Tube Feeding Kittens

Newborn cats are delicate, fragile animals, and the mother cat is always gentle and careful when feeding kittens. Unfortunately, there will be some situations in which the mother is unavailable, is not producing milk or will not feed her own kittens. In these cases it is necessary for a human to intervene in order to ensure that the newborns receive the nutrition that they require. If this is the situation, take it upon yourself to acquire and become familiar with a feeding tube and syringe. You may need to feed the babies for days or even weeks by this method. Continue reading for a brief guide to feeding newborn kittens.

The Process of Tube Feeding

Newborn kittens suckle on their mother's nipple in order to feed, so it is your goal to emulate that process as closely as possible. Begin by gathering a syringe, warmed kitten formula, a modestly-sized catheter and a pen. Your task is to measure the catheter out against each kitten's mouth in order to determine the appropriate length for feeding, then to mark this distance with the pen. Each kitten will probably require a slightly different length of feeding tube, and you should also keep in mind the fact that kittens grow incredibly quickly, so you will likely have to remeasure frequently. The feeding tube should be long enough that it reaches your kitten's esophagus, but not so long that it will damage his throat.

Having measured off the appropriate length of catheter, practice dispensing formula out of the syringe a few times in order to determine the force necessary. It is crucial that you do not push an excessive quantity of formula down your kitten's throat, as this may hurt the animal.

After weighing your kitten to determine the amount of formula necessary, draw the warmed mixture into the syringe and attach the catheter. Sit your kitten on your lap and incline his body slightly upward toward the syringe. Gently tilt his head back and pry open his mouth, then present him with the tube. If he does not immediately take it, press it carefully into his mouth. Dispense the formula slowly and evenly and watch to make sure that he is swallowing. Allow him time to breathe and burp him if necessary.

Considerations and Risks

Tube feeding a kitten can cause damage to his windpipe and may even suffocate the animal if it isn't performed correctly. If possible, it is best to observe a veterinarian at least one time before attempting to tube feed your kittens. Watch out that you do not overfeed your kitten, as this may cause him pain and indigestion. Immediately after feeding, his stomach should be round and full but not distended.

Watch carefully for signs of complications. If your kitten begins coughing or wheezing, or if he vomits after feeding, these may be signs of a problem with the process. In these cases, it is best to have your pet examined by a veterinarian.