Syringe Feeding a Kitten –
Vet Explains How to Do It Safely

syringe feeding a kitten

February 25, 2022

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Kittens are cute, lovely, provide good company, and are wonderful pets. Raising a kitten and watching them grow is fun and fulfilling. However, the first few weeks of a kitten’s life is a time where you should only engage them to feed and care for them; playtime comes later when they’re older and stronger.

The syringe feeding method is highly recommended for the first few weeks of your pet’s life.

If you have a kitten that its mother does not appropriately feed, you’re probably looking for a guide on providing them food for normal growth and development. In this article, you’ll learn how and when to syringe feed a kitten, and which foods your kitten can feed on. We have also included a schedule and guidelines to follow, so you can safely and successfully syringe feed a kitten. Let’s dive in!

Feeding a Kitten With a Syringe – The Basics

The mother usually feeds a newborn kitten, but in the cases of orphaned or adopted kittens, an alternative feeding method has to be employed.

Syringe feeding is the go-to option as it is safer and more convenient for the kitten. Other feeding methods like bottle feeding can come in later on when the kitten is bigger and can handle larger volumes of food.

Syringe feeding is a feeding method that involves giving food by using a feeding syringe to a pet who cannot eat on its own or who is unwilling to eat.

You will need the following:

  • Feeding syringes based on the age of your kitten, 3cc syringe (for a newborn kitten 1-2 weeks old), 6cc syringe (for two weeks old), 12cc syringe (for three weeks old and above).
  • Kitten milk replacement formula
  • Water
  • Towel

When Should I Syringe Feed My Kitten?

Syringe feeding is more appropriate if your kitten is a newborn or a few weeks old and is without a mom. For example, if you adopted an orphaned kitten or bought one as a pet.

You can also syringe feed your kitten if it is older and can be bottle-fed or given some solid foods but is unwilling to eat.

Unwillingness to eat can be due to several reasons. First, it could be a sign of an underlying health condition like toothache or pain in the oral cavity. Refusing to eat can also be caused by changes in food or environment, location of the feeding bowl, or stress.

You can syringe feed to encourage your kitten to eat, as most of the time after they taste the food, they become more encouraged to eat.

Vet’s Tip

After a few attempts to syringe feed your kitten, if your kitten still isn’t interested in eating, it’s advised you see a vet just to be sure of the cause that has led to refusing food and to find out if there’s a disease tied to it.

Benefits And Risks Of Syringe Feeding A Kitten

Syringe-feeding a kitten is beneficial in the following ways:

  • Syringe feeding a kitten is easy and save the kitten’s life if they are refusing to eat
  • Using a syringe helps to accurately measure the amount of food you’re feeding your kitten.
  • Feeding your kitten with a syringe also helps to ensure it gets a full meal. You can know how much food has been consumed by your kitty and if that volume is okay for a meal, especially when your kitten refuses to take in more food.


Related reading:
How Long Can a Kitten Go Without Food?

feeding kitten with syringe

The risk attached to syringe feeding a kitten is the possibility of aspiration.

  • Kittens, especially young ones, can aspirate if they eat too quickly. You want to make sure you’re not feeding them too fast, as young kittens have yet to develop a gag reflex and can choke on their food more easily. You can control how fast your kitten feeds by how you handle the feeding syringe.

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Syringe Feeding Kittens – Schedule & Guidelines

Kitten Weight and Feeding Chart

kitten syringe feeding chart

What to Syringe Feed a Kitten?

The type of food you feed your kitten depends on your pet’s age. For 0-4-week old kittens, the only food they should be fed is the newborn milk replacement formula, a balanced meal specially designed to contain all the nutrients needed for proper growth and development.

For kittens within the range of 4-5 weeks, you can start feeding them some kitten food in addition to the formula, as it’s a transitory period to solid foods.

At 6-8 weeks old, you should have successfully weaned your kittens from the formula, and they should have a good liking for solid foods. Feed them a combination of wet and dry food specially formulated for kittens, and place a clean, fresh bowl of water nearby. Eight-week-old kittens and beyond should be fed with high-quality cat food.

Vet’s Tip

Avoid giving your kitten cow milk, human baby milk formula, or other dairy products, as this can lead to serious health consequences such as diarrhea, indigestion, or vomiting.

How much should I syringe feed my kitten?

The volume of food you feed your kitten depends on its weight and age.

