feeding tubes

There is nothing more frustrating, and worrisome, than a sick cat who won’t eat. Cats may refuse to eat for many reasons. They may be bored with the same old food, or they may be stressed about something. Most often, though, inappetence and anorexia will be caused by an illness, either because the cat feels nauseated or can’t smell her food. A cat who doesn’t eat for more than 48 hours is at risk for developing hepatic lipidosis, also known as fatty liver disease, which can be fatal if left untreated.

Force feeding rarely works

It used to be that force feeding or syringe feeding was an acceptable method to try to get nutrition into these cats, but, as anyone who has ever tried to force feed a cat knows, it can be a miserable process for both cat and guardian. The volume of food needed requires multiple feedings of multiple syringes, and it is extremely challenging to meet the nutritional and hydration needs of a cat in this way. In addition, sick cats frequently need multiple medications.

All of this makes syringe feeding a struggle, which leads to stressed cats and stressed humans. This is not only detrimental to the cat’s healing process, it can also damage the bond between cat and human to the point where the cat will run every time she sees her human coming. As a result, many cat guardians give up on cats who won’t eat and elect euthanasia.

“Feeding tubes shorten hospital stays, reduce the stress of administering medications, and ensure that nutrition, one of the most important aspects of healing, happens safely and effectively,” says Dr. Elizabeth Colleran, a feline veterinarian and owner of two cat hospitals. “They can aid in recovery from any illness that involves multiple medications, significant oral pain or any other condition that would cause a cat not to want to eat.”


Don’t be afraid of feeding tubes

Most guardians will balk at the idea of a feeding tube. “I would never put my cat through that” is a frequent reaction. In human medicine, the idea of a feeding tube has end-of-life connotations. Nothing could be further from the truth in feline medicine.

What is a feeding tube?

There are two types of feeding tubes, pharyngostomy (P) tubes and esophagostomy (E) tubes. Both are inserted through the side of the neck and into the esophagus. The body then easily passes the tube down into the stomach. The other end of the tube will come out of the side of the cat’s neck and is held in place with a bandage, or even a stylish KittyKollar. The procedures requires sedation, but takes less than 10 minutes. Removal requires no sedation.


Using a feeding tube

Food is given via a syringe that attaches to the end of the feeding tube. Your veterinarian will guide you as to what kind of food, how much and how frequently to feed your cat. Food will need to be run through a good quality blender. The tube will need to be flushed with water after each feeding, and the area around the end of the tube that sticks out of your cat’s neck needs to be kept clean.

The real beauty of having a feeding tube in place is that you can also administer medications through the tube, rather than having to struggle to get your cat to take them.

Cats can eat on their own with a feeding tube in place. Once a cat eats enough on her own, removal of the tube can be considered, unless a guardian elects to keep the tube in place to facilitate delivery of medications.

A cat guardian’s experience with a feeding tube

Dr. Kristopher Chandroo, a veterinarian and owner of The 100x Vet in Ottawa, Canada, shared the experience of one of his clients with a E-tube in his comprehensive article, What to Do When They Won’t Eat at All: Pina and the E-Tube. Pina’s guardians share what worked and what didn’t work for them.

There is no question that feeding tubes can improve the quality of life for sick cats. If you’re faced with a sick cat who won’t eat, discuss feeding tubes with your veterinarian. It may just save your cat’s life.

Additional resources: Dr. Lisa Pierson has a comprehensive article about feeding tubes on her website, catinfo.org.

Has your cat had a feeding tube? What was your experience? Would you consider a feeding tube for your cat?

Photo at top of post courtesy of Dr. Elizabeth Colleran, used with permission; second photo by ilovebutter, Flickr Creative Commons; third photo Wikimedia Commons

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95 Comments on Feeding Tubes Save Lives

  1. My 7yr old cat was given a ear cleaning and Tresaderm ear drops for ear mites .. she had 1 dose of 4 drops in each ear by evening she was having a hard time walking and didn’t eat her dinner the next morning I called her over and over for breakfast she never came. I finally found her under a bed convulsing… I took her to the vet but as the we were waiting for her appointment time I realized she couldn’t her me she worse through out the day completely lost ability to walk and would just fall down Turned out 1 in 1000 cats have a bad reaction to the medication Was given injections to stop the dizzy and nausea, appetite stimulant, and sub Q fluids. She still wouldn’t eat. After 2 more days of not eating we opted for the feeding tube. She’s had it for 1 week today. At day 5 she finally started eating on her own! We go for her 1 week follow up today. I am hopeful we can take it out next Friday

    • Oh, Mallory, I’m so sorry your kitty experienced such a rare reaction, that’s awful. I’m glad she’s doing better. Best wishes for a full recovery!

      • Thank you! She ended up having the feeding tube for 4 weeks. By week 3 we no longer had to feed her with it. Unfortunately, her hearing never did come back but she is back to her fat cat self and happy

  2. My vet has suggested a feeding tube for my 6 year old cat (quite young) who has recently been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. It’s already very advanced and an ultrasound has shown his left kidney to be small and missing some architecture; possibly from birth. The right kidney is bigger than the left but still not great, and it has been picking up the slack. Either way, he’s effectively doomed. He went into kidney failure 6 weeks ago and was put on IV fluids and some meds and was discharged home – but without IV fluids or medication. He crashed again a couple of days ago – very dehydrated and not eating again. This time he’s at a different vet who did the ultrasound. And is now suggesting the feeding tube.
    I’m realistic that he won’t live a long life. A year absolute tops. I’m concerned about the feeding tube though because the vet said there is a risk for kidney cats having a general aesthetic (of death). And about the comfort of a feeding tube. How long can it be kept in for? I have to balance up his quality of life and how long he can be expected to live for, with very failing kidneys.

    • Our sweet Max has CKD, IBD/lymphoma so we had an e-tube placed three weeks ago. He is also on prednisolone. I have read promising articles regarding raw food and fermented raw fish stock for both CKD and IBD. Does anyone know if this would be safe to administer through his tube especially since he’s on prednisolone? Kind of concerned about the bacteria risk.

  3. My 11 yr old cat has a feeding tube. The vet wants me to pick her up and deal with it. Half an hour 4 times a day. I’m a senior with health issues. Times I will be gone all day for appointments for myself. I’m worried I cannot do all of this and take care of myself. Cancer test will be here by week end….if it’s cancer we will have her put to sleep. I know cancer is painful and I don’t want to see her suffer just so I can have her around. If it’s not cancer, maybe she will heal? He said her small intestines are GROSSLY inflamed upon visual exam during an endoscope. IBD OK. Cancer no. Please help me with my rationalization/decision. I don’t want to lose her!!! But I don’t want her to suffer. Any comments would be appreciated so much regardless. I’m open to comments. Please. Thank you. Lynne

    • Hi Lynne, our cat had sudden issues with inability to eat, salivating, and dry heaves. After several tests and scans, no cancer or pancreatitis. Her esophagus was inflamed so the GI specialist prescribed a feeding tube for a temporary fix. I will not lie and tell you it was easy but once I got used to the routine, it was manageable. Her esophagus healed after a few months and the tube was removed. I am happy to report that Sassy is healthy, eating well, and a very happy little girl! Best wishes. If you have a relative or friend that can be with you to help with the feedings initially, it would be helpful.

      • I’ve just given my cat a feed visa tube and he’s really restless. It was just out In yesterday and I’m wondering if I have administered it wrongly if if he’s just noticing that it’s uncomfortable. He keeps backing up and is wandering around and trying to hide.

        • Hello Emma. We just had a feeding tube placed in our 11 year old cat. He was diagnosed hyperthyroidism, which may be affecting his liver (fatty liver disease) and he stopped eating completely. He does pretty well for his first 2 feedings, in the morning. And very alert. After that, he gets very cranky and fussy, and will give us a hard time . Our vet said we should get 2 cans a food in him a day. For aggressive nutritional support. Just seems like a lot of food for him right now. But he gets restless also, and looks uncomfortable like maybe he gets really full. You’re probably administering the food correctly, but just may be uncomfortable for him. If he’s not throwing up afterwards, I would think you’re doing a fine job. Good luck and prayers for your kittie.

  4. My cat, Sergio, is 8 years old just about. He’s been diagnosed with Pancreatitis. He was in the vet specialists care for about 4 days and he had a feeding tube put in. It’s not near as scary as I was expecting. He’s definitely not interested in eating on his own yet. When I present him with food or let him smell the syringe before feeding, he gags. He hasn’t vomited or had diarrhea, he actually accepts the feedings for the most part, sometimes he gets antsy or annoyed and just gets up and I have to come back to it in a bit. We’re on day 5 of the e-tube. He has a follow up with his primary tomorrow. He had a persistent high fever on/off the whole time he was with the vet. It’s been at 102.9 or below since coming home. He’s been hiding, only coming out very seldom and on his own. We keep him and our fairly new kitten separated for the most part- mostly because our kitten annoys him and he doesn’t feel well. All I can hope and pray for is for him to feel better, that the e-tube works, and that his fever stays down…and of course for him to eat on his own again. Your stories are encouraging, and I’m glad I’m not the only one going through this right now. Thank you so much.

      • Hi – My cat Pandora just got a PEG tube in. She’s 16 and just suddenly became very ill and stopped eating. She used to love food and begged and danced for it, but one day just wasn’t able to stomach anything. She has inflammation in her kidneys, pancreas, liver and the vet just did a byopsy but we believe she has lymphoma. I was scared at first about the feeding tube but it doesn’t seem to bother her. She doesn’t even look at it or try to lick it or remove it. She’s been so patient through it. I’m just very confused on the feedings because they want me to feed her 4 times a day. We started with 25ml at each feeding and next day they wanted me to do 30ml and after that try to get to 45ml for 4 feedings to meet her required calories. They say before each feeding I need to check the residual level. I’ve been doing the feedings every 6 hrs but she still has a lot of residual left in her about 15ml and the vet says if that happens to skip the meal and wait for the next. I just don’t know if maybe I am feeding her too much at each feeding and need to reduce it maybe she is just not healthy enough to handle what they want her to eat right now. She is having trouble pooping so I think that’s why so much is left. I worry waiting that many hours before next feeding because then she’s left without much food. Can someone help me through this and figure out what to do? Also with my schedule it’s hard to check risiduals and then wait 1-2 hours and try again. What should I do about all this? No one talks about checking residuals much and what to do when too much is left.

        • Sounds like your vet is not up to speed on raw foods for peg tube feeding. i’d recommend you inform him that you would prefer one of the products for calves liver and whiting fish, which we found to eliminate the residuals problems for our Butterscotch. And that was for an ounce every 2 hours. Sort of like the author of How to Feed a Brain [miraculous survivor of traumatic brain injury’s strategy to get the nutrition to recover] even does advocate, based on real life human survivors, putting the requisite foods in a blender and using that. The difference in amounts from feeding humans to feeding kitties, would necessitate maybe a ‘wand’ mixer? if you wanted to do fresh at each feeding like we did but that’s not likely necessary. In the cat rescue work, we use a Maverick meat grinder [slow grind, cool output] and the liver comes out as pudding [loved by every one of the two dozen or so residents in our rescue work]. i do about 2lbs at a time for a day or two’s additions to their other meat, as a specialty. And we get mostly grassfed cattle here in rural ohio at a beef/deer packing house for small farmers and hunters, so it comes frozen [for a few days to eliminate parasite hazard fears] in 1lb packages. HTH your kitty and you.

        • What please is residuals?
          My cat has small cell lymphoma. I don’t know if chemo (Chlorambucil – Leukeran) is supposed to be given daily or …it says 3 days THEN WHAT? wait 3 days? or is it 3/month? The cost is 400$ for 15 pills for 2mg. We’ve spent thousands trying to find out what was wrong with her. We cannot keep doing this. She’s miserable. I hear the chemo drug will help for awhile but then what? She’ll die of something the chemo causes I read. This is so hard. I won’t ever have another animal. We are retired. We have to feed her 4xday. That takes a total of 1 hour each time. Then the meds….for sick stomach and inflammation….seems we are in her face every waking moment. Thanks. Lynne

    • As the article has outlined the ‘fun and challenge’ of forced feeding a cat that has hepatic lipidosis, i think you might feel better about knowing a successful case so as to register the realities while daily making choices. It took two of us to lovingly scoop Butterscotch into the bath-sink, wrapped in nice towel, me holding his paws securely and my daughter/partner feeding (artfully and gingerly) tiny tidbits of liver and fish (extra nutrients and bvitamins and SAM-e) one oz every TWO hours, around the clock. The vet hadn’t even thought we’d make it for a whole week, and we wouldn’t if we hadn’t learned at least that raw liver and fish digest at that rate whereas other foods would clog up and nothing would go without vomiting the residuals out. For anyone wondering about the history and details we did write it up at bergerac-tv.net in the story titled ‘Skill and the Phoenix’ as he did thrive after a month of this, including grass and all sorts of learning experiences. ttyl

    • My cat is in same situation,hasn’t eaten in days,pancreatitis too,tomorrow feeding tube is going in,have a new kitten at home too,not insured either,but he is our Siamese boy,I’m scared and dad,but no interest in food at all

    • Sorry to hear your kiddo has so much trouble.. well maybe it would help if you had been told that cats’ normal temp is much closer to 102*F than to humans’ normal…

      Second, if you need to do a feeding tube for long, i’d suggest reading Cavin Balaster’s book [Feed a Brain] because his recovery was near miraculous after his terrifying fall, because his mother [he was totally unconscious and had a 10% chance of waking ever and of the 10 mostly vegetative] got the doctor to allow the addition of FISH OIL to the FEEDING TUBE after seeing how deficient in real nutrients the normal tube-food was. He not only got conscious and functional but attributes his progress to his observed and knowledgeable use of nutrition so that he now writes, broadcasts etc on the use of nutrition — with a DESIGNATED SIDE BAR ON EACH SUBJECT ON HOW TO GET THAT SPECIAL NUTRITION INTO FEEDING TUBES…. and since Cavin is now a Keto expert, his diet ideas are closer to cats [except for the veggies maybe] than most diet ideas….

      I’d also recommend – based on extensive prep for our cat rescue work- the orthomolecular veterinary research on the reason that cats need sodium ascorbate [salt version of C] when their own body is under stress from injury, toxins, or diseases… [Belfield & Stone’s Megascorbic Prophylaxis and Megascorbic Therapy – A New … – Seanet, just google it ] ….

      And there’s a FB group of pet and farm animal owners that share their ideas on C and experiences of orthomolecular care for all sorts of problems……

      The advantage of C is because all animals [except humans, guinea pigs and fruit bats] produce their own C [usually in their liver, as cats do] and when they have an injury or stress or disease, their own body ramps up their C production as much as 10x normal…. and normal is amazingly un-AMA/FDA as you would agree when you find out that goats [avg size 150lbs like humans] make 13g of C per calm day… that’s nearly a whole tablespoon of C… and Stone [biochem PhD author above] studied human patients with all sorts of diseases, he found that when the person’s blood contained more fresh [‘reduced’ in chem terms] C than it did oxidized C then the patient was highly likely to get better… and he got interested in these ideas especially when he saw how RADICALLY BETTER QUALITY OF LIFE the terminal cancer patients in the Scottish trial for IVC + oral C were doing…. they were so relieved of pain that they no longer needed morphine and were able to live a near normal life at home, whether they made it or not… Stone saw that the dose they were using in the trials was only as much as the lil ol goat was making on a slightly stressful day, and wondered about that ratio of fresh C in the blood and body….

      To mimic nature’s own production of C for your kiddo, you’d want to figure the number of times per day that you will feed him and divide the dose equally and put that into their food… the salt taste is mild and readily tolerated… unlike ascorbic acid C in those size doses…. that sort of dosing is called DYNAMIC DOSING. just in case you come across that term in really recent research, b/c before there wasn’t any recognition of the benefits of following nature’s lead so dosing was stupidly done once a day. Imagine that… rotfl… because how you handle your kiddo’s distress will also benefit the humans in your life… so take care and best as always… hope your kiddo is happier soon…… ttyl

  5. I stumbled upon this site Today after searching online for ‘are feeding tubes painful for cats’.
    I have found reading about others’ experiences with Feeding Tubes to be mostly reassuring, however it is ultimately not going to be my decision to make on this.
    Let me explain, if I may (forgive the lengthy post in advance if it gets that way, I will try to keep it short)

    My GF’s 16 year old cat Liyah has recently been struggling with a number of possible issues. we have been to the vet numerous times in the past few months which is not only stressful for her and my GF (she’s not good with the car) but is also getting significantly expensive (with ultrasounds, bloodwork, medicine and internists etc)

    Her ongoing issues are stiff/painful back legs, peridontal disease (stage 2) which are both normal in an older cat.
    Unfortunately, a month or so ago she got miserable and reserved (started hiding away all day) and stopped eating – no matter what we tried to feed her.
    we wondered if this might be due to the recent addition of a 10 month old Ginger Tabby that we adopted a week or so prior, but aside from him being a little too energetic, over excited and clumsy for her we have been extremely careful in making sure he was giving her the space she needs.

    fast forward a month and more vet visits, medicine and bloodwork plus 2 x ultrasounds and overnight stays at hospital and that gets us here.
    we’ve been treating Liyah for possible bacterial hepatitis (or Fatty Liver Disease/possible Cancer). but without a biopsy we wont know for sure.(we haven’t yet done one of those because we are weighing up age/quality of life/stress of procedure VS Liyah’s well being.)

    Liyah is currently at the Hospital for a few nights and we’re here at home worrying and trying to figure out whats next.

    They have said she has an inflamed Gall Bladder and her liver looks bright on ultrasound. They have proposed a feeding tube for Liyah (as well as a cell sample from liver – less invasive than biopsy) and my GF is not only extremely emotional about this idea, but also extremely worried.

    She’s scared. The vet visits and attempts at giving medicine and fluids to Liyah via syringe/in food have affected Liyah’s mood towards her.
    GF’s sole concern is the wellbeing and happiness of Liyah and unfortunately the care giving process and difficulty of trying to medicate a cat that isnt good with medicine or fluids has really affected GF’s mood. She feels like Liyah hates her when all she wants to do is make sure that the remainder of Liyah’s time with us is peaceful as possible, and happy and loving as can be.
    I should add that there has been nothing from vet or hospital to suggest yet that Liyah’s quality of life has deteriorated too severely, but she’s definitely not been herself for a while.

    so, my primary question – is 16 years old too old for a Feeding Tube? will it cause more distress to older, more frail cat than a younger one?
    I realise it is most aggressive treatment for Fatty Liver Disease and it will help with administering meds and food, but after all the time, money, love and effort that will go into this – will Liyah suffer it the feeding tube doesn’t achieve the desired results. Moreso than us perhaps trying to stick to feeding her wet food and medicating her with pills and syringes? (she is now eating semi-regularly, albeit less than she once used to but the potential fatty liver may already be too much of a problem)

    we know there is no right or wrong answer here, but GF wants to make sure that we do the most loving thing we can for Liyah and we are so scared that the feeding tube will stress her out, make her miserable, further damage our relationship with our cat, and potentially lead to a more stressful decline than if we stick to canned food and meds administered stressfully by us..

    sorry for the wordy post. I just hate to see my GF struggle so much with this decision. I want this to be right for her and for Liyah – so any input on Feeding Tubes and older cats are most welcome.

    i’m grateful to be able to potentially discuss this here and appreciate any input.

    • First of all, I’m so sorry for what you are going through with Liyah. I know it’s so very hard to make these types of decisions.

      I’ll start with answering the relatively easy question: is 16 too old for a feeding tube? The procedure requires minimal sedation, so as long as your vet feels that Liyah can handle the anesthesia, it would PROBABLY cause minimal distress – but of course, there are no guarantees.

      The bigger issue, to me, after reading through your description, is that your relationship with Liyah is being damaged by all the treatments. Sometimes, making a treatment decision can mean deciding to stop treatment. I wrote an article about this topic a few years ago, and perhaps it will help: https://consciouscat.net/2011/04/04/when-cats-refuse-to-take-pills/

      All my best to all of you as you struggle with this difficult situation. My heart goes out to you.

  6. My cat stop eating and began to lose weight. I took him to the vet and had some test done and they believe he has cancer in his abdomen as there is a mass there. He is currently on steroids and pain medication but the vet said there isn’t a lot that can be done as he is older. I am currently using a syringe to feed him which is extremely difficult on both of us but wondering if I should consider asking for a feeding tube. I understand that it’s jusy prolonging the inevitable but want to keep him as long as I can. He is still walking around and want to give him as much time with our family as we can. Please let me know if I should talk to my vet about a feeding tube.

    • I would definitely discuss a feeding tube with your vet, but you’ll also need to discuss general quality of life in order to make that decision.

    • Dear Michelle, I would first get the diagnosis confirmed. My cat has a lump in his abdomen which one vet diagnosed as cancer but I decided to get another opinion and it turned out to be tuberculosis which can cause very similar symptoms: an abdominal lump/mass, extreme weight loss, lethargy and anorexia. I have just had a feeding tube fitted to him and was apprehensive about handling it but after only 12 hours I feel 100% comfortable with it now. But please get a confirmation on the diagnosis, have an abdominal x-ray done, get some bloods done etc. I wish you all the best for you and your kitty.

  7. My 3 year old cat: Jasper has not eaten for about 9 days now…He was at first just throwing up, which I thought to be just hairballs. Long story short, first blood test showed crazy hi White blood cells. Higher than the Vet had ever seen before. Took him to specialist; they did ultrasound on everything and aspirated the spleen. Nothing came back from that…Did anothr blood test: FLo Cytomat. NOthing conclusive..He has been taking steroids for almost a week now…He does walk around the house tail in the air, he will sit on my lap and purr. He still wont eat and is about 2 lbs lighter than normal. When I present food he sniffs and gags….he did drink tuna water this morning! If things dont improve I am doing the feeding tube in the morning! I just dont know what else to do…

    • It’s so hard when our cats get sick, and even harder when there’s no specific diagnosis. It sounds like he may need the feeding tube. All my best to you and Jasper, Paul.

    • My cat, Sassy, had her feeding tube in for a couple of months. She was diagnosed with either possible Crohn’s or small cell stomach carcinoma. I spent a lot of money on diagnostic tests leading up to the feeding tube so I would opt for the feeding tube. Sassy and her brother, Shadow decided to play rough overnight and the tube got a hole in it. It forced the doctor to pull it out but she was eating better by then. In March she was eating again, just like normal. I understand it is day by day but am so thankful for each day with Sassy. Good luck and keep us posted.

    • Paul, I am wondering what happened with your cat…I have a cat presenting with very similar symptoms and I am about to do the feeding tube. He has gone through numerous tests, exploratory surgery, and they can’t figure out what is wrong. they think it is auto-immune related and so we want to get him on a non-reactive food, but he won’t eat. He is now severely anemic, so we need to do something. Was curious how things turned out for you.

  8. my cat got a feeding tube in a couple of days ago and when eats he turns his head to the side is that normal.

  9. My 14 year old cat suddenly stopped eating 5 months ago. This was scary because he was a good eater all his life and dinner time was his favorite time of day. They ran tests and founds few things wrong, but nothing terminal and nothing that would explain the lack of appetite. I opted for the feeding tube. I got 3 KittyCollars so that I could change it every 1-2 days and have time for one to be ready and one in the laundry at any given time.

    There was some minor vomiting at the beginning as we were getting accustomed to the process, but it worked well. He still wanted nothing to eat for several weeks, but at some point would eat a treat or two. Then I started putting out small amounts of his favorite wet foods and sometimes he’d lick at them. Sometimes not. I tried not to get discouraged, and tried to get an answer out of my vet about how long he could be on it. She said to not worry about it and just keep going.

    He gradually ate a little more and one day I realized he might be eating enough on his own. I still left the tube in, just in case, but let him self feed for a week. (Still need to run water through the tube a couple times a day.). After a week I was comfortable that he’d maintain eating and had the tube pulled. It had been in a little over 3 months.

    He is SO happy now…feeling good and eating normally. And he’s even more affectionate. I believe he understands what we all went through to keep him with us, and appreciates it. We love our Norm!

  10. My cat, Rupert, ended up at the kitty emergency room last week after lots and lots of nausea/vomiting and refusing to eat or drink. After a lot of testing they are still not entirely certain what is/was wrong with him. When they initially let me take him home he was coughing up any medication that I was able to force into him. It was exhausting for him and for me and he still wasn’t eating. He got a feeding tube in yesterday and it has been a huge improvement! Meds, food and water are so easy with the feeding tube. Any ETA on about how long it usually takes a cat to start eating on their own? I know I was told it would stay in for at least 14 days but I am curious as to what other people have experienced.

    • Ha, the vet just called and had just gotten a GI panel back and Rupert has pancreatitis. Also, to any of you that are worried about a feeding tube, it is not a big deal and I am very squeamish about things.

    • Jenn, it’s been a 6 1/2 – 7 years since I had to deal with the Feeding Tube, but my cat had one in for 5 weeks and it was worth every minuet it was in. It saved his life, he will be 10 years next month.

    • My cat, Sassy, has had hers in since before Christmas. She is on Prednisolone. She may have small cell carcinoma in her stomach. She nibbles mostly, so unless she she shows a greater interest in eating, it is indefinite. I am sad because she doesn’t seem to be playful anymore and I wonder if she is happy…very hard to know.

    • Update on Rupert-after about 5 weeks of being on a feeding tube He took it upon himself to pull out his own tube! What a nightmare! Luckily he has been eating a little on his own at that point so we decided to leave it out and see what happened. After a couple of weeks of eating mostly treats he has gone back to his normal eating!

  11. Hello, my kitty has a PEG tube which was placed 3 weeks ago. He had finished his Clavamox antibiotic. He has some stomach gurgling and I would like to boost his over all health. Is it OK to give him probiotics? This won’t over stimulate his immune system and cause a rejection of the tube at this point? Thank you!

      • To be clear- you don’t think it will cause rejection or you don’t think it’s a good idea? I will ask my vet for sure but not everyone is aware how much good probiotics can do so I’d love to get opinions. Unfortunately, there are only a couple hospitals near me that could put in the tube so my choices were slim and I don’t feel 100% consistency in his care.

  12. Hello
    I could use some advice and help. My vet told me while examining my cat for a possible urinary tract infection she told me that she did not like what she saw on the underside of his tongue.
    She told me she was very concerned and thought it was cancer. Since my baby had no symptoms and was not sick and was acting fine, including eating and drinking my vet said that we were lucky that we caught it early and she felt that since we caught it early she felt that surgery would allow her to remove it and hopefully get it all. When i asked about doing a biopsy over surgery, my vet said that it was not a big deal to do surgery, that it would take as long to do the surgery as the biopsy and if she was able to get it all that much better, and he would be home that evening and would be eating fine, giving me no reason to think doing the surgery would be a problem. my vet also added that if while doing the surgery it was worse than was expected she would not go deep but would stop. After the surgery my vet came into the room where i was waiting and the first thing she told me was that she had to go deep. She said that my baby had severe swelling of the tongue and would not be able to eat or drink and needed a feeding tube.
    I did not want to do the feeding tube and was already shocked and traumitized from what she was telling me, and even more so because she never told me any of these things as a possibility before the surgery. She told me she had to do the feeding tube or he would die because he would not be able to eatI agreed to the feeding tube. The surgery was done last Wednesday the 18th of Jan. For the next 4 days my baby went thru hell, he was hospitalized, his face, mouth and tongue were so swollen, his tongue was bleeding,his tongue was so swollen that it hung to the side out of his mouth. finally Monday, 2 days ago the 23rd, the swelling subsided quite a bit, his tongue was not bleeding as much and was not hanging out of his mouth as much. On Monday the 23rd, my vet told me she got the report back from the surgery and my baby has squamous cell carcinoma and she added that when she took out the tumor that she did not get it all and she cut the nerve of the tongue when she took the tumor out.
    My baby is home with me now since Monday the 23rd and he is trying to eat, but the food keeps falling out of his mouth and he cannot drink at all.
    When i give him AD thru the tube he gets severe diarrhea, when i blend up his friskies and put it thru the tube he does not have diarrhea but i have to add too much water to liquify the friskies and he is getting more water than food.

