“I Can’t Get My Cat to Take His Medicine!”

By September 27, 2016 April 16th, 2021 Uncategorized

No one likes the idea of having to medicate their cat at home, especially if you have an uncooperative kitty. Don’t be discouraged if you’re having a difficult time, though. With the right technique, it can be much easier!

The Basics

  •  Familiarize yourself with the directions for the medicine. Don’t be afraid to ask your vet or pharmacist if you have any questions. Note – If you try all of these tips, and you’re still having trouble, ask your vet if there’s another form of the medicine you can give to your cat (i.e. liquid, pill, injection, or transdermal gel).
  •  Prepare all of your supplies so they’re ready when you get your cat (i.e. medication, syringe/piller, towel, and reward).
  •  Have a plan.
  •  Always be calm and gentle.

How to Give Medication with Food

First, ask your vet if it’s possible to give the medication with food. In fact, some medications might have to be given with food! Others, however, cannot be given this way so always make sure to check with your vet.

1. Mix the pill/liquid into a small amount of your cat’s favorite canned food or other similar treat.

2. Keep any other pets away from their bowl.

3. Keep an eye on them to make sure they eat everything. It’s not uncommon for some cats to try to eat around a pill or spit it out.

How to Give Medication by Hand

If you can’t mix the medication into your cat’s food, you will need to give it to them by hand. Sometimes, it can be helpful to ask a second person to assist you.

1. Prepare your supplies.

2. Face your cat away from you with their back end against you (i.e. tucked into the crook of your arm) so they can’t back away.

3. If they like to squirm, try using a towel to restrain them. Place them on the towel and wrap it around the front of them so they can’t get their front legs out or scratch you. Just make sure it’s not too tight around their neck.

4. After you have restrained them, you can now give them their medication.

5. Approaching your cat from the side, place your hand on top of their head with your thumb and forefinger extending down on either side of their cheekbones.

6. Gently, tilt their head up to allow their jaw to drop open. However, if you are giving them a liquid medication, avoid lifting their head up so they don’t accidentally inhale it.

7. Place your syringe/piller in the back corner of their mouth and administer the medication. Try to avoid putting your fingers directly into their mouth so you are less likely to get bit. (Sometimes, cats won’t swallow everything on the first try. To avoid this, keep their head up for a few seconds after you administer the medication and blow on their nose or gently stroke them under their chin to encourage them to swallow.)

8. After you finish, make sure to reward your cat so they can start to think of this as a positive experience.

If you have any questions, we welcome you to contact us at our cat-only animal hospital and boarding facility in Lake Oswego. We’re here to help!


  • Laurie Cunningham says:

    I have had a horrible time getting meds down my 6mo old Ragamuffin, but recently I found a better way than forcing him to take it… less stress on the cat and me. If I pet my cat to calm him and get him to lay down, then put the liquid med on his front paw a little at a time, he will lick it off. It takes a bit longer to do, but works for us.

  • Jodie Lutz says:

    This sounds like a fantastic idea Laurie. I have a little stray who hates any confrontation and needs medication twice a day at the moment and would prefer to starve than eat it in his food. I will try the paw trick

    • Cindi says:

      Jodie How did that work? I have THREE cats that need meds and it Has to be liquid (doesn’t come in pills)
      I have tried the technique in the video above HA!!
      I have put the meds in expensive wet food, tuna, cat milk (my one kitty loves milk)
      So far NOTHING they will not Touch it.
      The meds must be nasty if they turn up their noses at their favorite food. I am at a loss

      • Dakota says:

        Cindi how did you end up doing it? im having the same issues with my cats.

        • Hazel says:

          So how did you manage. Cindi? I was looking for reply to this. Help!! My cat is not a lap cat nor a cat that likes company except when she wants to. Putting liquid on food HA! Hit and miss affair. What do I do!
          Just read the bit about butter……oh! Yes! My cat simply loves butter and already has it as a treat on a coaster outside the kitchen door. Her normal food gets put in the conservatory. So I will try this, this evening.

