Giving your cat a tablet

Please click here for printer-friendly PDF version

The basics

Giving a tablet to a cat can be a daunting prospect for anyone, but with a calm and confident approach it is often much easier than you first think. The tips and tricks in this short guide will help you achieve this successfully and as easily as possible.

  • First make sure you know whether the tablet can be divided or crushed, and whether it can be administered with food – if in doubt, just ask at the practice.
  • Second find the simplest and easiest method to give the tablet to your cat.
  • Third have a confident approach and keep calm at all times. If you run into difficulties or cannot manage, give us a call – we’re here to help!

Make sure that you:

  • Have everything you need prepared and ready in advance;
  • Have enough time and a clear plan of what you will do;
  • Be gentle with your cat, keep calm, and avoid putting yourself at risk;
  • If possible, always have a second person (preferably someone your cat knows) to help if you are going to administer the tablet, rather than put it in with food.

Giving a tablet with food

First ensure that the tablet can be given with food; some tablets should always be given with food, and most can be given with food. However, some tablets must not be given with food. We try to include any important instructions on the printed label of the medication, but please don’t hesitate to check with us first if you are in doubt.

If it is safe to give the tablet with food, make sure your cat is hungry! Take all food away for 12 hours to ensure your cat will want to eat.

Some tablets are made specifically to be palatable to cats, and you can try just offering these tablets to your cat first, on the tip of your finger (not on the palm of your hand). If your cat shows no interested in the tablet, next try giving it in food.

  • Ensure your cat does not see you hide the tablet in their food – they’re not daft!
  • If the tablet is small, your cat may take it hidden in a small amount of a favourite food, such as soft cat food, cheese, a small piece of meat, fish or a prawn, or in butter.
  • Make sure the tablet is completely hidden in just a small amount of food, rather than in a whole bowl full.
  • If your cat eats the food, check to make sure it has also eaten the tablet, and not left it behind or spat it out.
  • You can then give your cat the rest of its normal meal.
  • Some cats are clever at finding the tablet buried in food and spitting it out, or just eating the food around the tablet. If it is safe to do so (check with the practice), you may be able to crush the tablet and mix it thoroughly with a small amount of very tasty or strong flavoured food. This works best with palatable tablets, and with a strong-flavoured tasty treat that your cat really loves, such as tinned fish in oil or tomato sauce. A pill-crusher may help to crush the tablet thoroughly.

Administering a tablet into your cat’s mouth

If your cat will not take the tablet voluntarily or in with food, you will need to give the tablet by hand. Gentle, safe restraint of your cat is important, and it helps enormously to have two people; one to hold the cat, and the other to give the tablet.

Restraint of your cat

There are two methods of restraining a cat for tablet administration: with your hands, or with a towel. For manual restraint, make sure your cat is on a stable non-slippery surface such as a floor, table or non-slip work surface. Allow your cat to sit upright in front of you, but facing away from you. Gently hold each front leg around the elbow with your hands, and use your forearms to press gently against the sides of your cat. This helps to prevent your cat running off, and controls the front legs, paws and claws.

Alternatively, you can restrain your cat with the aid of a towel. This can be especially useful for very wriggly cats or if you don’t have a second person to help hold your cat. Use a mid-sized, familiar smelling towel. Put the towel on the flat surface and place your cat on top of the towel, facing away from you. Bring up one side of the towel and then the other, around the cat’s neck so that your cat is thoroughly wrapped and can not get its front legs out of the opening. Hold your cat gently but firmly in the towel.

Administering the tablet

Having gently restrained your cat using one of the above techniques, you can now administer the tablet. Again, this is much easier with two people.

  • The person giving the tablet should hold the tablet between the thumb and forefinger of one hand.
  • Place the other hand on the top of your cat’s head, approaching from the side or behind, rather than from above.
  • Gently tilt the head upwards, and use the middle finger of the hand holding the tablet to pull the lower jaw down to open the mouth.
  • Keeping the head tilted upwards, quickly place or drop the tablet at the very back of the cat’s tongue. Aim for the centre of the tongue as far back as you can see. If the tablet is too far forward, or to the side, your cat will not swallow it, but spit it out!
  • Hold the jaw closed for a few seconds and wait for your cat to swallow. Gently rubbing the throat under the chin may help. If your cat licks his lips or nose, you know he has swallowed.
  • Sometimes your cat may not swallow the tablet on the first attempt and may spit it out. So long as your cat does not become distressed, you can try repeating the procedure.

The most common reason for failure, is not placing the tablet at the very back of the tongue and in the centre.

If you have problems, or if your cat gets upset, give us a call and talk to one of our vets or nurses about how we may be able to help.