How to give your cat a tablet

Giving cats tablets is renowned for being difficult and many jokes have been made about it – see ‘How to give a cat a pill’.  However, most cats will need to take tablets at least once in their life and it doesn’t have to be as traumatic for either cat or owner as the reputation would have you believe.

More and more drug companies are formulating tablets to taste pleasant to cats, some will even accept them as treats.  Other medications are being formulated in different ways to make them easier to give than pills (e.g. liquids to be mixed with foods, spot-on applications which are applied to the skin).

Unfortunately, there are some medications which can only be given in tablet form and either taste neutral, or occasionally downright unpleasant.  Learning to give these medications to your cat in a stress-free way is important, particularly if they need to given on a long-term basis.

There are many different methods of giving tablets to cats and they will all suit different cats and different medications.  See below for instructions and video demonstrations.

Giving the tablet whole by hand

SUITABLE FOR EQUIPMENT NEEDED
  • Tablets which taste unpleasant
  • Cats who are not good at eating disguised tablets
  • Cats which can be handled
  • Tablets which have to be given whole
  • Tablets which need to be given on an empty stomach
  • Second person to hold the cat
  • Towel to wrap the cat in if they are likely to claw
  • Syringe of water or small amount food

Instructions

  • One person should hold the cat.  If the cat is likely to try to scratch, you can wrap him in a towel, enclosing the front paws.
  • Hold the cat’s head with your dominant hand, with thumb and forefinger just behind the canine teeth.
  • Tilt the cat’s head up and the bottom jaw will drop open slightly.
  • Hold the tablet between your thumb and forefinger of your non-dominant hand.
  • Using the middle finger of your non-dominant hand, open the cat’s mouth fully, then place the tablet at the back of the tongue in the V shaped area.
  • Close the cat’s mouth and wait for it to swallow.
  • You can then offer the cat a treat, small amount of food or a syringe of water to ensure the tablet moves into the stomach rather than sitting in the oesophagus.

Giving the tablet using a pill-popper

SUITABLE FOR EQUIPMENT NEEDED
  • Tablets which taste unpleasant
  • Cats who are not good at eating disguised tablets
  • Cats which can be handled but are more likely to bite than above
  • Tablets which have to be given whole
  • Tablets which need to be given on an empty stomach
  • Pill popper
  • Second person to hold the cat
  • Syringe of water or small amount of food

Instructions

  • The assistant should hold the cat as above.
  • Hold the cat’s head as described above, but this time use the non-dominant hand.
  • Place the tablet in the jaws of the pill popper.
  • Using the dominant hand, place the pill popper into the cat’s mouth and angle it to the back of the mouth.
  • Squeeze the plunger on the pill popper to deposit the tablet at the back of the tongue.
  • Close the cat’s mouth and wait for it to swallow.
  • You can then offer the cat a treat, small amount of food or a syringe of water to ensure the tablet moves into the stomach rather than sitting in the oesophagus.

Giving the tablet whole in a treat

Suitable for Equipment needed
  • Cats who don’t like being handled
  • Tablets which need to be given whole
  • Tablets which can be given with food or on an empty stomach
  • Cats who enjoy treats
  • Soft, tasty treat or pill pocket treat

Instructions

  • Place the tablet into the treat and mould the treat around the tablet
  • Offer the cat the treat and wait for it to eat

Crushing the tablet and mixing with food

Suitable for Equipment needed
  • Cats who don’t like being handled
  • Tablets which are safe and effective when crushed (check with your vet)
  • Cats who do not share their food with other animals
  • Tablets which can be given with food (check with your vet)
  • Pill crusher
  • Tasty, wet food for mixing the tablet in
  • Food bowl

Instructions

  • Place the tablet into the pill crusher and crush as directed
  • Mix the crushed tablet into a small amount of the wet food
  • Offer the cat the wet food and tablet mix
  • When the cat has eaten the initial food, offer the rest of the meal

Crushing the tablet and mixing with water

Suitable for Equipment needed
  • Tablets which are safe and effective when crushed (check with your vet)
  • Tablets which need to be given on an empty stomach (check with your vet)
  • Pill crusher
  • Syringe

Instructions

  • Place the tablet into the pill crusher and crush as directed
  • Mix the crushed tablet into a small amount of the water
  • Suck into a syringe
  • Place the syringe in the corner of the cat’s mouth and slowly depress the plunger
  • Ensure the cat swallows the liquid

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