The easiest way to pill a cat is to hold him tightly, open his mouth, insert the tablet, close his mouth, and rub his neck while you wait for him to swallow the pill. In theory.
In reality, this technique takes knowledge, skill, experience, and, most important, courage to restrain the cat. Do you have it?
In some respects, the above described method is indeed the easiest way to pill a cat because it requires no preparation or special equipment. If you master it, all you need is a cat and a pill. No excuses.
But what if, like most cat owners, just the thought of restraining and pilling your cat is frightful? Do not fear. In this article, you are going to learn different ways to pill a cat easily without holding or ever touching him.
1. Hide a whole pill in your cat’s food
You may feel like a bit of a backstabber, but this method works if done right. There are several ways to do it and not all of them are equally convenient or victorious.
We had the most success with a commercial cat treat called Pill Pockets, probably because they were designed specifically for the task. They are very soft treats with a hollow pocket large enough to hide a whole pill inside. You can squeeze the opening shut and the pill is completely out of your cat’s sight and scent.
Pill Pockets are:
- Tasty. Most cats can’t resist them, gulping them too fast to even notice your treason.
- Sticky. Even if a cat does notice the pill, he’s “stuck with it.”
- Stinky. In a good way – their strong smell is appealing to cats and masks the medicine well.
In our opinion, Pill Pockets are all you need, because why hassle with everything else?
Hiding a whole pill in other foods is harder. We had success with liver pate (also sticky, tasty, and smelly) and raw chicken hearts that naturally have chambers to hide the pill inside. Of course, your cat must already be accustomed to these kinds of foods.
2. Mash the pill inside cat food
This is the most frequently used method by cat owners with varying degrees of success, depending on your cat’s suspicion level. Most cats smell their food before eating, and, if it is stale or has something undesirable inside, they’d rather starve than eat it.
IMPORTANT: If your cat ignores food with a pill mashed into it, do not let them starve. It is unlikely that your cat will return to the food even after hunger takes over, and starving for longer than 24 hours can irreversibly damage your cat’s health.
Fooling highly suspicious cats is possible by adding the medicine to tastier food, which is fine, but impractical if you must pill your cat on a regular basis.
Additionally, not all medicine should be crushed. A pill’s coating serves a purpose similar to a bomb timer. In fact, it is a kind of bomb timer. Here’s why: the coating prevents the pill from dissolving before it reaches the desired area in your cat’s digestive tract, which improves the pill’s effectiveness and reduces the risk of side effects.
To be on the safe side, talk to your veterinarian about whether or not it’s safe to crush your cat’s medicine and mash it in with his food.
3. Use pill feeders, a.k.a. pill guns
Pill guns are effective if you train your cat adequately first, which can be easier than you think. Simply make it a habit of giving your cat treats out of the pill gun well before you start sneaking a pill inside of it.
Since this article promises to teach you how to pill a cat without restraint, it’s only fair to mention that your cat won’t eat the pill out of a feeder like candy; you will still need to hold your cat and his mouth while he swallows it. However, if you’ve trained your cat, it should be drama-free.
When using the pill gun, hold him firmly as you would if you were giving him pills by hand. By the time your cat notices it’s a pill and not a treat, it will already be too late.
To help your cat form positive associations with the pill gun, delight him with an additional treat from the pill gun after you’ve snuck the tablet inside him.
4. Ask for alternative forms of medicine
Most cat owners agree that pilling is one of the most stressful ways to medicate a cat. While not necessarily a walk in the park either, other forms of medicine, such as liquids, pastes, injections, or spot-on treatments, are considerably easier to administer. Discuss with your veterinarian if your cat’s medicine is available in an alternative, easier to use form.
In the defense of pills, we agree that they are very efficient at targeting certain parts of the body. For example, deworming medicine kills worms in your cat’s digestive system and is best administered via pill. Spot-on deworming treatments may be innovative and convenient, but they toxicate your cat’s entire blood system. Is that really necessary just for the sake of your convenience?
5. Visit your veterinarian
If you still find pilling your cat too difficult, you can take your cat to a veterinarian. Though most cats find veterinarian visits frightful, it can be better solution than struggling for hours at home.
Handing the task over to a skilled person is a good solution, regardless if the treatment is on a one-time or several-time basis. And, even if your cat must be pilled regularly over a prolonged period, a veterinarian is the best person to teach you how to do it.