  • Christina says:

    If dogs and kids can have fun flavors, why are cats being left in the lurch? Our cat is peeing blood due to some unknown stress, and they want us to shoot 3 vials into his mouth twice a day. He has had about a single drop of one. The rest has been a waste of $200. So unhappy about all of this

    • Cat Care Professionals says:

      Hi, Christina! We’re sorry to hear that you’re having trouble. We know how upsetting it can be when cats refuse to take their medication. We recommend asking your vet if there is a compounding pharmacy that can add a flavor into the medication for you or if there is another form of the medication you can give him (i.e. an injection, a transdermal gel, or a pill). We hope this helps! Just let us know if you have any other questions.

  • Stephanie says:

    I have a 10 year old female cat that has become increasingly aggressive over the last five years at any form of physical manipulation. She now poops and pees and screams like a mountain lion when I need to force her out of a room, put her in a carrier, take her to the vet, or medicate her. She is a loyal and loving cat, but when I need to put hands on her, no matter how calm or non threatening I am, I am literally scared of her. She has diarrhea and today I am taking her to the vet, I am sick to my stomach. She will get poop and pee all over everything and probably scream and attack me just trying to get her in the carrier, not to mention how much they will have to sedate her at the vet just to touch her. Then I will have to give her 14 doses (2ml twice daily, 7 days total) and I know that I will not be able to give it to her and I am betting my life she will not eat it in food. I feel like I might have a complete breakdown and don’t know what to do. If you handle her she will get so messy she will need a bath and that won’t happen either. What can I do? The vet does not understand and doesn’t seem to care that I am at the end of my rope.

    • Cat Care Professionals says:

      Hi, Stephanie! Thanks for reaching out to us. We’re so sorry to hear that you’re having trouble with your kitty. Unfortunately, we are unable to give medical advice unless one of our doctors has examined your cat. Do you take her to a feline-exclusive clinic? We highly recommend it because mixed-species clinics often can’t provide the same level of care that a feline-exclusive clinic can provide to cats. They are much different than dogs, and usually mixed species clinics only spend a small portion of their time caring for cats so they don’t have as much experience with them. It’s also less stressful because feline-exclusive clinics tend to tailor their facility toward cats. (Plus, there are no barking dogs!) We hope this helps. Just let us know if you have any other questions!

  • Jackie says:

    I sometimes fail to get my cat to take all the liquid medication and a lot of it spills out. Do I attempt to give a dose again (I often don’t know how much spilled though) or leave it for the next schedule? Right now, my cat needs antibiotics so I’m worried about under/overdosing.

    • Cat Care Professionals says:

      Hi, Jackie! Great question! We recommend asking your vet since they will be more familiar with your cat and their medication.

  • Well this isn’t very scientific but my sweet, recently adopted kitty has an Urinary Tract infection and after battling her for 4 days to take the liquid antibiotic I remembered how she loves butter and will start meowing and crying if she smells it on my morning toast. So I mixed the 1 ml dose with a tiny smear of soft butter, put it on a plate and she lapped it up!

  • Janine Callan says:

    Yes, this is the result I am doing this at the moment, All of the other recommended methods just cause too much stress for my little one, and having to administer this new medication daily for the rest of her life, the other methods are going to cause (without a doubt) a negative relationship between us, and I do not want this. She licks it off straight away. No fuss! I Just hope this is as effective for her, and she is getting her full dose.

  • Lynda Hamblen says:

    This is a useful and excellent share. Will definitely share it with people I know. Please come and visit my blog on how William and Tibby Forever just Kept On Growing.


  • Kate says:

    Yes, I had the same issue. He immediately smells the medication in there. Cats will lick anything off their front paws, because they can’t stand the feeling of having dirty fur. So i crush the pill, and mix it in a little cream cheese, i use the smallest amount, because otherwise it will fall off, or they shake it off (smart little guys). So i make sure to spread the cream cheese mixture on his paw evenly , not in lumps, and he HAS to lick it off, it tastes nasty, i can tell by the side eye he gives me lol, but he HAS to clean his little paw. They lick it off right away. So that really helped us a lot!

  • Paula says:

    I just read a post about adding butter to a small amount of the cat’s food. I tried it and it worked. She gobbled up the food mixed with a good amount of butter – a ratio of 1 to 1 I would say. And since she still needs to gain weight, I may try adding butter to all her food. I wonder if that would be ok, as long as she doesn’t gain to much weight.

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