’ve started using a piller too. My cat hates it, but less than everything else I’ve tried, so it’s what we’re going with for now…

  • Doug Hart

    So Kerry. Do you hold the piller over the car’s head until it has to come up for air and then shove it down their throat? Or do you lay your head on the piller and vow to try again tomorrow?

  • Adrienne

    “Understand that everyone in your building now thinks you’re insane. Totally get where they’re coming from.” Hahahahahahaha

    This article is a winner. Brian, I love reading your stuff! Brilliant!

  • Jennifer

    I’ve never had to give my cat pills, but this post made me laugh so hard. Oh cats.

  • Isabel Anne To

    Feline Greenies pill pockets have totally worked for me in the past :/, does your cat not like the duck flavor? Granted, there were a few times at the beginning when my cat would eat the pocket and spit the pill out, but most of the time the pill got chewed up into smaller pieces so I would just repeat the process. Thanks for the hilarious article though, I totally feel for both you and your kitty!

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