How to bottle feed a kitten that won’t eat?

Often we say “As helpless as a newborn kitten” when we see someone or something weak, incapable, or dependent. There’s a truth behind this comparison. New kittens are indeed vulnerable and helpless.

And if they are orphaned, abandoned, or rejected by their mother, they may not get the proper nurturing and nourishment to thrive and survive. Especially when it comes to feeding. That’s when you have to step in and become a surrogate momma cat. 

Bottle-feeding a kitten that won’t eat is a quite challenging but rewarding task. With the right feeding techniques, environment, and lots of patience and our guidance, you’ll be able to watch your helpless adorable kitten grow into a happy and healthy cat.  

Why is My Kitten Not Eating?

Have you read this article, what to feed kittens when mom won’t? If you do, you know what you can give to your newborn litter. If not, then go ahead and check out. However, the problem arises when those little ones don’t want to eat. So, What is the reason for their refusal to eat? 

Is it a health issue?

Health issues can be one of the most common reasons why a kitten may not eat. Some problems like infections, parasites, dental issues, or injuries can affect a kitten’s appetite. If your little ball of fur is not eating, you should look for other signs that indicate a potential health issue, such as fever, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or weight loss. 

Is it a transition issue?

Another reason is because it’s going through a transition. Let me explain, if your kitty is weaning from its mother’s milk to solid food, or if it is separated from its mother and siblings, it may experience stress and anxiety. As a result, this can have an impact on their hunger. 

To ease the transition, you can provide your baby cat with a warm and quiet place to eat, and offer it a variety of kitten-specific foods that are soft and moist. You also need to give your kitten plenty of attention and comfort to help it feel secure and loved.

How to Create a Bottle Feeding Environment for Your Cat ?

Before feeding your kitten, make sure you have prepared an appropriate environment for it, especially those under 5 weeks of age. It’s not as simple as just grabbing them and putting the bottle into their mouth… Of course not.

That’s why maybe the great philosopher Confucius once said, “Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure”. So, if you don’t want to fail to feed your little kitty, let’s get ready for it.

What equipment do I need?

  1. A feeding bottle and nipple

A small sized bottle with narrow neck that will be easier to handle and control while feeding, also with an appropriately sized rubber nipple which is specifically designed for kittens, such as Miracle nipple.  

  1. Feeding formula

Others like cow’s or goat’s milk is not advisable for feeding a baby kitten. Either they need their mother’s milk or a replacer which can also be called kitten milk formula(KMR). It has been specifically designed to provide optimal nutrition for young cats. 

Before each feeding, make sure to wash your hands and sterilize the bottle and nipple by boiling them in water for five minutes, or follow the instructions that will be given. Rinse and dry the equipment thoroughly with warm soapy water after each feeding. Inspect them if there are any signs of damage or worn out. Replace them if needed.

How can I provide a comfortable feeding area?

  1. Creating the right environment

First of all, look for a quiet and warm area in your home where your cat can feel comfortable and relaxed. For that, use a blanket or towel lined box where they can rest during feeding.  

  1. Promoting a calm and secure place

Feed your kitten away from other pets, or away from their litter box, and anti loud noise room, otherwise any kind of sound or presence might startle or stress them. 

How to Bottle Feed Your Cat Properly ?

  • Position and holding angle of the bottle for optimal feeding

What you need to do first is turn the bottle face down and let a drop of formula come out. After that, put the bottle nipple in the kitten’s mouth.

Make sure to hold the bottle at an angle of 45-degree to prevent air from getting into the kitten’s stomach as well as inhaling milk to the lungs. This movement should encourage your little ball of fur to start eating.

Apart from the positioning, there are some other best practices for ensuring comfort and support. For example, monitoring feeding pace, checking if they are suckling properly, helping them to burp by gently rubbing or patting their back.   

  • Gradual introduction to feeding

When it comes to bottle feeding a kitten, it’s often recommended to do it gradually and patiently. Start with a small amount of milk, then slowly increase the volume.

Some of them may be reluctant or confused about how to suckle from a bottle, therefore while putting the nipple into the mouth, gently move it forward and backward.

Newborn cats usually need frequent feedings, like as every 2 to 3 hours for their constant need of nutrition supply. Adjust your feeding schedule according to their behavior and hunger cues. You can gradually increase the time between feeding, extending it by 30 minutes to 1 hour at a time.

If you have a runt kitten, then you need to make a slight difference in their feeding. To learn how, check out this article: How to help a runt kitten gain weight. 

Sometimes words are not enough to take care of a kitten without a mother. It’s easier to learn something by seeing it in front of our eyes. That’s why watch this video: How to Safely Bottle Feed a Kitten, and make your feeding challenge a bit simpler!!     

How Can I Encourage My Kitten to Eat?

  1. Stimulating the kitten’s natural instincts: To simulate how a mother cat will nurse her kittens, hold the bottle at an angle, gently stroke their face and around the mouth. Wrap them with a cover or soft cloth to make them feel warm and cozy. 

Show some love with a gentle back, neck, and tummy massage before feeding. It will not only help them to calm down but also stimulate their appetite or digestion. And most importantly, don’t hold back on your soft and soothing voice to shower them with praise during the feeding session.  

  1. Introducing enticing smells and tastes: While bottle feeding your little one, try different flavorful kitten formula or other supplements (obviously it should be suitable for their age and health). Like homemade formula (for older kittens), vitamins, minerals, amino acids and so on. 

They may have different preferences when it comes to the flavor and texture of their food. Experiment with different flavors such as chicken or beef, tuna, or even a touch of liver. It’s like a gourmet menu for your kitten!

Try a combination of wet food, semi-solid, or even a dash of kitten kibble to entice their taste buds.   

How to Know If Bottle Feeding is Working For Your Cat ?

There is no guarantee that bottle feeding technique will work for every kitten. So, how to know whether it’s working or not? Here are some tips-

  • Tracking feeding amounts and patterns: One of the most vital steps is to track the feeding amounts and patterns. But how can you do that? Well, the best way to monitor their progress is to weigh them before and after each feeding. The weight difference will give you a clue how much they are slurping up. Keep a journal or use a nifty smartphone app to record all the measurements.

So, what information should you record? The feeding time, date, their weight, and amount of formula. In addition, their behavior, and appetite while eating, energy level, growth and development, stool quality, health condition, reaction when trying different tastes, like are they showing eagerness or reluctance?

Every little detail counts! 

  • Observing changes in behavior and appetite: While observing if there are any changes in behavior or appetite, there are some signs that indicate improvements or setbacks in the kitten’s eating habit. Such as-


  • Latching onto the bottle easily and suckling vigorously.
  • Finishing the bottle within 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Showing improvements in growth and development.  
  • Having regular bowel movements and urination.


  • Refusing the bottle after taking a few sips.
  • Failing to gain pounds or losing weight.
  • Showing symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, constipation, or dehydration.

If your kitten is showing improvements, Hallelujah! That bottle feeding is doing wonders for them. But if not, then it is a matter for concern. 

Are there Alternative Feeding Methods?

We all know that bottle feeding is the common and recommended way to feed kittens, but sometimes for a few reasons it may be not possible or effective. That’s when we think about the alternative of bottle feeding. 

Syringe or dropper feeding:

When should you consider-

  • If your little felines are not able to suckle from a bottle, 
  • or have difficult latching onto nipples, 
  • or have any other medical condition that makes them refuse sucking.

Then you should consider using syringe or dropper techniques. While using these, fill those with formula, gently insert them into their mouth, and slowly squeeze or push the liquid. Make sure to allow them to swallow between each drop.

Precautions that you must take is to sterilize the syringe or dropper, it fits accurately the kitten’s mouth size, and of course DO NOT FEED TOO FAST OR TOO MUCH AT ONCE!! It ‘ll cause them choking, coughing, or breathing difficulties.

Specialized feeding techniques:

There are some other feeding methods, such as feeding tubes or supplemental devices. 

  • Feeding tubes: It’s a thin plastic tube that is inserted into the stomach or intestine through the nose, mouth, or abdomen. It’ll allow liquid food to be delivered directly into the digestive system. This technique is for physically or functionally abnormal kittens.
  • Supplemental devices: these help your cat eat more easily by providing extra support or stimulating their suckling reflex. For instance, nipple shields, nursing bottles with special nipples, and syringe pumps.

However, specialized feeding techniques can be really helpful for kittens, but also be complicated for some of you to use.

You should consult a veterinarian for specialized feeding techniques if you see it didn’t work out, or they are experiencing difficulty while eating. They will guide you to utilize them professionally and effectively. 

When Should I Consult a Veterinarian?

Recognizing signs that warrant veterinary attention:

If your kitten has any of these serious condition like-

  1. Esophageal stricture which is esophagus narrowing, caused by injury, infection or congenital defects.
  1. Cleft palate which is a birth defect, causes an opening in the roof of the mouth that connects to the nasal cavity.
  1. Neurological disorders that affect the brain and nervous system, cause problems with coordination, reflexes, sensation, and muscle tone.

Additionally, there are some other symptoms that also need vet’s help-

  • Refusing to eat or drink for more than 24 hours
  • Regurgitating or spitting up food or water
  • Having difficulty swallowing or chewing
  • Drooling excessively or having bad breath
  • Having foul-smelling and blood or mucus in the stool or vomit
  • Having abdominal pain, bloating, or swelling

If your kitten shows any of the above symptoms or medical condition, don’t hesitate to seek professional advice from your nearby veterinarian as soon as possible. Especially if they are severe, persistent, or worsening. 

The importance of a veterinary diagnosis: 

It’s crucial to determine the underlying cause of the feeding issue. Because it will help you and your veterinarian choose the best treatment option for your cat. Different causes may require different proceedings, such as changing the diet, giving medications, performing surgery, or providing supportive care. 

To resolve the problem, a vet will perform a thorough physical examination, take a detailed history of your kitten’s feeding habits and health status.

They may also run some diagnostic tests, such as blood tests, urine tests, fecal tests, x-rays, ultrasound scans, endoscopy procedures, or biopsies, and will also monitor their progress and adjust the treatment as needed.

Closing of Happy Kitten Feeding…..

To sum it up, bottle feeding a kitten that won’t eat is a challenging task that require a lot of patience and care. We’ve given you some tips and tricks on how to feed them using the right technique, frequency, and some precautions.

Plus, we’ve told you how to spot signs of trouble and when to call the vet. With our help, you’ve been able to turn your kitten from a picky eater into a hungry munchkin. 

Don’t forget to share your feeding story with us, how you’ve dealt with your stubborn or weak furball in the comments!

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