Syringe Feeding A Cat

Syringe Feeding A Cat

Your cat may not be eating well on her own for many reasons such as a recent surgery or not feeling well. What you can do is to syringe-feed her or do assist-feeding to ensure that she is 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?

There is a need to syringe-feed a cat in the following scenarios:

  • 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
  • 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?

You will need a feeding syringe, a towel to wrap your cat with, paper towels, wet wipes, and  cat food that’s added with a little water to have a liquidy 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. 

What are the steps in syringe feeding a cat?

Get your cat ready for the syringe-feeding.
Image: / laszlo_szelenczey

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.

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 just the right consistency. 

Be sure to consult your veterinarian first before serving any type of cat food to your unwell cat, even though what you’ll be feeding her is her usual cat wet food.  Your vet will be able to give the best advice when it comes to the right food for your pet cat. 

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 liquidy 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.

Place your cat in a comfortable position, place a towel around your cat, and you may put her in the center of a table, whatever is easier for you.  You can feed a cat alone or with the help of an assistant or a family member.  

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 her 
  • position or tuck your pet cat under the pit of your non-dominant arm and use your hand on 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 her 

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 they are someone who is closely bonded to your cat such as your husband
  • place a towel on your cat to form a burrito and it should be around her 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 her in a soothing voice and tone so she 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 your cat.

Step 3.  Proceed to syringe-feed your cat in a calm and controlled manner. 

Proceed to syringe-feed your cat in a calm and controlled manner. 
Image: / Galina Sandalova

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 her a small amount of food, remove the syringe from her mouth to give her time to swallow it. Should she be weak enough to swallow the food, you may use your hand to close her mouth so the food will be ingested. 

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 her body needs.  

An important thing to remember in syringe-feeding your cat:

  • If your pet cat 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 her one every hour for 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. 

Final thoughts 

It’s best to syringe-feed your cat if she’s not eating her meals due to sickness or she’s too weak to eat because she just had 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.  What’s essential is that your cat will still be able to have the nutrition she needs to ensure her fast and speedy recovery.