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How do you get a stubborn cat to take a pill?

Getting a stubborn cat to take a pill can be very challenging for cat owners. Cats are notoriously difficult when it comes to taking medication, and will often resist pilling efforts. However, there are some tricks and techniques you can try to make the pilling process easier on both you and your cat.

Why Cats Resist Pilling

There are a few key reasons why cats often put up a fight when it comes time to take a pill:

  • Cats have a strong sense of taste and smell – Pills often have a bitter flavor or scent that cats strongly dislike.
  • Pills feel foreign in their mouth – The size, shape and texture of a pill is unfamiliar and uncomfortable for cats.
  • Cats don’t understand why they need medication – To a cat, being pilled can seem confusing and distressing if they don’t make the connection between the pill and feeling better.
  • Taking pills requires restraint – Having to be held still and have their mouth opened can make cats feel threatened.
  • Cats associate pilling with a negative experience – If pilling is forced on them, cats will see it as an unpleasant event and resist more in the future.

Knowing the reasons behind pilling struggles can help you come up with solutions to make the process easier on your cat.

Tips for Pilling a Stubborn Cat

Here are some tips to make giving pills to a stubborn cat go more smoothly:

Choose the best pilling strategy

There are a few different techniques you can try for pilling a cat:

  • Scruffing – Gently grasp the loose skin at the back of the cat’s neck to immobilize them and open their mouth to insert the pill.
  • Burrito wrap – Swaddle the cat in a blanket or towel with only their head exposed to limit movement.
  • 2 person hold – Have one person hold and steady the cat while the other gives the pill.
  • Kneading – Rub the cat’s shoulders and upper back to relax them before pilling.

Try different holds to see which works best for your individual cat.

Make sure your cat is calm

A cat who is anxious, excited or upset will be nearly impossible to pill. Allow your cat to relax and destress before attempting to give a pill:

  • Set aside quiet pilling time when the home is peaceful.
  • Play with or pet your cat beforehand to relieve stress.
  • Give treats, brushing or catnip to aid relaxation.
  • Speak softly and move slowly to avoid startling your cat.

Use pill dispensers or pill pockets

To disguise pills, you can:

  • Place them in pill dispensers that hide size, shape and texture.
  • Hide them in pill pockets – soft treats your cat will eat without noticing the pill inside.
  • Mix with a small amount of tuna, wet food or baby food your cat loves.

Make pilling part of your cat’s routine

Routine makes cats feel secure. Making pilling a consistent part of your cat’s schedule can reduce associated stress and resistance:

  • Pill your cat at the same times each day.
  • Give pills in a consistent location your cat feels safe.
  • Provide a treat, meal or playtime after pilling so your cat comes to expect something positive.

Stay relaxed and patient

Cats pick up on your own stress and anxiety. Staying calm will help keep your cat feeling secure. Never force pilling or respond to resistance with anger or punishment, as this will only make your cat more upset and uncooperative in the future. Be patient and give your cat encouragement and praise when they let you successfully give a pill.

When to Ask Your Vet for Help

If you’ve tried all these suggestions and your cat still excessively fights or resists pilling, consult your veterinarian. They may prescribe a transdermal medication applied to your cat’s ear or a flavored liquid form of the medication. In extreme cases of pilling difficulty, your vet may suggest an injection or recommend boarding your cat for the duration of medication administration. Never attempt to give medication to an aggressively resistant cat who may bite or scratch you – seek professional veterinary assistance to find an alternative pilling strategy.


Pilling a stubborn cat can test your patience, but being prepared with the right techniques and having an understanding approach can make the process go much more smoothly. The key is to stay calm, find a pilling method your individual cat tolerates, and make the experience as stress-free as possible. With some tricks and consistent effort, you can successfully get your resistant kitty to take their medication.