Pilling a cat is easy!!! No seriously!!

A little disclaimer…I am not a vet.  I’ve always wanted to be one, but decided to go into the computer field instead.

A little background…I have been pilling cats since I was 9 years old, and I have never ever been scratched or bitten in the process of pilling a cat.  I have always maintained a good relationship with all the cats I have pilled whether they were my cats or someone else’s.  Actually, two cats used to come to me when they were sick.

I currently have a cat, Skip, who has Hypertropic Cardiomyopathy, a heart condition, plus he has hypothyroidism which means he gets lots of pills.  Skip’s pill schedule is 4 pills in the morning and 2 in the evening.

After spending 6 months of giving each pill individually, a vet put me onto pill capsules that you can get at a pharmacy.  I can actually cram 4 pills into the smallest pill capsule.  This means Skip gets one pill capsule in the mornings and one in the evenings.  Skip is so happy with this arrangement that he jumps up on the counter himself to be pilled.

But I digress…it’s my blog…I’m allowed.

So, how do I do it?  Well, I have two ways…before pill capsules and after.  The before pill capsules will be for the majority of people, so I will start with that method.

Here’s how:
1.) Stay calm!!! You cannot be nervous, timid, show fear, be scared or worried when giving a cat a pill.  Cats are very in-tune with our feelings and can sense that you are nervous.  If you cannot calm yourself, find someone who can like a 9 year old. 🙂 That’s what my mom did.

2.) Talk in a normal voice.  Forgive me here, but cats know bull**** when they hear it. When they hear you change octaves in your voice, they know something is up.  So, talk normally. No YELLING.  You don’t like it and the cat doesn’t like it.

If it helps, have someone in the room with you and start talking about the weather or work or whatever it is you talk about or even have them read the steps to you, so you don’t have to stop to read. Just talk like you always talk to this person.  Personally, I talk to Skip and ask him how his day went or how he slept at night.

If you get frustrated, just walk away.  Take a deep breath and get yourself calm again.  Remember you are not hurting your cat, but helping them to get well.

3.) Do NOT make wild movements with your hands.  If you are a talker who moves your hands while talking, you need to stop for the time it takes to pill a cat which for me is normally less than 10 seconds.  Wild hand movements cause cats to go on the defensive.  This will cause kitty to not want to submit to your handling.

4.) OK, now go get the pill and place it where you can reach it on a couch or chair.  Just set it down within reach.

5.) Go find your kitty.  Pick the kitty up normally just like you were bringing the cat downstairs for food.  I talk with Skip, but as he not generally far from me (he follows me like a dog would), I don’t have to talk long.

6.) Sit down on the couch or chair where you placed the accessible pill.

7.) Place one ankle on the opposing knee.  I usually place my left ankle on my right knee because I am right-handed.  This creates a triangle and is where you are going to place kitty.  What is nice is that it gives a nice and secure place for your cat to lay without worrying that you are going to drop them accidentally.

8.) Put your cat on his back in the triangle. This will be the most difficult part if your cat does not fully trust you to not drop them.  It is important to not get nervous or frustrated.  It may take more than one try, but after your cat realizes that you will not drop them, it will become a whole lot easier.

I usually grab Skip under the armpits and then going from my right to my left into the triangle across my body I put him in the triangle.  I let him drag on his side across my body.  This lets him know that he is in contact with the “ground” and won’t fall.  As he is going across on his side as we get close to the triangle, at the last second, I turn him onto his back.  So, he is sitting there like a baby.

9.) Place the pill in your dominant hand (for me, my right) in between your middle finger and your thumb.

10.) KEY POINT!!!! Now With your other hand, starting from the front of the snout go backwards to the end of the jaw.  At the end of the jaw on both sides you will feel a notch.  This should be right in front or inline with the start of the eyes.  I place my middle finger and thumb on each side.  Note: you may want to put the pill down for a second and try this just to feel the notches.  The notches are key because they will help to open the mouth.

Note: The reason for starting at the end of the snout and moving backwards is that you are going with the flow of the whiskers.  Never ever go against the whiskers unless you want your cat to get extremely upset with you.  The whiskers on a cat are extremely sensitive.  By taking care of them, you cat will come to trust you and know that you respect them.

11.) OK, you have pill in dominant hand and the other hand in the jaw notches, so now we open the mouth and pop the pill in.  At the same time, lightly (don’t hurt your kitty) squeeze the notch where the jaw is while using your index finger to open the bottom jaw of the cat’s mouth.  It should be wide open.  Take aim and drop the pill into the back of the jaw.

12.) Mostly close the mouth.  You have to leave a little room for kitty to swallow the pill, but if you give full reign, out will come the pill.

13.) Make sure your cat swallows before allowing to leave your lap.  Cats are notorious for spitting out pills, so making sure that kitty swallows helps.

14.) Treat time!!!!! Praise your cat all the way to the treats.  Give Kitty the absolute favorite treat in the world immediately.  Your cat should have your full attention right now.  No stopping to put dishes away or talk to someone.  There cannot be any pauses on the way to the treats or your cat will not associate the treats with the pill taking…they have short memories.  And let’s face we all love praise. 🙂 Skip loves a good hug as well.

Congratulations!!  You have just pilled your cat.  The first time will be the most difficult as you are getting used to a new process.
Here are the after pill capsule instructions:

This second method is really, really easy. So, if you are having trouble getting pills down, try a pill capsule.  You just place the pill in the capsule and away you go.

We had to go to pill capsules because one of Skip’s pills was real bitter tasting and while he was easy to pill, if I didn’t aim right he had to taste it.  His awesome cardiologist was like, just get pill capsules.  I had no idea I could buy them.

Skip now takes a single pill capsule in the morning and in the evening.  Please feel free to use this method if your cat is taking a capsule.

1.) Perform steps 1 -3 above.  These are mainly about you being calm. 🙂

2.) Get the pill capsule out.

3.) Fill a small bowl with some warm water.  We have found that getting the pill capsule wet first makes it slick and easier for Skip to swallow.  Warm water works really, really well.

4.) Put your cat on the counter.  I know…this is bad to encourage, but other than pill time Skip rarely gets on the counter and we use Clorox wipes after we’re done. Skip will actually voluntarily jump up onto the counter.  When he doesn’t we are teaching him the command “up” and so far he’s responded three times to it.

5.) Apply pressure to your cat’s hind end to get him to sit and tilt the head back.

6.) Dip the pill capsule into the water until it becomes slick.  You’ll feel it.  The pill will become hard to hold without it sliding.

7.) Using the notch method above (Steps 9 – 13), open kitty’s mouth and put the pill in.

Two notes:

a.) if you do use warm water, the pill become really slick and if you hold the capsule just right it will squirt out from your fingers.  With really good aim, it will practically go down kitty’s throat without any trouble.

b.) I don’t have to uses the notches any more.  I just angle Skip’s head up and use my index finger.  He opens his mouth voluntarily. 🙂  He’s a good boy, but we’ve been doing this method for 3 months now and he definitely prefers it.

Also, if you miss aim and the capsule goes to the side, let your cat spit the pill out.  Skip will put his paws on my hands to tell me I missed and he needs a little time.  He is literally just holding my hands.  Once he gets the pill out, I immediately pop it back in.  If it doesn’t feel slick, I might dip it into the water.

8.) Wait for kitty to swallow.  Skip does this immediately because the capsule is wet, so he swallows because of the water.

9.) Praise…praise…praise…treat…treat…treat. This must happen immediately.  Skip is on a restricted diet, but what he gets is canned food after each pill.  He absolutely will do anything for canned food.