How to Give a Cat a Pill Without Bleeding

Here’s the 4 ways I give my cat a pill all by myself – without bleeding or crying! There’s a different way for every personality, even difficult cats!

You’re standing at the vet and they tell you that your cats need to go on medicine.  Ok, no big deal, I’ll just mix it in their food.  Then they tell you the medicine only comes in pill form.  UGH, you start falling to the floor, sobbing and crying “I’m going to die!”.    For anyone who’s ever had to pill a cat,  this is probably a situation you can relate to.   It’s very rare that a cat will take a pill willingly with a purr,  so sometimes you have to figure out Plan B… and then Plan C, Plan D, Plan E when everything else fails.

Take a Deep Breath

First, take a deep breath. It’s totally going to be ok.  I know at first it might not be a fun experience and you might get defeated, but you’ll figure it out.  Even when your cat scratches you, bites you, makes a meow like it is dying (its not) just know you have to work hard to get that pill into your cat, it’s important, so don’t give up.  Once you figure out what technique works for your cat then you’ll be smooth sailing (ok, maybe not smooth, but you’ll be calmer.. and your cat too).

 

Here's the 4 ways I give my cat a pill all by myself - without bleeding or crying! There's a different way for every personality, even difficult cats!

Xanadu, Goblin, Brother, Me.

4 Ways To Give a Cat a Pill 

  • Hiding in soft food. 
  • Hiding in a treat with pill pocket. 
  • Turning pill into powder and rubbing on fur.  
  • Inserting pill into mouth by hand. 

Many of you guys expressed how hard pilling was for you in a previous post so I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to talk about techniques I use for our 4 cats. Every single one of them needs to be pilled a different way, because like people they have different personalities.  I have done a lot of personal research,  many different methods, and I’ve also cried a bunch along the way.   Life of a Cat Mom (or Dad)!

I’m going to discuss all 4 ways we use in hopes that one of them will relate to your cat and can help you.

Let’s start with the easy ways.  These are both sneaky and if your cat can fall for them I’m so happy for you!

#1: Hide the pill in cat food – EASY

This method is labeled as easy.

If a cat sees or smells a pill, it might be stubborn to eat the food, even when it’s on top of yummy soft food.   But if a cat really loves wet food and you can hide it in some strong smelling wet food then you’re likely to succeed.

Throw your pill (or pills) whole in some soft food, then put a little bit of the food on top to hide it.   Alternatively you could cut the pill up, or even crush it and add it to the food.  The secret here is always add a layer of food on top.  The cats can sense when you’re trying to be sneaky! 
Here's the 4 ways I give my cat a pill all by myself - without bleeding or crying! There's a different way for every personality, even difficult cats!
Your cat will eat it right up and be will be licking it’s lips for minutes after.  And even better, it will think that you are really nice by giving it soft food which will result in cat kisses.  Thanks Goblin!
Here's the 4 ways I give my cat a pill all by myself - without bleeding or crying! There's a different way for every personality, even difficult cats!

 #2 Hide the pill in a Pill Pocket 

This method is labeled as easy.

Many people have had success with Pill Pockets but our cats think they are gross.  Have you ever smelled a Pill Pocket? It smells pretty bad and nothing like food, so one sniff of it and your cat might be like “No thanks”.  

Miss FiFi Bofinkles loves treats, she will ravish you for treats, she will knock other cats out of the way for treats, so going the pill pocket/treat route totally works for her.  And even after she eats the horrible tasting pill pocket, she still looks at me and says “Can I have another treat mom?”

What you need: Feline Pill Pockets, delicious treats (like Friskies) and your pill.
Here's the 4 ways I give my cat a pill all by myself - without bleeding or crying! There's a different way for every personality, even difficult cats!

First step, put it in the pill pocket.  If your cat eats the treat just like this – GREAT! But if your cat knows you’re up to no good, then proceed to the second step.

Second step, because the pill pocket is soft and sticky, push treats into the top of it.   Bofinkles usually picks one treat up which results in the entire pocket being lifted up, so she just eats one giant treat and loves every minute of it.
Here's the 4 ways I give my cat a pill all by myself - without bleeding or crying! There's a different way for every personality, even difficult cats!

If your cat loves treats, this might be the best way for you.  FiFi Bofinkles approves after eating her big treat!
Here's the 4 ways I give my cat a pill all by myself - without bleeding or crying! There's a different way for every personality, even difficult cats!

#3 Turn a pill into powder and rub onto fur

This method is labeled as medium, but perfect for the most difficult cat.

How To Give a Difficult Cat a Pill

Let’s first talk Brother, he’s a big Maine coon, with giant claws and abs of steel.  He’s made multiple vets bleed, thrown their needles across the room, to the point that noone can clip his nails (except me!).   With all that aside, Brother Bear is a giant sweetheart, a gentle giant, but he just doesn’t like to be forced to do things and he hates the vet.  Really hates it.   It’s really amazing how strong a cat can be when it’s angry.

