When kitty needs meds but hates pills

Q: My cat needs daily medication for a heart condition, but she hates taking pills! She’s really good at pretending to swallow them and then spitting them out later. Hiding it in food doesn’t work, either. She just eats around it. Help!

Via email

A: I hear you! Cats can be the very dickens when it comes to medicating them. I have some suggestions that I hope will help. First, check your technique. The best way to give your cat a pill is to open her mouth, place the pill as far back on her tongue as possible, then hold her mouth closed for a few seconds. While the mouth is closed, gently blow into her face to trigger the swallowing reflex.

Stroking the throat can help as well. A pill gun is another option. The method is much the same as the above, but it allows you to be quicker on the trigger, so to speak. It may take a little practice, but you may soon find that both you and your cat prefer this method. Whether you give a pill with your finger or with a pill gun, squirt a little water into your cat’s mouth afterward with an eyedropper to help wash the pill all the way down the esophagus.

Another possibility is to have your cat’s medication compounded into a tasty liquid, chewable pill or other form that’s easier to give. A compounded drug is one that has been reformulated to be more palatable or easier to give to a pet. Your cat might be intrigued by a chicken- or tuna-flavored liquid or chewable pill. And if she is taking two different medications, compounding can combine them into one product.

Finally, remember to harness the power of rewards. Your cat may be more amenable to taking her medication if it’s followed by a favorite treat.

The buzz

Researchers at Cornell University recently found that dieting felines did indeed have a change in attitude – for the better. After an eight-week diet, the majority of cats seemed to be more affectionate, owners reported. The study, published in November in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, found that the cats responded to feeding restrictions by increasing “appetitive” behaviors – begging, following, meowing and pacing before meals – and were more likely to show affection to their people by purring or sitting in the owner’s lap after eating.

Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton, author of many pet-care books. The two are affiliated with