Cats & Pills

Giving a cat a pill can be a challenge for cat owners. I recommend trying a variety of things before resorting to actually "pilling" your cat. Why? Because pilling a cat daily is also a bit stressful for the cat, too, even when done correctly. Below are a few things to try. 

1) Pill Pocket "Treats": The first thing to try is a variety of pill pocket "treats" to get your cat to eat their pill. This is the easiest for both humans and cats. But, the trick is that the pill treat has to be tasty enough to your cat that he or she eats it quickly and fast enough that they don't spit the pill out. Always supervise to make sure your cat isn't spitting out the pill or another family pet is eating it instead. One issue for people is that many people try one brand, one way and if the cat doesn't like it, they assume that their cat won't like other options. Some cats won't like any options, but in my experience, 80% of cats will eat if you find the right combination. There are two major kinds: the pocket and the paste. The pocket is the brand people usually try first. I would say about 30% of cats will eat a plain pill pocket, the Greenies brand is the most common and it is a good place to start. It comes in a few different flavors. Your cat might like one and not the others.

But, if your cat doesn't like the pill pocket, the next thing to try is pill paste, but with the twist of additional treats on the outside of the pill paste. The difference is that pill paste has a sticky texture. I think of it as bacon flavored play dough. What you do is take a little bit of the pill paste and squish the pill inside and then you do one of two things: either sandwich the paste between a kibble style treat, like the ever-popular Friskies Party Mix or you crush a pure protein, freeze-dried treat such as salmon or chicken and then roll the pill paste treat in the crushed, freeze-dried treat. I can almost always get a cat to eat a pill this way. My cat hates pill paste by itself and she also hates freeze-dried salmon treats by themselves, but for some reason, she would eat the combination with gusto.

2) Bitter Medicines: If you give a bitter tasting pill, such as Cerenia, I recommend placing the pill inside of a size 5 gelatin capsule. If you order any bitter tasting pills from my cat's vet, Dr. Aimee Castor, her practice actually places them inside gelatin capsules for the clients, but this is the only veterinary practice I have seen that does this. I do this for my dogs too. The reason is that if a pill is very bad tasting and your cat gets even a slight taste of it, it will become a negative experience and create more issues when you try to give the medicine regularly.

3) Food Mix-In's or Compounding: Some pills that are milder tasting can also be crushed and placed into food or even compounded into a better flavored pill or a flavored liquid. You can buy a pill crusher to make crushing it easy. The only downside to this is that some cats don't regularly finish their food, so the dosage can be less precise. Or if you have multiple pets, this may not be the best option.

4) Pilling: If your cat won't eat the pill in a treat and it doesn't work for it to go into their food, then the best option is to pill the cat. Some cats are really easy to pill and can be pilled without extra steps. But, many cats will fight you like their life depends on it or they are masters of hiding the pill and spitting it out after you turn your back. If you have one of those cats, it's best to be proactive and take some extra steps to make it less stressful on both of you! I find it easiest to wrap your cat up into a towel, "kitty burrito" style and then use a pill popper. It can also help to coat the pills in butter to make them more slippery. Some people may also follow up the pill with a small syringe of water to encourage the pill to go down.

This short video shows the techniques described above: