What To Do When Your Cat Won’t Take Their Pills

Mercy is not happy.


Mercy Mercy Me!

Mercy was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) and his treatment is to take atenolol two times per day.  This tiny little pill shouldn’t be a problem, right?  Just open his little mouth, place the pill towards the back of his tongue, close his mouth, stroke his chin and throat gently encouraging him to swallow. Finish up with a bit of water from a dropper into his mouth to help the pill ease down the throat.  Give him plenty of kisses and a gentle hug followed by one of his favorite treats. Then he is free to roam about the home and head back to the sunroom.

Here is a fun vintage-inspired instructional video to show you just how easy it is to pill your cat.

Sadly our real life scenario wasn’t going as smoothly as this video lead us to believe. 😉  To be fair, we didn’t play the music or get all dressed up.

The first pill went as planned.  Paul and I celebrated too early.  By the second dose, Mercy had already figured us out.  No way was he going to swallow that pill.

Too Bitter a Pill for Mercy to Swallow

After lots of soothing words of encouragement from Paul to me, I got up the courage to try to get Mercy to swallow his pill.  This time we just knew he cooperated.  He swallowed and even licked his lips.  Paul continued to hold him for a few more minutes just to make sure.  We were so relieved.  Then, Mercy jumped down, walked over to his food plate and spit that pill out.  We heard the “clink” and couldn’t believe it. Then we got….the look.


Are you kidding me?

We tried mixing with tuna, mixing with baby food, cream cheese, pill pockets.  Nope, no, didn’t work and no good.  He ate around the pill or just sniffed and walked away.

Have Mercy on Us

Not wanting to cause Mercy more stress, he has a heart condition after all, we asked Dr. Guinan if it was possible to use a compounding pharmacy to make the atenolol into a chicken flavored liquid. We were thrilled to learn this was possible.

Mercy and the office owl

Mercy and the Office Owl

The Compounding Solution

Compounding is the art and science of preparing customized medications for patients.  Its growth in popularity in recent years is due in part to pet owners having similar experiences to ours trying to take care of their little furry family members. Cats often have variations of the same diseases we have, including heart conditions, but getting your cat to take their medication can be difficult.

The process was quite simple. Dr. Guinan sent in the prescription to the compounding pharmacy. There were over 40 flavors to choose from, but we chose chicken.  We received an email from the pharmacy and logged into the website.  We paid for the prescription  and expedited shipping for the first order because we wanted to make sure Mercy got his meds started and to keep them consistent.

The first few doses have been a breeze.  Send purrs and positive thoughts that he remains cooperative.

If you are having trouble giving your cats medication, ask your veterinarian if they use a compounding pharmacy.


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  1. Mary Friedling says

    Lol. My parents had a solution to this. Daddy would pick Topper, call me in to give him the pill, and let him down. He never got mad at THEM, only me. I was the horrible person that stuck a pill down his throat. As smart as he was, he never managed to not take it. I was too good.

  2. I’ll have to remember this. Lola goes to the vet in a few weeks and may need some meds.

  3. Every kitty is different when it comes to pilling – we are mostly easy enough here. Compounding is such a lifesaver for more difficult kitties.

  4. Mary McNeil says

    Wow ! I have to take 2 Atenolol a day also – and a bunch of other (human) meds. Is one of their flavors pina colada ?

    Glad you found something that works so Mercy can remain healthy !

  5. Karen Andersen Lucas says

    We had a similar situation with our rescued cat Lily who came to us when she was 12 and then was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. We put the tiny pill in half a pill pocket and for months thought she was doing well although her blood work was not where it should be. She was doing the same thing – eating the pill pocket and spitting out the pill. So we put cream on her ear tips for her thyroid disease and because her blood pressure was slightly elevated and hyperthyroid cats are prone to saddle thrombus (happened to one of our old cats) we also put amlodopine on her eat tip as well and so far so good. Thanks for a great post.