Many kittens that are orphaned need tube feeding to obtain the nutrients that the kittens needs. Tube feeding is most commonly used for kittens that are less than 10 days of age or those that are weak or have poor suckle reflexes.
The procedure for tube feeding uses a soft, rubber feeding tube (size # 5 French feeding tube is good for many kittens). An equivalent-sized soft rubber urethral catheter can also be used. The tube should be pre-measured from the tip of the mouth to the last rib. Re-measuring is essential because, as the neonates grow, the distance will increase. The kitten should be positioned horizontally with the head in a normal position. The tube can be moistened with water for lubrication, inserted into the mouth and gently pushed into the stomach. The tube should go easily to the mark. If the tube does not go easily, it may be in the trachea and should be removed and reinserted. The tube should be attached to a syringe preloaded with milk formula. Ensure there are no air bubbles in the syringe. The meal should be given slowly over 2 minutes. If resistance to feeding is felt, stop and wait until the next feeding to give any additional formula.
For more information on what to feed, how much to feed and other kitten care information , go to care of orphaned kittens.