Cat Medication

by Francesca Matthews


Giving cats tablets is often fraught with difficulty.  This article may help give some tips.  However we do recommend you cnsulting with our veterianrians or veterianry nurses, if your cat is likely to make giving it a tablet difficult

What is the best way to give a cat a tablet?


Unfortunately there is no fool proof way to do this. 

I'll let you into a little secret - even though I can give a tablet to nearly every cat that comes into the consultation room, I can't give a tablet to my own cat at home.


Tricks and Alternatives


Letting your cat eat it straight from your hand . 


Yes some cats will do this with some tablets. The common pink antibiotics you get (it's a potentiated penicillin which goes by the name of either clavulox or noroclav at present) are quite palatable. Believe it or not, a number of cats will eat this straight from your hand like a treat. It's definitely worth a try.


This option is best to try first up, otherwise your cat might have already become weary and suspicious and not go for this option.


Check with your veterinarian about tablet palatability.


Crushing the tablet


This method may work if:

  1. Your cat is very greedy
  2. Your cat is very hungry
  3. The food your are feeding is highly desirable
  4. The pill you have crushed up is not bitter or strong tasting or smelling


Check with your veterinarian if the tablet you have been given is suitable for crushing.

Giving a cat a table by tilting its head



An example of a pill popper to help protect your fingers when tableting a cat 

Hiding the tablet in very palatable food (or use a pill pocket*)


Again, if your cat is greedy or not too fussy, has a favourite food you are able to offer and the tablet is not too bitter, this method may work.

Fish, such as sardines which are very smelly, is a good option to try this method with.

*Pill pockets can be purchased from your veterinary clinic and are designed to help you very easily disguise a tablet. Pill pockets are very palatable. It may be worth breaking or cutting the tablet into pieces if the tablet is large and won't shatter. Then stuff each small piece into a small piece of the pill pocket. Make sure that it is a size that is easy to swallow.


Tipping your cats head back and placing the tablet at the back of the tongue


Cats have no ligaments holding their spine together hence why they sleep a lot. This means that their head can be extended safety backwards quite a distance. If you are able to tilt the head quite a way back, the bottom jaw drops open a little, making it easier to access the back of the tongue. It is always easier said than done, but if you can do it quickly, your cat will not end up despising you quite as much for this indignity!


One of the best methods for pilling a cat if you are on your own is to sit on the floor with the cat in between your legs, facing away from you. You can then tilt the head back with your hand (it's easiest to use your left hand if you are right handed and vice versa), and your thumb and middle finger should be placed just underneath the cat's cheekbones. Tilt the head as far back as possible, without causing discomfort to your cat, and hold the pill with your thumb and middle finger of your opposite hand. Use the index finger of your opposite hand to prise open the cat's mouth. Remember that the mouth will drop slightly when the head is far enough back. Once you have opened the mouth, push the pill as far into the throat as you can with your middle finger. Quickly close the mouth and hold the head up with both hands, stroking the cat's throat to encourage it to swallow. Sometimes it can help to coat the pill in a little butter to make it easier to go down.


Towel wrapping your cat and then opening the mouth and placing the tablet at the back of the tongue.


This is much the same method as above, but with the claws safely out of harm's way (if done properly!). The middle of the towel should be covering the entire underside of the body, with the edges as far away from the legs as possible.


Asking your veterinarian for a tablet alternative


It is ok to say you can't pill your cat. More and more people are telling us this now and in many cases there is an alternative available. If there isn't an alternative then you need to discuss with your veterinarian the benefits of the tablet versus the risks with not taking it. In the case of an abscess we need to ensure the cat gets antibiotics (and we can via tablet or liquid alternatives), however with some behavioural problems, tablets may help but the animal won't die without them and the stress of giving them may be worse than the problem behaviour.


Be honest and tell your veterinarian if giving tablets is not an option. It is better that your veterinarian knows straight away so an alternative can be provided, rather than struggling at home, before asking for help or not asking for help at all and your pet missing out on important medication that may end up being detrimental to its health


Did you know?


Recent research shows that if you give a cat a tablet then you should wash it down with water, as a high percentage of tablets can remain stuck in the oesophagus (that's the tube that goes from the mouth to the stomach) for some time.

Not only would this feel uncomfortable for the cat, but the tablet will start dissolving and there may have a detrimental effect on the lining of the oesophagus.


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