The Best Ways to Feed Medicine to Picky Cats and Dogs

Olga Chetvergova/iStock via Getty Images
Olga Chetvergova/iStock via Getty Images / Olga Chetvergova/iStock via Getty Images

Next to bath time and nail clipping, administering medication may be the most dreaded chore for pets and their owners. Even the best-trained cat or dog is likely to squirm and claw their way out of your arms if you try feeding them a pill without a game plan. To make the process less painful for both of you, it helps to strategize.

According to the ASPCA, pairing the medicine with something more appealing works for both dogs and cats. For dogs, try wrapping the pill in a slice of lunch meat or cheese, or burying it beneath a spoonful of wet food or peanut butter. If they like the treat, they should inhale the whole package without noticing the hidden component.

Cats tend to be pickier than dogs, but you can still use food to trick them into taking their medicine in some cases. The easiest route is to mix the pill in with their regular meal and hope they eat it at dinner time. If that doesn't work, try inserting the tablet into a soft treat. Some treats, like Pill Pockets, come with a cavity in the middle designed especially for this purpose.

These tricks won't work on every pet, however. Feeding medicine to especially stubborn animals may require a more direct method. Whether you're handling a cat or dog, use your non-dominant hand to lift their upper jaw until their mouth falls open. With your other hand, place the pill as far back in their mouth as possible without stimulating their gag reflex. Close their mouth and gently massage their throat to encourage them to swallow. A dog or cat will usually lick their nose or lips after swallowing something. Even when you think the pill is gone, keep an eye on your pet for a few minutes to make sure it really went down.

Rewarding your pet with treats and praise during this process can help them associate it with pleasant feelings the next time they have to take their medication. For cats, you may want to swaddle them in a blanket before holding their mouth open to prevent them from scratching you or slipping away. If the cat you're caring for won't let you come anywhere close, try these tips for getting a cat to like you and defending yourself against a cat.