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Cat Behavior

Giving medication to your hard-to-medicate pets


We’ve always been told that a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down. But when it comes to pet, nothing could be further from the truth. And please – never give your pets a spoonful of sugar to offset or disguise the misery of giving them medicine.

There are lots of other ways to give your pets a pill without traumatizing you or them. From Pill Paste to compounding to trickery, we have a way to make those meds go down with no fuss and no hospital visits.

[heading style=”2″ color=”#996633″ style_color=”#996633″]Compounding:[/heading]

One of the simplest ways to make your pet take a pill (especially cats) is to “compound” or reformulate the medication into a different form. Luckily, there are many pharmacies (and even your vet) who can do this for you.

Ask them about compounding into a paste that can be rubbed on the ears to absorb through the skin. Or a paste that can be placed on the tops of your cat’s paw so it licks it off. Or perhaps a liquid that tastes like liver or beef, or can be given with a small syringe (but make sure your vet shows you how to do this properly or it could end up in your cat’s lungs).

Nearly every type of medication can now be easily reformulated (compounded) and it doesn’t cost much to do it. Factor in the fewer hospital bills for you when you get bit trying to make a cat take a pill, and we figure it’s well worth any extra cost.

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[heading style=”2″ color=”#996633″ style_color=”#996633″]Hide It[/heading]

Pastrami is still our “go-to” hiding spot for drugs when it comes to our senior dog who can sniff out a pill from peanut butter blobs. He still knows he’s getting a pill in the pastrami, but he doesn’t care as much. Find the highest rated treat for your pet and you’ll be able to hide it away.
There is also a new Earth’s Balance Pill Paste for Pets out by Earth’s Balance. It’s made in the USA and it’s an easy (and clean) way to give any size pet any size pill.

You can also check out Greenies Pill Pockets (but we like that the Pill Paste doesn’t harden as fast) and any number of other products formulated specifically for hiding pills.

Other favorite “pilling” foods are:

  1. Pastrami: Cheiss’ favorite – it’s a terrible, highly processed meat for humans and pets, but consuming once in awhile it won’t hurt you or your pet
  2. Peanut butter: (we’ve even FROZEN a pill inside a peanut butter ball for larger dogs).
  3. Honest Kitchen: any of their foods are great for hiding pills and this is our “go-to” for the animals since this is their favorite food (and what we feed) as well.This is the most “well-balanced” approach to pilling your pet if they love it as much as ours do.
  4. Hamburger/steak/liver: Depending on your budget… however, be cautious about feeding liver too often. It can cause a Vitamin A toxicity in your cats. But, using a small treat for delivering a pill is fine.
  5. Tuna: this is especially a favorite of cats. But remember that tuna can be bad for cats. It has the potential for causing mercury poisoning (just as it can in pregnant women) and it should never be fed as a diet (it lacks the nutrients your cats need). It’s great for hiding pills, though, because it’s stinky.
  6. Cheese: Our pups favorite – but remember that nearly all cats and most dogs are lactose-intolerant. You never want to give it to them often and you should be prepared for stomach upset if you give it to them occasionally.

[heading style=”2″ color=”#996633″ style_color=”#996633″]Pill Guns[/heading]

It’s not as bad as it sounds. A Pill Gun is basically a syringe that holds the pill in tiny clamps and allows you to reach into the back of the throat without sticking your hand in your pet’s mouth. Now, it’s not our favorite solution, but in extreme cases, it’s highly effective. It’s used a lot with cats (who are far more prone to bite you than your dog).

Before using this tool, be sure you ask a veterinarian professional to demonstrate the proper way to use it. If used incorrectly, you can cause choking, esophageal damage, and even pneumonia if the pill enters the lung instead of the stomach.

Here’s an example of a pill gun:

[heading style=”2″ color=”#996633″ style_color=”#996633″]Turn it Into A Game[/heading]

If your dog isn’t allowed to counter surf or eat people food, the surest way to get them a pill is to act like you didn’t see them take it. Usually if I’m eating it, my pets want it. They don’t really even care what it is – they only care that I have it. If you act like it’s something they aren’t supposed to have, they will usually take it.

The other option is to turn it into a big game.

Fetch the treat is a favorite over here. We put the pill in a small ball of peanut butter, add our other treats (we use Pecks Cookies because the dogs love them and they fit in a marshmallow shooter). Then we begin “launching” the treats. The dogs think they are playing a fabulous new game, have completely forgotten about the pill, and are so caught up in “fetching the treat” and competing with one another, that they wolf it down with nary a thought.

Here’s a short video on how we do this. (We imagine that Daryl from the hit TV show, The Walking Dead probably gives meds to his pets the same way).


Some humorous stories about giving medication to our pets includes a coyote who learned to “fetch a beagle” so we could administer his ear medication (read about Tristan and Roscoe in Teaching a Coyote to Fetch) and an oldie but goodie about How to Pill A Cat. Enjoy the reads!

[heading style=”2″ color=”#996633″ style_color=”#996633″]If All Else Fails[/heading]

If none of the methods described above work for you, please take a look at New Ways To Pill Your Dogs the high-tech way. We’ve detailed them all out for you on PetsWeekly – and if you have some ideas of your own, please leave a comment so we can all learn some ways to give medication to our pets!

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