When all other methods fail, using a pill gun for cat medicine may be the surest way to give your pet the treatment she needs. The key is using the tool effectively to administer medication without stressing your cat.
What's a Cat Pill Gun?
A pill gun is a simple tool used to deliver a tablet or capsule of medication to the back of your cat's throat where it is more likely to be swallowed than spit back out. It's based on the common syringe, and it's made of three distinct parts:
- A long hollow housing
- An inner plunger
- A rubber tip to hold the pill
How to Load a Cat Pill Gun
- Pull the plunger all the way back
- Insert the pill into the rubber gripper tip
Now all you need is your cat and you're ready to medicate her.
How to Use a Pill Gun for Cat Medications
Such a simple tool should be easy enough to use, and it is when your cat cooperates. But honestly, how often is your cat willing to let you be in the driver's seat? If your situation is like most, not that often.
Acclimate Your Cat to the Pill Gun
In cases where you need to medicate your cat right away, you won't have much time to do this, but it's a great idea to start getting your cat used to a pill gun before they ever need it. Simply take the tip of the gun and put it in some wet cat food. Then let your cat lick the food off. Repeat this in tiny increments of time and food so that you train your cat to see the pill gun as a good thing rather than something scary to run away from.
Get Ahold of Your Cat
So, after loading the gun with the pill, the first step is to get hold of your cat in a way she can't wiggle out of.
- If your cat is comfortable being handled, you can hold her in your lap and insert the pill gun in her mouth, but some cats will fight against this kind of restraint.
- In cases where your cat is not willing to be handled easily, it's best to have another person around to help.
- If you don't have access to another person, you can use a big soft towel to make a "kitty burrito." Place the cat on the towel on a raised surface such as a kitchen counter or table. Wrap the towel around the cat so that he can't get his legs out, as demonstrated in the video below.
Insert the Pill Gun
- If you have a helper, have them hold the cat gently on a raised surface such as a table. Otherwise, use the kitty burrito technique to keep your cat from escaping.
- Avoid scruffing the cat as this can make the cat more fearful and lead to more desperate attempts to scratch and get away. Instead, wrap the cat in a towel to restrict their legs and have the second person use gentle pressure to keep the cat in place.
- Make sure you talk gently and calmly to your cat during the whole procedure to keep him from becoming fearful.
- Use one hand to hold the cat's head back with your palm firmly around the top of the cat's head and very slowly and gently move the cat's head back. Have your pill gun ready in the other hand.
- As you move the cat's head back, their reflex will be to open their mouths and you need to pop the pill in with the gun as soon as the mouth opens.
- Make sure you insert the pill gun toward the back of the throat and coming in from the side of the mouth. Press the plunger down all the way until the pill is delivered. You will have to move quickly so it's a good idea to practice using it without a cat first to get used to handling it.
Now, close the cat's mouth, and stroke her throat gently to encourage swallowing. Most cats will lick their nose once they have swallowed. Once she swallows, you should be home free until the next dose is required. However, watch to make sure she hasn't tucked the pill to the side of her mouth waiting for a chance to spit it out.
Hydrate After Pilling
Some types of pills, particularly dry tablets, can get stuck in the cat's esophagus before eventually making their way down to your cat's stomach. Veterinarians recommend giving your cat water to drink after using a pill gun to help move the pill along in their system. You can also use a syringe or small turkey baster to give the cat water or low-sodium chicken broth.
Getting a Cat Pill Gun
Many veterinary clinics will sell cat pill guns but if your vet doesn't carry them, you can buy them at most pet supply stores. They usually retail for around $7 and can be found on online stores such as Chewy.com and Amazon.com and physical stores such as PetSmart and Petco.
Downsides to the Cat Pill Gun
Because most cats do not enjoy having pills forced down their throats with a foreign object, pill guns are not the best tool for long-term medication of a cat. While they can work for most kinds of pills, they can be harder on the cat's esophagus with hard dry pills compared to softer capsules. They can also make your cat fearful if they've had a bad experience with it and your cat will be harder to restrain and may hide when you bring the pill gun out.
Giving Cats Medicine
For many cat owners, there's little else that's worse than hearing the vet say, "Just give Fluffy one of these pills twice a day for the next two weeks, and it will fix her right up." If you find using a pill gun difficult, you can ask your veterinarian if a vet tech in the clinic would be willing to give you some training. Otherwise, there are other options for giving cats pills.
- You can try to give your cat her medicine by crushing the pill and mixing it with some wet cat food, but cats have a great sense of smell, and actually seem to be able to detect the foreign ingredient in their food.
- Pill Pockets are treats made specifically for placing medication inside and feeding to your cat.
- Ask your veterinarian if it's possible to get the medication in a liquid form.
Never Miss a Dose Again
That's the essential process for using a pill gun to medicate your cat. While Kitty may not appreciate these sessions, they're absolutely necessary for the medication to be effective. Missed doses can result in lost ground when treating an illness, and that's not good for your cat or you.