by Mollie Hunt

No one likes pilling their cat, least of all, the cat. The grabbing, holding, and forcing of a foreign object into her mouth and down her throat can be a traumatic experience for any feline; now results of a study show she has every right to complain.

Cats are stoic. They don’t tell you when they are in pain, so it’s not surprising we don’t know when there’s a problem.  The pill goes in; if it doesn’t come out again, we figure all is well. Unfortunately that’s far from true, and it’s time to change the way we think about giving oral medication.

A high percentage of pills, including gelcaps which proclaim to be easier to swallow, don’t make it past the cat’s esophagus, clinging to the side of the throat and lodging in the soft, sensitive tissue. If you’ve ever had a pill stuck in your throat, you know how uncomfortable and even painful it is. But that’s not the worst of it. The irritation can cause inflammation that leads to an esophageal stricture. Now you have a serious problem.

 Cheri Valle writes in her article, “Esophageal Stricture; Avoid It, Recognize It, Manage It”:

 “Administering pills and capsules is probably the most common way our cats might get esophagitis, which can lead to actual esophageal stricture.  …you MUST make sure every single pill or capsule is cleared out of your cat’s throat… Cats’ anatomy is such that they simply don’t clear pills out of their throats on their own with “dry” pilling, and so they are especially prone to damage caused by pills.

Cats were tested to determine how long it takes for pills without a ‘chaser’ to clear out of the throat. Here is what it said:

 ‘After 5 minutes 84% of capsules and 64% of tablets are still sitting in the esophagus.’ [It is important to note that gelcaps are even worse than tablets in clearing out of the throat.] Certain categories of medications, including antibiotics, can cause the most damage if they aren’t cleared out of the esophagus. There are case studies in veterinary research websites about cats that have died from a single dose of certain medications such as clindamycin or metronidazole.

The solution isn’t complicated. Read the instructions on the side of any human pill bottle and you will find something like:” Take with water.” Follow that advice with your cat and give her a little water, soft cat food, or a treat after administration of the pill. This will get kitty to swallow further and move the pill into the stomach where it belongs.

Because cats don’t drink on command, I use an eyedropper to squirt a little water into kitty’s cheek after pilling, making sure to inject it slowly so she won’t inhale the liquid into her lungs. I also coat the pill with butter, though the article doesn’t mention this technique. If possible, I get the medication compounded so it is in a liquid form.

So next time your vetrenarian prescribes oral medication for your cat, ask questions, get answers, and if there is no alternative to a pill, make sure to follow the suggested techniques to save your cat from pain and suffering and you an unexpected vet bill.

This blogpost was inspired by the August 23, 2017 Winn’s Weekly Feline Research Byte, “Medicating Your Cat ~

You can read Cheri Valle’s entire article here.

Check out more research news from the Winn Foundation, dedicated to the health and welfare of all cats.

About Mollie Hunt:

Mollie is the author of the Crazy Cat Lady cozy mystery series, featuring Lynley Cannon, a sixty-something cat shelter volunteer who finds more trouble than a cat in catnip. Mollie is a member of the Oregon Writers’ Colony, Sisters in Crime, and the Cat Writers’ Association. This year she won a CWA Muse Medallion for her 3-part blogpost series, “Life Stages”.

Like Lynley, Mollie is a grateful shelter volunteer. She is a longtime volunteer for the Oregon Humane Society where she socializes sad, fearful, and behavior-challenged cats. She also fosters sick and elderly cats in her home. In 2014, she had the privilege to work with cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy on a particularly thought-provoking case.

You can find Mollie on her Website:, her Amazon Page:, and her Facebook Author Page:

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    • Mollie Hunt says:

      Yes, I crush my cat Little’s medication into her wet food, but she’s tricky so often I end up spoon-feeding it to her. Some meds are bitter and the cat won’t eat it; then you’ve wasted a pill. Ask your vet knows which medications are bland and which are foul tasting.

  1. Ana Mari Pérez Marín says:

    Use a syringe without a needle, fill it with water. Applies in the corner of his mouth and the water is discharged.

  2. Jennifer Daniels says:

    Very good information I would have never have thought about that and I know what it’s like to have a pill stuck in my throat thanks for the heads up on that I

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