  • Kittens weighing 50-150 grams are usually about 1-2 weeks old and should be fed with 2-6 mL of formula in a single feeding.
  • Approximately two-week-old kittens weighing 150-250 grams can take 6-10 ml of formula per feeding. Increase the amount per feeding from 6ml to 10-14ml as your kitten reaches three weeks old.
  • From 3-4 weeks, your kitten should consume at least 14 ml of formula per feeding and up to 18 ml.
  • By 4-5 weeks, your kitten should weigh about 450-550 grams and should be fed 18-22 ml of formula in one serving, in addition to kitten food.
  • Five to eight-week-old kittens should be off the formula, weaned, and comfortable taking solid foods.

This PetAg KMR Kitten Milk Replacer Powder is our go-to product for kitten milk replacer.

Also, we recommend the Lixit Hand Feeding Syringes for easy feeding.

how to syringe feed kitten

How Often Can You Syringe Feed a Kitten?

Newborn kittens, zero to one week old, should be fed frequently-every 2 hours in this case.

One to two-week-old kittens can eat 2-3 hours apart.

For kittens 2-3 weeks old, you can feed them every 4 hours.

If you’ve got 3-4 week old kittens, they have more appetite and should be fed every 4-5 hours.

Four to five-week-old kittens are transitioning to solid foods, but they still require feedings every five to six hours.

When 5-8 weeks old, kittens that have been weaned can be fed every 6 hours with additional kitten food.

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How to Syringe Feed a Kitten?
Step-by-Step Instructions

1. Check your kitten’s body temperature

Before feeding, check your kitten’s body temperature. If your kitten is too warm or cold, it’s advisable not to administer food right then. Work on restoring the body temperature to the normal temperature range, about 100.4º to 102.5º Fahrenheit.

If higher temperatures result from a highly warm environment, move your kitten to a cooler place. Or, if your kitten develops a fever that lasts more than 24 hours or is higher than 104º F, you should consult a veterinarian.

2. Prepare the formula

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to prepare the kitten formula. Use appropriate measuring equipment and ensure the formula is free of clumps and warm. Avoid preparing a large volume in hopes of preserving it to feed your kitten at later times.

The specially designed kitten replacement formula is the right food to feed your kitten during this period.

It would be best to make the formula fresh, as long-standing formula can get contaminated and develop bacterial growth, which is unhealthy for your kitten. Use warm, not hot, water to prepare the formula and pull it into the syringe while taking note of the right amount per feeding and the appropriate syringe size for your kitten.

3. Place the kitten in a correct feeding pose

The right posture your kitten should be in for safe feeding is the belly-down position. Do not feed your kitten when it’s lying on its back. Doing so can make the fluid enter the respiratory tract instead of being swallowed into the stomach, which could be fatal.

4. Feed your kitten gently and slowly

Position the syringe at the side of your kitten’s mouth and slowly apply pressure to release the formula onto the tongue.

Also, make sure to feed small amounts at a time and allow the kitten to swallow between mouthfuls. Keeping the formula the right consistency will help as well. It should run smoothly through the tip of the syringe but not be too runny to prevent your kitten from aspirating it.

Watch closely as your pet swallows the food; if you observe that your kitten is eating too fast, adjust how fast you release the formula and aim to maintain a slow and steady flow.

5. Groom and clean up your kitten

After feeding, the next thing to do is use a damp washcloth to clean up your kitten.

Make sure your kitten’s fur is dry before placing your pet back in the resting space. Applying light strokes to your kitten helps to mimic the natural grooming action of the mother cat; doing this helps your kitten manifest the grooming instinct later on as an adult.

Summing Up – Feeding a Kitten With a Syringe

Feeding your kitten with a syringe is beneficial as it is safe, easy to do, and allows for accurate incremental feedings, especially for newborns or kittens unwilling to eat.

Prepare the standard kitten replacement formula and give specific amounts at regular intervals based on the weight and age of your kitten. Follow the guidelines on syringe feeding your kitten the right and safe way.

As you feed and care for your kitten, in no time, your pet will be stronger and healthier with loads of cuteness and friendship to offer!

Vet’s Comment

When raising your kitten, the syringe feeding method is highly recommended for the first few weeks of your pet’s life. The specially designed kitten replacement formula is the right food to feed your kitten during this period.

To be sure which product is of high quality, check for a label that has the following written on it. “Meets the nutritional requirements of kittens established by the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).” Such formulas have been fortified with all the nutritional requirements for kittens’ growth and healthy development.

If you observe any persistent and odd behavior while syringe-feeding your kitten, do not hesitate to contact your vet for proper consultation.

– Dr. Iulia Mihai, 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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