Tube feeding is the feeding of a kitten through a tube, inserted directly into the stomach. It is an advanced, but essential skill for people caring for newborn or critically ill bottle babies that won’t suckle on their own.
Tube feeding is particularly useful with weak kittens that may not have a strong gag reflex. This means that they are at higher risk for accidentally inhaling milk and developing aspiration pneumonia.
Tube feeding is part of an overall treatment plan to bring a kitten back to health and should be considered a “stop gap” measure while other treatments have time to take effect. Never rely on tube feeding alone to save a kitten -- there’s a good reason why they aren’t suckling, so we need to address that as well! Other treatments used in conjunction with tube feeding include the basics of good nutrition, heat support, and time. In addition, your kitten may be prescribed antibiotics, anti-nausea medications, and/or appetite stimulants.
Supplies for tube feeding
Red rubber catheter Fr 3.5 or 5
Large syringe for formula (usually ~12 mL), ideally luer lock, not slip top
Watch these great videos on how to tube feed: