Like humans, cats will have a poor appetite when they are not feeling well. As their health problem progresses, the cat will stop eating entirely. This is when you’ll need to force-feed your kitty. Knowing how to force feed a cat can be a lifesaver, especially if you can’t take your kitty to the vet immediately.
In this post, I will discuss the things you need and the steps you need to take. I once did this to my kitten Watson with the supervision of his veterinarian. So if you’re planning to do the same with your cat, I suggest contacting the vet for proper advice since each cat has unique conditions. Please read here: How Long Can Kittens Go Without Food
When do you need to force-feed a cat?
Cats getting sick is every owner’s agony. It hurts to see our furbabies suffering. In some cases, you would need to force-feed your cat to prevent fatal consequences.
Sickness is the main reason why you need to force-feed a cat. Another reason is when your cat isn’t eating enough, which leads to underweight conditions.
Take note that force-feeding a cat is a tricky process. You should always call the vet first, especially if you don’t have experience force-feeding or if your cat is experiencing an adverse reaction to it.
Also, you should only force-feed a cat if it refuses to eat for 24 to 72 hours. Aside from food, you should also give your cat a clean water supply. Learn here how long can cat go without food
Steps in force-feeding a cat
As a pet owner, it stresses me out whenever Watson gets sick. My worse experience ever was when he stopped eating entirely after playing outdoors. I was freaking out since we can’t get to the vet due to a storm. I immediately called the vet and asked how I can force-feed Watson.
If you’re facing the same situation, the following steps will help you out.
Materials you need
- Large syringe
- Blended gruel or soupy cat food
Step 1. Prepare the food
Using the syringe (with the needle removed), draw up soupy cat food into it. Make sure that the food doesn’t have large chunks that may cause your cat to gag or choke. I suggest using a food processor to break down any solid mass.
Step 2. Position your cat
It’s important to keep your cat in the proper position before force-feeding. Your cat should have its chest parallel to the ground. Never lay your cat flat on its back because it will cause the liquid food to backflow to its lungs. When that happens, your cat may develop pneumonia, which is a life-threatening condition.
Step 3. Start feeding
Next, place the tip of the syringe at the corner of your cat’s mouth. After that, squirt a little and let the kitty swallow on its own. If the cat doesn’t want to swallow, try blowing on its face to trigger the swallowing reflex.
Step 4. Keep feeding
Your cat needs to eat about 20ccs of food per pound of its body weight. Keep feeding the liquid food until your kitty gets ample nutrition. However, you should stop from time to time to let your cat swallow and rest. This will also prevent vomiting.
You should wipe any food spills immediately using a towel. This will prevent it from getting into your cat’s fur and eyes.
How to force-feed a cat without a syringe?
What if you need to force-feed your cat, but you don’t have a syringe? There’s a workaround in this case.
All you need is a clear plastic pastry bag. Cut the tip of the pastry bag to serve as the feeder for your cat. After that, add the soupy or wet cat food while avoiding pushing it too much that it squirts out of the pastry bag.
Next, fold the top of the bag to push the food into the tip. Remove the air from it so your cat will only ingest food. You can also twist the pastry bag as if you’re applying icing to a cake.
Once the food is prepared, bring the tip of the pastry bag into your cat’s mouth. Squeeze it with a slight force to bring the food to the back of its mouth. You may also need someone to assist you here if your cat is fidgety and doesn’t want to be force-fed. You should be ready with some paper towels since the food will surely spill one way or another.
If you have a long-haired cat, I suggest using an old baby bib to prevent the food from making a mess on their coat.
Should I force-feed my dying cat?
You should never force feed a dying cat. At this point, your cat’s organs are already failing, and force-feeding may just speed up its death. I always recommend bringing your cat to the vet if it’s suffering from life-threatening conditions. What your cat needs are immediate veterinary care.
Take note that force-feeding has its limitations. It’s not the sole solution for cats that refuse to eat. You should always remember that refusal to eat is a sign that there’s something wrong with your cat. Only the vet can identify what it is.
When should you stop force-feeding a cat?
Knowing how to force-feed your cat is important knowledge but knowing when to stop is a different story. The rule of thumb is that you should stop force-feeding once your cat is seeking food on their own. This means that the cat can eat again.
Aside from that, you should stop force-feeding right away if your cat is only vomiting the food. This begs for immediate vet care as your kitty’s condition might be critical.
Besides, you’re not supposed to force-feed a cat for too long. Force-feeding with a syringe for too long may cause jaw injury and teeth damage on a cat. To make sure that force-feeding will not be a permanent thing, you should seek a veterinarian’s guidance.
For underweight cats, you can stop force-feeding once it gains some weight. After that, you should encourage the kitty to eat on its own. This is to prevent tooth damage and dependence on long-term force-feeding.
To encourage your cat to eat on its own, you should serve warm food, preferably moist. You can also dip your finger in the food and let your cat lick it. Please read here: Why Does My Cat Lick My Hair
Knowing how to force-feed a cat is an important skill for every pet owner. At some point, your cat will get sick, and it will stop eating. When this happens, you should be prepared to step forward so your cat will receive its much-needed nutrition. When in doubt, you can always consult with a veterinarian.
Marco Vasquez is a passionate animal lover and writer with extensive experience in the pet care industry. He has worked with various pets, including dogs, cats, birds, and fish, and deeply understand their unique needs and behaviors. Marco’s love for animals has driven him to become an expert in pet health, nutrition, and behavior, and he is always eager to share his knowledge and insights with others. As a member of the Petcosset team, Marco brings his expertise to help pet owners make informed decisions about the well-being of their little friends. He enjoys hiking and spending time outdoors with his pets in his free time.