How do you tube feed a kitten?

Our question this week was:

I recently found some orphaned kittens and someone told me that they need to be tube fed. Can you tell me how to do this?

Kelly W. Athens, Georgia.


Hi Kelly – thanks for your email. I’ve seen tube feeding save many kittens lives. I have a really good article for you that is going to help you. It is called Caring for Orphaned Kittens. It will answer all your questions and more. It is long – it is at least 5 pages but print it and read it all.

I’ll include the basic technique from the article:

Tube feeding is useful in kittens 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.
Measure the tube – 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.

Position the Kitten – The kitten should be positioned horizontally with the head in a normal position.

Lubricate the tube – The tube can be moistened with water for lubrication.

Insert the tube – the tube is 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.

Give the feeding – 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 and how much – it is all in the article I mentioned. I think it will really help you.

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra

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