How To Syringe-Feed Your Cat
Kittens and cats can have delayed eating habits for a number of reasons. Sometimes it is due to age, in older cats it can be because of surgery or an illness.
That doesn’t mean your cat has to starve until they can feed themselves. What you can do is to syringe-feed her or do assist-feeding to ensure that they are well-nourished.
This is done by feeding your cat her usual wet food or prescribed cat food as recommended by the vet, through a syringe a few times during the day.
When is there a need to syringe-feed a cat?
If you are concerned that your cat is not eating enough, you don’t have to immediately go to syringe feeding. There are some scenarios where you will decide to start syringe-feeding a cat. Some of the scenarios are:
- if your cat loses appetite because she’s ill
- if your cat is not eating after surgery
- kittens that have not been weaned yet and are separated from their mother
- kittens that are under 2 weeks old
- if your cat is not eating for a day or barely eating for 2 days
What are the materials you need to prepare to syringe-feed a cat?
If you want to syringe-feed feed a kitten there are a few materials you will need. Some of the obvious ones are a feeding syringe, a towel to wrap your cat with, paper towels, wet wipes, and wet cat food. You will be added water to the wet cat food to have a liquid mush.
Here are some tips on the right kind of feeding syringes that you need which will be suitable for assist-feeding your cat:
- the feeding syringe should have a large and long opening and you can usually get it from your vet or through online
- a curved tip syringe is also suitable which is usually used for flushing wounds, just cut the end off to have a wider hole opening
- an O-ring syringe is also recommended because it lasts longer and easier to push but the tip is not quite long or wide
- a ringless syringe that’s durable and lasts long
When choosing the right feeding syringe for your cat, always consider the strength of your hands. Thus, if you have a small or weak hand, don’t opt for a larger syringe but choose a medium-sized one which will allow you to push it easily. That way, you’ll be able to feed your cat more effectively, too.
Here is my recommended syringe. There are many options and it’s important that you stick with what works for you and your cat/kitten.
What are the steps in syringe feeding a cat?
Once you have all the right materials, it’s important that you take the necessary steps to make sure you are syringe-feeding your cat properly. When syringe-feeding your cat, you will need an assistant or a family member to help you hold the cat while you feed her.
Here are the steps on how to syringe-feed your cat:
Step 1. You need to prepare the meal that you’ll feed to your cat.
Similar to bottle feeding a kitten, the first step in syringe-feeding is preparing the syringe.
Prepare the cat food that you’ll feed to your cat and make sure that it is of room temperature and with the right consistency. For kittens, the food should be more liquidy for them to be able to digest it easily. Mature cats may benefit more with a watered down version of their wet food.
Be sure to consult your veterinarian first before serving any type of cat food to your unwell cat. Even if you are continuing to feed them their same food, it’s important that your vet is aware of what is going on.
2 ways to load the food to the feeding syringe:
- one way is to fully close the syringe which is by placing the tip of the syringe into the liquid food and then sucking it up by pulling back the plunger
- another way is to remove the back of the plunger and by placing the food into the syringe and sliding it into the back end with the use of a small butter knife
Step 2. Get your cat ready for the syringe-feeding.
Once you have the food ready to feed your cat, it’s important to get them ready. Place your cat in a comfortable position, place a towel around your cat. Sometimes you can put them in a spot they like or the center of a room. You can feed a cat alone or with the help of an assistant or a family member. But having help will make things a little easier.
If you’re feeding your cat alone:
- get on the same level with your cat and make sure that the towel is wrapped snugly around them
- position or tuck your cat under the pit of your non-dominant arm and use your hand of that arm to firmly grasp the cat in the head from behind
- gently tilt the cat’s head back and then start to syringe-feed
If you’re feeding the cat with an assistant or family member:
- if you’re feeding your cat with another family member, make sure that she or he is someone who is closely bonded to your cat such as your husband or spouse
- place a towel on your cat to form a burrito and it should be around their neck like a bib but must also drape and cover your cat’s front paws
- the person holding the cat should use both hands to clutch the front paws
- you may start to syringe-feed your cat once your cat is restrained and in a calm and comfortable position
Always make sure that you’re calm as you syringe-feed your cat. You may talk to them in a soothing voice and tone so they won’t be anxious and aggressive. Also, be sure to tap the feeding plunger to get rid of air bubbles before filling it again with food to feed to your cat.
The last thing you want is pushing air into your cat when they are trying to get nutrition.
Step 3. Proceed to syringe-feed your cat in a calm and controlled manner.
As you syringe-feed your cat, always aim the syringe at the back or side corner of your cat’s mouth. Make sure to dispense the food carefully from the syringe. After you feed them a small amount of food, remove the syringe from their mouth to give them time to swallow it.
If they seem too weak to swallow, you can use your hands to close their mouth so the food is ingested. If that is the case, call your vet immediately so they can continue to get the nutrition they need.
Always keep paper towels handy because there’ll be a mess as you proceed with the feeding process which should be repeated throughout the day to ensure that your cat still gets the nutrients that their body needs.
An important thing to remember in syringe-feeding your cat:
- If your kiitten normally eats 4.5 ounces daily, this means that you should feed your cat with nine 15 ml syringes of food. You can do this by feeding them one every hour to at least an hour and a half. You may feed two 15 ml of food every few hours and another one at the end of the day to be able to complete 3 meals.
It’s best to syringe-feed your cat if they’re not eating her meals due to sickness. Or if they are too weak to eat from a surgery or recovering from an injury. Try to stay calm and relaxed as you syringe-feed your cat. But also be very patient since every cat has a different demeanor, and it needs time for them to get used to the process.