My Cat Won’t Take Liquid Medicine! Help?


Cats are horrible when it comes to taking medicine. Yowling and thrashing. Spitting out their pills. Scratching and biting as you try to put the syringe in their mouth. So what do you do when your cat won’t take liquid medicine? Are there any ways to keep them from shredding your arms as you try to help them feel better? While you can’t just tell them to sit still, there are ways to make giving your cat liquid medicine painless.

cat judging you

Table of Contents

Cat Won’t Take Liquid Medicine?

First off, let’s talk about why your cat won’t take liquid medicine. The main reason is the unfamiliarity of it all. A sick cat is a stressed cat. Therefore, they aren’t going to like anything upsetting their routine further. Second, most medications aren’t the most appetizing. While some cats have no issues licking up a liquid medication, others are going to turn their nose up at it or even foam at the mouth.

(Is your cat licking their lips without medication? Find out in our blog post!)

Lastly, your technique might be wrong. Here’s how to give cats liquid medicine: never come at them head-on. Cats do not like being approached from the front, especially when they are aggravated. Try coming towards your cat to administer the liquid medication from the side or behind. Envelope them in your arms to make them feel safe.

There are some cats that, under no circumstances, will take a pill or liquid medication easily. If your cat is known for refusing liquid medication, you may need to talk to the vet about other kinds of medication available for them.

The Don’ts of Giving Liquid Medicine to a Cat

While on the subject of what not to do when giving medicine to your cat, let’s cover a few more things. There are a couple of mistakes people tend to make when trying to get a cat to take medication:

  • You try mixing the medicine in with your cat’s water. Don’t do this. Most cats are picky about their water and won’t drink it if it tastes even slightly off. Furthermore, your cat needs to stay hydrated when they are sick, or their condition could worsen.
  • You give the medicine to your cat at the same time every single day. While this might seem like a good idea because cats like routine, it could actually upset them further. Your cat will start refusing to come out during that time of day, even if food is involved.
  • You mixed the medicine in with their favorite food. For the same reason as above, if your cat starts to expect something foul within their routine or food, they will start turning up their nose at it. Also, your cat could eat only a small portion of food and leave some of the medicine dose behind.

Can I Mix Liquid Medication With Cat Food?

Yes, you can mix your cat’s liquid medication with food, but is it the best idea? Not always. Before attempting to mix liquid medicine with your cat’s meal, talk to your vet first. Some medications can’t be added to good because of the ingredients. For example, some medicines will bind with cheeses or a cheesy gravy. Your cat won’t get their medicine if that happens!

That said, if your cat won’t take liquid medicine directly, tempting them with food or a treat is one of the best ways to go about it. Keep in mind that cats are clever and may eat around the liquid medication if you don’t mix it in well enough. Additionally, they may smell the food and refuse to eat.

brown and white tabby cat on white textile

How to Give Medication With Food

Want to try the food trick with liquid medicine? As mentioned earlier, using your cat’s favorite wet food could end badly. Instead, pick up a can or two of kitten formula pate from the grocery store.

Why? Because kitten pate is designed to taste really, really good. It will be a fabulously tempting treat for your adult cats, as well as sick kittens. They’ll go nuts for the kitten pate and never realize they just ate a dose of medication, too.

Try a small portion of kitten pate on a plate. Add a small amount of medication. Blend the two and see if your cat eats the serving.

Did they devour it? Good. Add a little more food and medicine to ensure they get the full amount.

Again, do this as a treat before or after their regular meal time. That will keep your cat from getting suspicious or finicky.

How to Give Medication By Hand

Sometimes there are restrictions that mean you have to give liquid medication to a cat by hand. The following steps should help you give medicine to an uncooperative feline:

  1. Have a friend nearby to help, if necessary.
  2. Lay out your supplies. You should have a towel under your cat. Have the syringe filled with the prescribed amount of medication and close by.
  3. Place your cat on the towel with their back facing you. If possible sit their back against your leg or the crook of your arm so they can’t escape.
  4. If your cat is going to squirm or get aggressive, use the towel to wrap them up. Call it what you want—a cat burrito, purrito, or towel handling—it’s a safe way to restrain your cat.
  5. Some cats may lick at the tip of the syringe. Bead a little of the medicine to see if they will do that. If so, you won’t have to fight them.
  6. Your cat won’t take liquid medicine that way? Gently grab the top of their head with one hand. Your forefinger and thumb should be on the cat’s cheekbones. Do not tilt the head up.
  7. With the other hand, lift the syringe to the corner of their mouth, angled behind the canine teeth.
  8. Continue pushing the syringe forward until it enters the mouth. Your cat might clench their teeth together. This is where an extra pair of hands can help you keep their mouth open.
  9. Gently squeeze the syringe to dispense the medicine. Do this slowly, so your cat can swallow and breathe.
  10. Once the medicine is administered, let your cat go. Give them a reward for their good behavior.

The video below shows you how to give liquid medicine:

What Do I Do If My Cat Throws Up Medicine?

In the event that your cat is vomiting up the liquid medicine, don’t immediately try to give your friend more. The best course of action is to call the vet and ask what to do. If your cat won’t take liquid medicine because it won’t stay down, the vet may have to try something else.

Also, if you’re worried your cat will throw up a larger dose, cut the dose in half in the beginning. See their reaction first then start building up to a bigger dose. This could help your cat keep down a small portion.

What If My Cat is Foaming at the Mouth?

You just gave your kitty a shot of medication but now she’s foaming at the mouth and shaking her head. Should you be concerned? Not really. Foaming at the mouth is a dramatic reaction that cats have when they have tasted something horrible. If you accidentally squeezed a good portion of medication onto the back of your cat’s tongue, they might start foaming shortly after.

Don’t worry, though. With a drink of water, your cat’s melodramatics will “pawse.”

Black cat looks straight into the camera

Final Thoughts on Medicating Cats

If your cat won’t take liquid medicine, don’t give up! Sometimes, all you need to do is change up your methods. Swaddling your cat with a towel can help restrain them for liquid medication. Remember to go slow and be gentle. If you can give the liquid medicine with food, try it with kitten pate and in smaller portions. Hopefully, your furry friend will feel better soon!


How do you give an unwilling cat liquid medicine?

If your cat is particularly squirmy, consider wrapping them in a towel to restrain their movements. Cats can sense your emotions, so it’s important to stay calm and relaxed throughout the process. Speak to your cat in a soothing voice. Enlist the help of another person if possible. One person can hold the cat while the other administers the medication. Give your cat a small treat or a lick of something they like (e.g., tuna juice) to create a positive association. Gently squirt the medication, a little at a time, while allowing the cat to swallow. Once the medication is administered, offer another treat and praise your cat for their cooperation. If your cat struggles, don’t force it. Take a break and try again later. Consistency and patience are key.

If all else fails, try mixing the medication in your cat’s food!

How do you give a cat medicine without a syringe?

You can try hiding the medication in something the cat likes, such as their food or a treat.