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Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

I cannot get my Persian kitty, Chumlee, to take his tapeworm tablet. I’ve tried mushing it up, splitting it, I don’t know what to do. Help please!

~ Christi

Persian cat, (CC-BY-SA) by Mike Powell

Persian cat, (CC-BY-SA) by Mike Powell

Siouxsie: Oh, Christi, Mama says she feels your pain. And so do I. Mama once tried to give me a tapeworm pill and it was awful! She was nervous and she didn’t get it in far enough and it made me foam at the mouth and run away because it was … oh, heck, let’s just say it was the worst pilling experience I ever had.

Thomas: Mama says she learned a few things from her experience trying to give Siouxsie a tapeworm pill back then. First of all, tapeworm medicine is extremely bitter! That’s why mushing the pill up in Chumlee’s food probably didn’t work out so well.

Bella: Splitting the pill can make it smaller, but that means you then have to give two pieces of the pill, which is quite a challenge if your kitty won’t sit still for the first half.

Siouxsie: Giving a pill can be a challenge, especially if you’re new at it, but we think we can help you.

Thomas: First of all, try your best to be confident. The more nervous you are, the jumpier and less likely to cooperate Chumlee will be.

Bella: The key to being able to give a pill is to get it far enough back in your cat’s mouth that he can’t spit it out. The easiest way to do this is to put your non-dominant hand over your cat’s head, with your thumb just under one cheekbone and your index finger just under the other.

Chumlee from "Pawn Stars"

Mama says your Chumlee must be better looking than this Chumlee.

Siouxsie: Then, gently tilt Chumlee’s head upwards, which will naturally cause his jaw to open a little bit.  Hold the pill between the thumb and finger of your dominant hand and use your middle finger to press downward on his lower jaw. Then drop the pill as far back as you can.

Thomas: Mama always gives us a little bit of water through an oral syringe after she gives us a pill. That helps the pill to go down our throat and keeps the pill from getting stuck in our food pipe and causing pain.

Bella: A 3-milliliter oral syringe should work just fine, because all you need is 1 ml or so of water.

Siouxsie: If you don’t have an oral syringe handy and therefore can’t wash Chumlee’s pill down, blow on his nose. That will cause him to lick his nose, which will cause him to swallow.

Thomas: For the record, we don’t recommend “dry pilling.” Have you ever swallowed a pill without drinking any water afterwards? Did it feel awful, like it got stuck in your throat or esophagus? Did it irritate your stomach? The same thing can happen to cats.

Bella: Another technique you can use is to disguise the pill in something tasty. There’s a product called Pill Pockets, which is made from some artificially flavored goo that tastes really good to cats. This can at least get the pill into your cat’s mouth.

Siouxsie: Because we cats don’t chew like humans, you don’t have to worry about Chumlee crunching down on that pill.

Thomas: Some people recommend using a pill gun, but Mama tried a pill gun once and she didn’t like it — it seemed more difficult than just giving the pill by hand.

Bella: Another option is to ask your vet or one of the techs at your clinic to teach you how to give a pill. Maybe if they’ve got some sugar pills or something harmless like a treat, they can let you try it and coach you through the process.

Siouxsie: Here’s a video showing how to give your cat a pill. Maybe you’ll find this helpful.

(In a reader? Watch the video here.)