Syringe Feeding a Cat –
A Vet’s Guide to Safe Feeding

syringe feeding a cat

Normally, a healthy cat feeds on its own and requires no assistance, but there are certain conditions when syringe feeding is necessary to save the cat’s life. But before doing that, pet parents must be aware of the proper procedure, requirements, and risks involved in syringe feeding a cat.

There is no doubt that syringe feeding is a life-saving procedure for cats, but it can also be fatal if you don’t know what you are doing.

A cat generally requires syringe feeding if she has not eaten anything for about one day or has had little food in over two days. Other conditions when syringe feeding is recommended are when your cat is suffering from an illness, recovering from surgery, or is so weak that she can’t feed on her own.

In this article, we will briefly explain to you everything you need to know about syringe feeding a cat:

  • When to do it,
  • How to do it,
  • The benefits of syringe feeding, and
  • Why it can be a risky procedure with cats.

Read on to discover all the facts before you syringe feed your cat.

Feeding A Cat with A Syringe – The Basics

Many owners don’t like to force-feed their cat with a syringe but believe me, sometimes it’s the only way to deliver critical nutrition to your cat. There is no doubt that syringe feeding is a life-saving procedure for cats, but it can also be fatal if you don’t know what you are doing.

When Is Assisted Cat Feeding Necessary?

Before syringe feeding a cat, you must know the situations when a cat requires assistance in feeding, and a few of those situations are mentioned below:

1. Your cat is anorexic

When your cat is anorexic, meaning that your cat has lost its appetite. Anorexia in cats can be due to several reasons, from as minor as an environmental change to a severe illness. But if your cat is anorexic for several days and is losing body weight, you should seek veterinary help.

2. Your cat gets ill

In case of many illnesses or diseases, cats stop eating. This is because cats are very sensitive to pain, and if any kind of trauma occurs to them, they won’t eat, and they may require your assistance at that stage.

3. Your cat is recovering from surgery

Cats remain under stress after surgeries due to pain and anesthesia. You must assist your cat in feeding during the postoperative period as this will encourage your cat to eat and help to reduce stress.

4. You have a kitten

Kittens, if separated from their mother before weaning, require assistance during feeding. If you have a kitten, read more here: Syringe Feeding A Kitten

5. Your cat is stressed

Change in place or a sudden change in the weather can also put your cat under a lot of stress because cats are very sensitive to their surroundings. They may stop eating, and you should assist at that time.

6. Your cat is suffering from dental problems

If the cat is suffering from periodontal disease or any other dental problem, it will stop eating. Even after dental treatments, cats require assistance during feeding for some time due to stress and discomfort.

Vet’s Tip

Syringe feeding is necessary if your cat is not eating properly. It is recommended by veterinarians worldwide because it can help save your cat’s life.

Benefits And Risks of Syringe Feeding A Cat

Syringe feeding a cat has several benefits and risks, and if you are going to do it, you must know them all. If you don’t feel comfortable while syringe feeding your cat, you must leave it to the professionals.

Benefits of syringe feeding a cat are:

  • You are able to give complete nutrition to the cat at regular intervals.
  • The syringe is safe to use and cannot cause any injury in the mouth of the cat if done gently.
  • You are able to feed a cat of any age with a syringe from a little kitten to a fully grown cat.
  • Syringes are cheap and easy to work with and require no expertise.
  • In addition, you can easily add some medications to the food when syringe feeding.
feeding a cat with a syringe

Risks of syringe feeding a cat are:

  • If not done correctly, you can choke your cat.
  • You can cause aspiration pneumonia to the cat if you push the piston of the syringe too fast as food may end up in the lungs.
  • It’s a time-consuming procedure, and you have to be around the cat every few hours.
  • If done forcefully, you can even break a tooth of the cat.
  • You cannot feed all foods through the syringe; only specific liquid foods can be given through this method.
  • If your cat is aggressive and grumpy, it can be very difficult to feed the cat by syringe.

Syringe Feeding Cats – The Feeding Guidelines

Before you start syringe feeding your cat, you must know the feeding guidelines. Next, you will learn everything about what you can syringe feed your cat, how often you can do it, and how to do it.

What To Syringe Feed A Cat?

There are many foods that you can syringe to feed your cat. Here are some of the most common choices:

Hill’s prescription diet a/d wet cat food is a recommended diet from many veterinarians as it has a very good nutritional value and palatability, and you can add water and make a mush to achieve the desired consistency for syringe feeding. Long-term feeding of this food is not advised. You can order it on Amazon, but you will need approval from your vet.

Royal Canin recovery is another good option for syringe feeding a cat. You can order it on Amazon, and it doesn’t require approval from your vet. Check it out here.

Human baby food can also be fed to the cats through a syringe, but feed it after the recommendation from a veterinarian. The Gerber chicken and gravy is an excellent and affordable choice.

Pâté cat food can also be given through a syringe. Pâté is basically a mix of different ground meats. You can blend Trader Joe’s chicken or turkey and add a little water until it can smoothly come out of the syringe.

You can also give other canned foods for cats with the help of a syringe. You just have to blend or whisk them well and add water until it starts flowing smoothly through the syringe. Sheba perfect portions is tasty cat food that will encourage your cat to eat. It has a great consistency that is easy to mix with water.

For syringes, we recommend the Lixit feeding syringe that is available in many sizes.

Vet’s Tip

Don’t add too much water because it will decrease the nutritional value of the food.

How Much Should You Syringe Feed A Cat?

Quantity and frequency of syringe feeding can vary from cat to cat depending upon the age and body weight of the cat.

We can estimate the amount of feed required on the basis of the calorie intake of a cat. A healthy adult cat requires about 180 to 250 calories per day, while a kitten weighing around 1 pound needs about 40 to 50 calories per day.

A cat will normally eat about 20ml of food per pound of its body weight in a day. This estimation is based on human baby food with 100 calories per 2.5 ounces.

If you have low-calorie food, simply increase the volume of food accordingly. For example, a cat weighing 2 lbs will require about 40ml of food per day, and a cat weighing about 10lbs will require about 200ml of food per day according to 100 calories per 2.5 ounces.

cat needs syringe feeding

How Often Can You Syringe Feed a Cat?

Cats cannot consume a whole day’s calorie requirement in a single meal. You must divide the total portion of food into 3 or more equal meals and give it to the cat every 3 to 4 hours.

In case you have a very busy daily routine, you can divide the total portion into three equal meals and feed the cat before work, after work, and before bedtime.

How Long Should You Syringe Feed A Cat?

Generally, it depends upon the condition of the cat. If a cat is recovering from surgery, it usually needs assistance in feeding for 1 to 2 days, considering if the surgery was not a major one. Sick cats also start feeding by themselves in a few days as they start to recover.

Generally, cats need to be syringe fed for 2 to 14 days. But if your cat is suffering from any permanent disorder or any nervous condition which is untreatable, you may need to syringe feed your cat for the rest of its life.

Vet’s Tip

Always continue to offer wet cat food along with syringe feeding to encourage the cat to start eating again.

How To Syringe Feed A Cat?
Step-By-Step Instructions

You may need someone to hold the cat while syringe feeding if your cat is aggressive, but if your cat is docile, you can do it by yourself. You will require the following accessories for syringe feeding a cat.

  • Liquid food
  • Syringe (10cc for kittens or small cats and up to 60cc for larger cats)
  • Towels to wrap your cat
  • Paper towels or baby wipes for cleaning

Make sure you have everything prepared and within arm’s reach before you start feeding. Also, ensure there are no distractions, and the environment is quiet and peaceful to make your cat feel at ease.

Talk to your cat softly and hold them firmly but gently to make them feel safe and secure.

It can also be beneficial to have some of your cat’s favorite treats at hand if syringe feeding encourages them to have a taste and start eating again.

Step by step procedure of syringe feeding is given below:

1. Preparing Liquid Food

The first thing is to prepare the food for your cat. Make sure it is room temperature, and the consistency is right. If the food is too runny, you may risk your cat aspirating it, and if it’s too thick, it will not flow through the syringe. If you are giving any unusual food to the cat, always consult with your veterinarian first.

2. Filling up the syringe

You can either fill the syringe by sucking in the feed through the front opening of the syringe or by removing the piston, filling the syringe, and then placing it back on.

3. Restraining the cat

If your cat is docile, just put them onto your lap and wrap a towel around them to restrict movement. Place your non-dominant arm around the cat and hold the head. Just slightly tilt the head above the level of the spine and start feeding the cat.

If your cat is aggressive, wrap it in the towel and ask someone to hold the cat while you can gently start feeding.

4. Slowly feeding the cat

Gently place the syringe in the corner of your cat’s mouth or at the back end of the cheek but don’t push it too deep in the mouth.

Slowly push the food into the cat’s mouth and remove the syringe. Allow your cat to swallow the food before giving another mouthful. Repeat the process. Keep your focus on the cat while syringe feeding, and don’t let yourself be distracted.

Always try to be gentle and alert while syringe feeding a cat and keep your reflexes sharp as cats can move or shake their head at any moment, which may have severe consequences if the syringe is in their mouth.

Summing Up – Syringe Feeding Cats

Syringe feeding is a very useful method to feed sick and weak cats that have lost their appetite and are refusing to eat. In many cases, it is the only way to save a cat’s life.

You may be hesitant to syringe feed your cat because it may seem challenging and risky. However, if you follow the guidelines and stay calm, you have a high chance of succeeding and helping your cat avoid worsening health, malnutrition, or even death.

Always syringe feed recommended foods to the cats. Hold your cat firmly, allow them to swallow, and be patient. It can also be beneficial to have some of your cat’s favorite treats at hand if syringe feeding encourages them to have a taste and start eating again.

Vet’s Comment

Syringe feeding is necessary if your cat is not eating properly. It is recommended by veterinarians worldwide because it can help save your cat’s life. However, unfortunately, this process can also be fatal for the cat if done the wrong way. Therefore, it is important to follow the syringe feeding guidelines.

Make your cat feel calm and relaxed before syringe feeding, and if you are not confident enough to syringe feed your cat on your own, then don’t risk it. Seek the help of a veterinarian or any veterinary technician available near you.

Always consult a veterinarian if you have any questions related to syringe feeding, and don’t experiment yourself.

– Dr. Abdul Basit Javed, DVM

NOTE: Advice provided within this article by FeedingMyPet.com is not a substitute for veterinary advice. Please discuss your pet’s specific dietary needs (based on his breed, weight, age, and health status) with a veterinarian.

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