Here's the 4 ways I give my cat a pill all by myself - without bleeding or crying! There's a different way for every personality, even difficult cats!

So now years later and many workout sessions to get stronger, we knew the blanket method that we used when he was younger was not going to work anymore.  During the first try I thought Matthew could hold him and I could open his mouth with my hands and insert the pill straight into his mouth.   Hahahaha, I was so wrong.  While trying to get the pill into his mouth he bit down on my thumb so hard, bruising the entire nail making my thumb unusable for days. This is how it looks a week later,  what a love bite, right?
Here's the 4 ways I give my cat a pill all by myself - without bleeding or crying! There's a different way for every personality, even difficult cats!

So enter the powder + rubbing on fur method.  This is hands down the messiest method, but for us it’s the only way we can pill Brother.  By crushing your pills up into powder (make sure your vet says this is ok) then you have a easier base to work with.    Even when we crush his pills up and put it into soft food, he can smell it and will turn away, so you have to be really sneaky with this trick.  

First step, crush up a pill with the bottom of a spoon. I know this picture looks like we live in a drug den, but Officer I swear this is for my cat!
Here's the 4 ways I give my cat a pill all by myself - without bleeding or crying! There's a different way for every personality, even difficult cats!

Step 2, dip your finger in some Vaseline, then rub into the pill powder.  Depending on how many pills you are giving, or the size, you might have to do this a few times. I also tried dipping my finger in cat food gravy and butter, but the Vaseline sticks better.   Vaseline is often used for hairballs, so it’s safe to use for your cats, but only use a small amount for getting the powder to stick. 
Here's the 4 ways I give my cat a pill all by myself - without bleeding or crying! There's a different way for every personality, even difficult cats!

Then find your cat, it can be standing up or laying down.  With your dipped finger, wipe the sticky mixture onto their leg/paw.  Often I will have to do this a few times as once you do the first smear your cat will know what’s up. Almost immediately your cat will be disgusted by the mess you created on it’s leg.   Almost immediately your cat will feel the need to clean itself up and start licking all the powder off their fur. 

 If you have more powder to swipe on then smear it on the opposite leg while they are cleaning their other one.   You’ll receive some glares but your cat will be sure to clean the other mess up right away too.  
Here's the 4 ways I give my cat a pill all by myself - without bleeding or crying! There's a different way for every personality, even difficult cats!

And just like that, your difficult cat will take it’s medicine.  
Here's the 4 ways I give my cat a pill all by myself - without bleeding or crying! There's a different way for every personality, even difficult cats!

#4 Insert Pill By Hand Into Mouth

This method is medium, difficult, but once you perfect it, it’s 100% the best!

For this method, you need your cat to trust you.  The first time is a surprise, but after a couple times the cat will know what’s up it sees the pill jar and might give you a chase.  It’s ok, it gets better over time. 

Xanadu is our Siamese cat and she’s paranoid about the world and incredibly cautious, so we have to do this manually by hand.  I’ve given Xanadu liquid medicine by hand so I have it down pretty solid on how to open her mouth and get it done. In fact, I do this to Xanadu by myself, so there’s a lot of trust built up between us.    Xanadu is now 13 years old and handles this like a champ.  She doesn’t love it, but she now gives in without a chase around the apartment.
Here's the 4 ways I give my cat a pill all by myself - without bleeding or crying! There's a different way for every personality, even difficult cats!

Step 1, get your pill.  You can put the pill in your hand but I find using a pill gun so much easier as it’s skinnier to fit into your cats mouth.   Once you pry open their mouth,  you then press the trigger and the pill shoots into the back of the cat’s throat.  This means no fiddling around with the pill in the front of the cat’s mouth.   I bought this at my local pet store for $4 and it’s worth millions in tears.
Here's the 4 ways I give my cat a pill all by myself - without bleeding or crying! There's a different way for every personality, even difficult cats!

Step 2.  Get your cat and hold it tight between your legs.  I do this by myself, so while holding her between my thighs, I reach around with one hand to open the mouth while holding the pill gun with the other.  
Here's the 4 ways I give my cat a pill all by myself - without bleeding or crying! There's a different way for every personality, even difficult cats!

Then I open her mouth wide, keeping my finger there to make sure it stays open.  With the pill gun, I stick it into her mouth and shoot the pill into the back of her throat.
Here's the 4 ways I give my cat a pill all by myself - without bleeding or crying! There's a different way for every personality, even difficult cats!

Immediately after the pill is shot in, I drop the gun onto the floor and close her mouth.   While holding her head up (to swallow), I blow on her nose softly while rubbing her throat with my fingers.  Both the blowing and the rubbing will cause your cat to swallow, causing the pill to go down with it.  
Here's the 4 ways I give my cat a pill all by myself - without bleeding or crying! There's a different way for every personality, even difficult cats!

You can see your cat swallow by it’s neck, so after 2 swallows I release her knowing the pill went down and we’re safe.
Here's the 4 ways I give my cat a pill all by myself - without bleeding or crying! There's a different way for every personality, even difficult cats!

Then I reward her in kisses, hugs and treats and tell her we’ll never do that again (I lie, I’m a horrible Mother I know).

So that’s how we pill our 4 cats! I hope this helps you some in the future!

Do you have any pilling stories with your pets?

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19 Comments

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  • Really had fun reading your post. I can tell you absolutely love your babies. Just rescued a kitten who was attacked by another cat. She had a fractured jaw and lost one eye. My son and I chipped in to pay for her surgery. She’s sooo sweet, have to give her the pain pill, this helps. Thanks.

    • Hey Violet, thanks for commenting, I’m hoping these tips help you with your fur baby. You’re doing a great thing taking care of her – here’s some chin rubs for her! <3

  • You. Are. A. Genius!!! I have to give my Mittens prednisone for the next couple of weeks…. he DOES NOT do pills. Or liquids. Or shots. πŸ˜πŸ€£πŸ˜œπŸ™„πŸ˜¬
    The crush and rub…. πŸ™πŸ» answered! He’s mad as heck but taking his medicine πŸ₯°

    Thank you!

    • Hey Marie-Ann, I’m so happy to hear the crush and rub method worked for Mittens (super cute name btw!). Hoping kitty feels better soon! <3

  • I thought it was hopeless and was looking for scratch proof gloves but then i wouldn’t have the dexterity to give my now cat a pill (ALL of my other cats were divine, easy creatures to give pills to, but this one will try to pull your hand away with her sharp claws and it works! I have only once miraculously, been able to give her a pill, and even then I thought it was surely 2 feet away on the rug, but I think she swallowed it) I had luck the last time by putting small pieces of the pill into small pieces of the pill pockets and she only ate them when I put them on top of her dry food. THIS time, that method is not working! SOOOOO… I think your “crush pill-rub-on-fur-trick” will be the ticket! I’m trying one more time with the “pieces-of-pill-in-pill-pocket-with-ghee-rubbed-on-put-on-top-of-dry-food” trick… if that doesn’t work I’ll have to scrap the pill and use another one with your “crushing” trick. This cat is not terribly into soft food, and also doesn’t like fish! Crazy wonderful cat of mine! THANKS

    • Hey Claire, good luck with it! It’s always such a struggle with the stubborn ones, and even though we might get a few scratches our way, we still love them endlessly! <3 Good luck!

  • 1. 1.2. I have experience with pilling because my previous cat had IBD, then went into congestive heart failure from prednisolone. She was on a score of medications morning and evening. I bought clear gel caps and combine what I could, but some of them were too big. She wasn’t keen on treats, and her appetite was bad without medications, so she’d not eat pill pockets. I got very handy in using my fingers, I found pill gun cumbersome. I preferred to put her on the table, held her head from the top with one hand lifting it slightly while opening her mouth with my middle finger of the other hand, quickly pushing the pill deep enough with the first two fingers. Speed is the key here. There are videos on you tube showing this technique. BUT – this was a 13, then 14 year old sick cat who by then lost many of her teeth. I am not sure how it’d work with my current two kittens.
    2. Regarding Fluconazole. I have my two 10-month old kittens on it now for ringworm. I have a compounding pharmacy compound it into the tuna-flavored liquid, and the kittens love it; they think it’s a treat. They actually run up to me the moment I open the drawer where the medication is. I give them a couple of treats afterwards as well. There is a warning about itraconazole compounded from bulk chemical not being effective, but there is no such issue with fluconazole. It is still effective, it doesn’t cost much either especially as the compounding pharmacy puts the prescription for both kittens in one bottle, and it makes giving the medication a snap. I think the cats will miss it…

  • Written by a true animal lover, Pamela! I just loved reading this post. You are one fabulous cat Mama. We’ve had our cats for 8 years and have never had to pill them, only supplement. This will come in handy should the time come. Thanks for helping so many “pet parents” and I hope your thumb heals fast! xo

  • Yay! Loved this post! Got a chuckle at ” I know this picture looks like we live in a drug den, but Officer I swear this is for my cat!” Your #3 solution is genius!! I will try that next time (hopefully not for a long time!) we have a pill to give.

  • My older dog needs a pill twice a day and crushing it with wet food and mixing it into her dried food has worked well! When I used to give it to her coated in peanut butter, she would like the PB off and spit out the pill!

  • I’ll have to keep the vaseline in mind for peter! He has a pretty similar temperment to Brother but he’s (luckily) loved the taste of the only pill I’ve ever had to give him (which oddly enough, smelled like Vaseline). Chester is super trusting and lets you do pretty much anything to him. He had to take a painkiller over the weekend that’s absorbed through the gums so I had the pleasure of holding up his lip and rubbing it on lol

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