    • I’m so sorry about your baby, Joel. I know this is extremely distressing. Unfortunately, as you probably already know from talking to your vet, squamous cell carcinoma is a very aggressive cancer with a very poor prognosis. Please contact your vet about your cat’s diarrhea. There are options other than a/d that will provide concentrated nutrition. You may also want to discuss adding a probiotic to your cat’s food. I wish I had more to offer, but ultimately, you may need to consider your cat’s quality of life vs. continuing treatment. I know it’s heartbreaking. All my best to both of you.

  13. My DSH got very ill prior to Christmas. She could not keep anything down and was drooling constantly. After 5 days of Vet visits in a row, she got admitted to the hospital. Endoscopy showed esophagitis and acid reflux. She was given a feeding tube directly into her stomach to let esophagus heal. I am doing the tube feedings three times a day and can’t seem to get her interested in eating, even though she is no longer restricted. She will nibble on a few of her favorite snacks but nothing else that is offered. It is hard to not get discouraged. I think it is a psychological barrier to eating. Any ideas?

        • An update on my Sassy, Ingrid….just started Prednisolone as further testing has not yielded a malabsorption issue and all of her vitamin levels are normal. All of ultraounds, x-rays, other labs normal. Doctor suspects Crohn’s or small cell carcinoma. Hoping that her appetite improves and I am struggling with the thoughts of her future and quality of life. She still has enough of a spirit to manage getting out of her little protective outfits that the vet’s office provided….I nick-named her Houdini.

    • My boy did not eat much of anything while he had his feeding tube. He would take a mouthful or two and quit. Once the tube was out, he started eating just like normal. I wonder if it might be a little uncomfortable, or just feel strange, to eat regular food with the tube in?

      • That may be so Christine but the Internal Medicine Vet from the hospital is asking me to be patient. I guess the doctor is not ready to pull the tube. Appreciate your feedback and it does give me hope. Thank you.

  14. My beautiful 9 month old brown Burmese Mickey suffered a laceration to his tongue. Despite prompt veterinary care, things have gone bizarrely bad and he has effectively chewed his tongue off. Apart from the tongue trauma he is otherwise healthy. We have spent $2600 already. He will go to the vet in the morning again to likely either amputate what is left of his tongue or euthanase him. Our only hope is a feeding tube and to try to teach him to eat and drink without a tongue. Is this practical? How long can a tube stay in? We will put in the effort to feed him and keep him groomed but only if he can lead an otherwise normal life. We need to be able to do this ourselves as we cannot bear onerous ongoing vet bills. I expect the amputation and tube can be done at the same time and will cost about $800. I can do that if Mickey can be a happy playful kitten again and going to lead to a practical long term solution but not otherwise. Any advise or experience?

    • I’m so sorry about Mickey, Andrew. A feeding tube can stay in for weeks or even months. I’ve heard of cats with partial tongue amputations who are able to manage eating and drinking. I’m not sure how a cat with a complete tongue amputation would fare. All my best to you and Mickey. Please keep us updated on how he’s doing.

      • Well it’ seems Mickey is a resilient and resourceful cat. Within 24 hours of losing 60% of his tongue, he is already eating well but making a bit of a mess and drinking from a running tap. He is back to his mischievous self and into everything. We have to clean him up after meals but that’s easy. So far he is defying several vets predictions. Once he’s groomed you would even know he has almost no tongue. Anyway, back on topic, a tube was offered as an option if he was having trouble learning to eat. Fortunately it wasn’t required for our clever Mickey.

  15. I am facing a feeding tube for my cat Kaya with hepatic lipidosis. She was just diagnosed after a lot of tests and 4 days in the hospital. It is a Monday and she hasn’t eaten since Thursday. The vet wants to try an appetite stimulant for a couple of days, but I see a feeding tube in her future as she is so weak already. Walking is hard for her, so I won’t wait more than a day or two to set up the feeding tube. I hope I can get it done more affordably than the $500-700 the emergency vet she was with quoted me for. They are willing to ask my regular vet to do it as it would cost less here. So far $2,400 has been spent on her care and diagnosis (liver biopsy was a nice chunk). Are most medications crushable? She is on 4 pills, and I saw below in a comment where Denamarin isn’t, but she is on Clavamox, another antibiotic, and Prednisone. Forcing these pills is so stressful for her, I worry it will hurt our bond in the end.

    • I’m sorry about Kaya, Katie. It sounds like a feeding tube may be a good option for her – it will also allow you to give her medications through the tube. Clavamox and Pred can be crushed, and most likely, the other antibiotic can be, too. I’m not sure whether Denamarin can be compounded into a liquid, but it may be worth checking with your vet. All my best to both of you.

    • One of my cats is also on Prednisone. She is hard to pill, and my vet ordered it compounded in a high-strength liquid from RoadRunner pharmacy. She also specified what I thought was an odd flavor, maybe vanilla hazelnut?, to mask the bitterness. It’s much easier to give this way, just a tiny amount of liquid. I hope all goes well for you both.

  16. My then-9-year-old cat developed pancreatitis and stopped eating. The vet worked with him for a few days, then told me a feeding tube was the best/only way to save him. It sounded horrible, but I agreed. Most of the time, he barely noticed the feeding tube. And it worked! after 4-6 weeks, he had taken the stitch holding the tube in place out, so the vet pulled the tube out (even though she would’ve preferred to leave it in place for another week or two). The hole healed completely and quickly, and he was his old self. The best thing to come out of the experience was how much he and I bonded during it, and, two years later, we still are.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience with the feeding tube, Christine. You raise a very important point about the bond you formed with him. Usually, force feeding and giving pills to a reluctant cat is the surest way to destroy the bond between cat and human – yet another reason why feeding tubes can be lifesavers.

  17. I have just started a feeding tube for my almost 15yr old cat Eli, he was diagnosed on Sunday with pancreatitis. The vet suggested the feeding tube to help get nurishment as he will not eat, to help the anti-inflammatory meds kick in and to help bring down the fever. He has had it for 24 hrs and it is breaking my heart. I was able to bring him in a vey little boiled chicken and he ate about 6 very small pieces. I just hope I am doing the right thing. Any advice on how not to feel like a bad mom? Thanks

    • I know it’s hard when a cat is so sick, but you’re doing the right thing by making getting nutrition into him less stressful for both him and you, Lindsay. All my best to both of you.

    • Lindsay, you are defiantly doing the right thing for Eli. I’m not an expert (Vet.) just a pet owner, but a number of years ago my vet. advised using a feeding tube (my cat had Histoplasmosis) and I thought that sounded so bad I told her I would continue to try force feeding. Well 3 days later I had the tube put in, I still feel guilty of causing my cat Zeke 3 extra days of suffering because I waited to OK the tube. He needed the nutrition and I could tell a difference in him by the next day. He continued to improve every day. We left the tube in for 5 weeks , he gained 2 pounds in those 5 weeks. Best of luck

      • Thank you so much for your helpful comments on the process and progress with the feeding tube. My girl is 14 and she somehow fractured her jaw, needed surgery and now has had the tube in for a little over a week. She has started to drink a little water on her own but really isn’t interested in food and I’ve been tube feeding. We’ve kind of got a routine going now and I’ve been so frustrated…thanks to all of the comments here, I feel like I’m doing ok and can move forward. Thanks again!

        • Erica, I’m so glad my comment was helpful for you. It’s scary when it comes to the point of needing a feeding tube. My vet. explained it would bother me, but my cat wouldn’t have a problem with having it. I am so thankful for making the decision to have the feeding tube put in. He (Zeke) was 3 yrs he is now almost 11 yrs. I know if I had not went to the feeding tube he would not have survived.

          I hope your girl’s outcome is positive and everything goes well for both of you.

          Here is a video I have on YouTube of Zeke. 70% of boxes I receive he tries to open. https://youtu.be/1rbEkna5BOs

          Best of luck, Bruce

  18. I brought my 6 year old Siamese, Sookie, to the vet last week, as she stopped eating, drinking and was in distress. After medications, ct scan, blood tests, a few days not eating and drinking, the vet thought she had pancreatitis, and that a feeding tube might help. After being on the feeding tube for one day, Sookie began eating on her own. We took her home last night. The feeding tube is scary, since I’ve never had to use one on my cats before. Her medications can go through it, and I am getting the hang of it, she goes back in 5 days to check and see if it can be removed. This feeding tube saved her life, and I am grateful.

    • How is your kittie doing now? We are discussing this option with our 11 year old half Siamese diagnosed with pancreatitis. Any tips, warnings or heads up would be greatly appreciated!

  19. I’m going through this right now! My poor 11-year old boy Sushi had a skin infection and after 3 weeks of twice weekly vet visits for bandage changes he had had enough! He stopped eating and hasn’t eaten a meal on his own for 2 weeks! They suspect it’s hepatic lipidosis but I don’t have the $700+ to pay for the tests so I opted to feed and medicate him at home. Initially he was eating food from my hand and I had gotten him up to about 3/4 of a can of Hill’s A/D a day for a couple days in a row but now he won’t finger feed. Have syringe fed him for 2 days and it’s awful! He struggles and growls and just hates it. Wondering if a feeding tube is the answer? Is he too old? Willing to pay for something that will work but I just can’t fathom shelling out $700 more for tests that don’t actually cure him, I’ve already spent close to $2000 on other tests and skin infection meds and bandage changes.

    • You’ll have to discuss this with your vet, Lisa, but I don’t think 11 is too old for a feeding tube, and it sure sounds like it’s needed for your boy. All my best to Sushi for a full recovery.

    • Lisa, don’t wait to have the tube put in. Your cat won’t even notice it, it is very easy to feed with it and reduces the stress of force feeding by mouth. I was hesitant to use a feeding tube and I feel I put my cat through 3 extra days of suffering that should not have happened. You will notice a change in him within a few days after the tube is in. My experience is on the this web-site, name is under BR. Good Luck.

    • Hi Lisa — I don’t think 11 is too old for a feeding tube. And it could keep him alive for a long time if he is otherwise healthy. My cat had a feeding tube at 10 years old for Hepatic Lipidosis. It wasn’t discovered until it was very advanced, and the feeding tube helped save his life.

  20. My cat Leo was diagnosed with cat flu nearly two weeks ago, he had spent time at my vets before being referred to a specialist. When a feeding tube was proposed I must admit I wondered would it be fair to put Leo through the procedure. He hadn’t eaten properly for well over a week so it was the only option. I soon got to grips with the feeding tube, and I am pleased to say that it has played off as yesterday he started eating normal cat food and hopefully the tube will be removed next week. Leo is 15 years old and I am looking forward to see running around the garden and enjoying himself for a few more years. It’s not as scary as you may think.

  21. I am writing this so hopefully it will help pet owners make a better first decision than I did.
    About 5 years ago my 3 year old Bengal cat developed Histoplasmosis, his Vet. when I asked if there was a chance to save is life, she said yes but wanted me to know what the process and commitment was to do so. It was not even a possibility not to try to save him (didn’t care what the cost or time it would take). She said it was at least a 6 month process. She started him on Itraconazole. He was just not eating and I tried everything I could think of, but could not get enough food in him and he was losing weight.
    This where I hope this helps others make the decision quicker than I did. The Vet suggested putting a feeding tube in, I thought that sounded so terrible that I told her no and tried harder to force feed him. Well 3 days latter I had the tube put in. The day after it was put in all he did was lay in my lap (about 10 hours that day). When I went to bed that night I thought he would die over night and I dreaded looking under the bed (where he wanted to stay when he was sick) the next morning. When I did to my surprise he came out (still not normal, but much better) so he was dying of malnutrition and the food from a full day of feeding turned him around and he got better everyday. He gained 2 pounds in 5 weeks of feeding him through the tube. So my advice is if you Vet. recommends a feeding tube do it don’t wait.

  22. My 6-year-old handsome cat Dimitri is currently being fed via e-tube. He stopped eating a month ago, and was in and out of the cat hospital countless times before I was advised to go with the feeding tube as treatment for hepatic lipidosis. He is an extremely over-sensitive cat, and he’s been experiencing a lot of nausea (he’s also been known to make himself vomit out of spite), so he’s on quite the drug cocktail, but I think it’s finally working! For Dimitri, the key has been to stick with very small amounts of food, and to constantly pet and comfort him during feedings so that he’s too happy and distracted to make himself sick. Today he finally ate on his own, during a tube feeding, when I offered him a few pieces of the dry version of his favorite food!

    Aside from the fact that Dimitri is hyper-sensitive, the tube is definitely not traumatic. It’s certainly not nearly as traumatic as giving him a pill, which I still have to do every day since Denamarin can’t be crushed! More importantly, this tube is keeping him alive, and helping to get his health back on track. If all goes well, the tube can come out in a month and he’ll be totally back to normal. As a side note, please remember that a procedure involving anesthesia for cats is not automatically a major event. Cats are anesthetized for lots of simple medical procedures, sometimes even for x-rays!

  23. As with most things, advantages and disadvantages. On the whole I think it a good idea, although we all hope it won’t ever come to that with our cats. I t has never happened with any of our cats but I would go along with the idea should it arise.

    A lot of time and patience I think would be needed but of course they are all worth it.

  24. Three years ago my sweet 10 year old calico would not eat her breakfast. She had been overweight and had fatty liver, but had slowly lost 10 lbs over the past 1-1/2 years with vet supervision. By the time I came home from work, she was in distress. Rushed her to the vet and she was in liver failure. I immediately agreed to the feeding tube to save my sweetie. She was in the hospital for a couple of days and then home after I was trained with liquid food and meds. I fed her once in the morning, took her to the vet for day boarding and multiple feedings by staff, and picked her up each evening for 2 feedings at home. With her constantly improving, this went on for a month, until she pulled the feeding tube out! Our vet agreed it was time to remove the tube! She is a happy and healthy calico today thanks to the feeding tube. I would do it again to save my sweetie!

    • My cat had a feeding tube for seven weeks after a severe kidney infection. It was necessary for her medication and to build up her weight. She worked hard to pull it out earlier this week. Since she is now of the antibiotics and eating on her own, the Vets did not seem overly concerned with her pulling it out. I think it served its purpose but she needed it to go!

  25. I have seen feeding tubes save many cats lives. I would definitely considered it for short term use in my cat. It often allows the cat to go home and be fed and medicated by the guardian, rather than stay in the hospital.

  26. I haven’t had to use a feeding tube on any of my cats yet, but I was interested to hear a lecture to veterinarians where the feline kidney specialist recommended feeding tubes over sub-qs. I had to admit that it does sound easier for hydration as well as for nutrition.

    • I have never heard anyone recommend a feeding tube as an alternative to sub-q fluids, Julie. Are you sure they weren’t talking about a GIF tube? GIF tubes are implanted under the skin to facilitate fluid administration so the cat doesn’t have to be stuck with a needle each time, but they’re very different from a feeding tube. Here’s more information on GIF tubes: http://www.practivet.com/downloads/gifclientbrochure.pdf

      • My cats vet recommended a feeding tube when he underwent surgery to treat a blocked ureter from a kidney stone. The blockage caused a lot of damage to his kidney (both kidneys had some damage indicating it had happened before on the other side). The nephrologist recommended a feeding tube and emphasized that in addition to feeding, it was better to give cats with kidney disease extra fluid through the feeding tube than to give them subcutaneous fluids. He did well (after placement of a subcutaneous ureteral bypass device) and I have kept the feeding tube to allow me to give him supplements and extra fluid. Its been 7 months and though he eats on his own I have appreciated the ease of giving him meds and occasional feedings when he doesn’t feel well. So yes a feeding tube is recommended over sub q fluids by some vets who specialize in kidney disease. Though I wasn’t told about GIF tubes before.

  27. We have a very sweet tortie at the shelter with an extremely tragic story. She was near death from starvation and her organs were shutting down. It took a transfusion, feeding tube, and lots of care but she made a full recovery and went to a great home. She wouldn’t have lived if not for the feeding tube.

  28. Well, i beg to differ. It’s sounds really traumatic to me! One clue is they have to be sedated for it. There is no easy answer. I syringe fed my cat when she had fatty liver disease and had stopped eating. She had to eat or die. Yes, it was a hassle, we had to do multiple syringes a day. I prepared a bunch of syringes and locked her in the bathroom with me and i sat on the floor and did it before and after work. The key thing was to give a little at a time and not to rush too much. She finally accepted it. I think it was way less traumatic than a feeding tube would have been. I just don’t like the idea of such an intrusion into her body…seems like there’d be a risk of injection with that too, or other complications. I preferred the simpler route, and it worked for us. (I actually had to do it with both my cats on various occasions.)

    • We did it that way when we had to deal with side effects from that long acting antibiotic shot. AVOID THOSE! It took a month to get her lively again. But we did it. Now she has either IBD or cancer and has a feeding tube. We’ll bring her home tomorrow. God bless these pets and caring owners.

  29. Sounds much better than having to force feed them. I agree it does break your bond. Your cat becomes very untrusting. Thanks for the post.

  30. Thank you for that article. Yea I would use a feeding tube, we were not given that option many years ago. I had to give up my beloved cat and I still feel her loss to this day.

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