Medicating a Cat

Being sick is no fun, especially when you have to take medicine in order to feel better. It’s no different for your furry friends. Whether for an illness or allergies, medicine for cats is sometimes required to improve their health.

If you suspect your cat is sick, first contact your vet to schedule a checkup and only give your pet the specific medicine prescribed by the doctor. You should never give your cat over-the-counter (OTC) medicines formulated for people (including eye drops), because many of these medications are hazardous to pets. You should always have a conversation with your vet on the best course of action for administering medicine to your cat. Additionally, a thorough examination by a vet is the best course of action to correctly diagnose and treat your cat of any illnesses.

Use these helpful tips on how to give your cat a pill to make the process less stressful for both of you, and help get her on her way back to feeling better.

Holding Your Cat

For some cats, simply being held can create stress. Approach your cat carefully, speaking to her in a gentle and soothing voice as you scoop her up. Wrap her in a towel or blanket, fully supporting her legs so they don’t dangle freely, which can make her feel uncomfortable and insecure.

How to Give Your Cat a Pill

Medicine for cats usually comes in pill form. With medication in hand, keep this in mind: cats are smart creatures that don’t take kindly to changes in their routine, and they won’t make it easy on you. Unlike your dog, who will happily scarf a pill down in a spoonful of peanut butter, you’ll have to approach your cat in a calm but calculating way.

If you have a cooperative cat, try putting the pill directly in her mouth. Don’t toss the pill into her mouth because you run the risk of a choking hazard (or she’ll just spit it right back out at you). Instead, place it on the center of her tongue near the back of her mouth, then gently rub her throat to encourage the pill to go down. Offer her a fresh bowl of water to wash it down.

The “Meatball”

Another method for how to give your cat a pill requires a stealthier move than putting the medicine into her mouth. Start by hiding the pill in her usual food dish with her usual food. Wet or semi-moist cat food works best, but if your fur baby only eats kibble, you can give her the moist food when she takes the pill, making it an exciting treat.

Another is to hide the pill in a small ball of cat food. This game of hide-and-seek can be played with a pill hidden in her wet food that you form into a ball and present to your kitty as a fun snack.  Pill pockets are commercially available, highly palatable treats that are made for this purpose and we have them in stock if you’d like to try that.

If your cat refuses the pill in her food, you may be tempted to feed her people food, like tuna, to tempt her. However, many foods can cause gastrointestinal distress in cats. Always check with your veterinarian before giving non-pet food to your kitty.

Cat Food Gravy

If you’re looking for another option for how to give your cat a pill, you may be tempted try crushing it into a powder form. Unless your vet recommends it, never crush or grind pills to put in food or water. Crushed medication can taste bitter, so your cat won’t get the full dosage. Always get your vet’s express permission before administering medicine for cats this way.

You can crush the pill between two spoons or consider investing in a pill crusher/cutter at your local pharmacy. This tool makes crushing a little simpler and cleaner, as the medication is contained to the device, and they only cost a few dollars.

Stir the crushed-up medication in a small portion of cat food gravy, which (hopefully) your kitty will lap up. The strong flavor of the gravy will tone down the gross taste of the pill. Never give your cat medication in milk, since many cats can’t digest dairy. If she refuses a spoonful of gravy, incorporate it into her regular food, either as a special topping for kibble or mixed with wet food.

Medications can be given to cats in other ways besides pills such as by giving chews or liquids, injections or in some cases transdermal gels or nebulization.

Liquid Formula

When a cat refuses to take pills or if she can’t eat normally during her illness, the vet may prescribe the medicine in a liquid formula to be administered via syringe. Most forms of liquid medicine need to be kept refrigerated; however, cats are more likely to accept medicine that is at room temperature. Never microwave medication. You can warm it up by holding the syringe in your hand for a few minutes or submerging it in a cup of warm (not hot) water.

As noted earlier, hold your cat in a safe, comfortable way with the syringe in your dominant hand. Allow your kitty to lick the tip of the syringe so she can sample the medicine, then depress slowly on the plunger. Aim the stream of medicine toward the back of her throat, but be careful not to tilt her head back. This could cause her to inhale some of the liquid or choke.

Once the medicine is in her mouth, hold her mouth closed for a bit to make sure she swallows the liquid. Don’t worry if she spits out some of the medicine — it’s common. Even if some ends up on your lap, avoid remedicating her and wait until her next dosage is due.

Eye and Ear Drops

Sometimes, a cat needs to take eye or ear drops, particularly if she has allergies. Just as when you administer a pill or liquid formulas, you’ll need to hold your cat securely to administer them.

For eye drops, place your fingers on the top of the cat’s head and your thumb under the cat’s jaw to support the head.  Use your fingers to pull back the upper eyelid.  Tilt the head back and allow the eyedrop to fall onto the eye.  The lower eyelid will act as a pouch to receive the drops. Never touch the cat’s eye with the eye dropper or your fingers.

For ear drops, after you squirt them in gently massage the base of the ear in a circular motion… You should hear a ‘squishing’ sound as you massage the medication deep into the ear canal. Your cat may not like either of these methods, but as with all medication for cats, it’s vital to her health.


Certain illnesses, such as diabetes, require pet parents to inject medication under the skin. You’ll benefit from a second set of hands when giving shots, so enlist a helper to keep your pet in place with a towel or firm but gentle grip.

A cat can require a shot in the hip, neck or other site depending on the medication, so ask your vet or a technician to show you how and where you should give the injection. Always use a new needle for each dose and record the time and date of every shot.

After administering a medication, give your kitty some extra snuggles. She also may want some alone time, so give her the time and space she needs if she wants to hide for a bit. Never throw a needle in the garbage when you’re finished. Dispose of it in an approved sharps container or see if you can bring them to your local pharmacy or fire station.

Whether it’s a short course of antibiotics or a lifelong means of managing a condition, medicine for cats is sometimes necessary. She may not thank you, but your kitty will be happy to be healthy!