What to Feed. How Much and When?

What to Feed:


There are several things to take into consideration when choosing the right food to assist feed all depending on what health conditions your cat may have. Check with your veterinarian first to see what is recommended as a starting point. For example, if your cat is a CRF kitty, your vet will ask you to try low protein foods such as Purina NF, Hills k/d regular or minced, etc. Try to be perceptive of how your cat is feeling. You may find combination to work well. I found that a mix of 1/3 k/d minced and 2/3 a/d was our perfect base recipe.

High Protein/High Fat

If your cat needs to gain weight, high protein and high fat is key. There is some debate on how much protein restriction is necessary for a CRF cat. If the CRF is stable and your cats needs to gain weight, work with your vet to add in higher amounts of protein and do blood tests regularly to see how the kidneys are doing. A sick cat can rarely gain weight without higher levels of protein.


  • Iams Maximum Calorie (sold through veterinarians only)
  • Hills a/d (sold through veterinarians only) Appealing to many cats. Once you get your cat’s weight back up or your cat is starting to eat on it’s own, you may want to switch to a food that is lower in phosphorus.

Hill’s Science Diet k/d – many cats have Chronic Renal Failure (CRF) and the vets recommended feeding a food low in protein. There are two types of Hill’s k/d canned food: original and minced. The original is very dry and requires the addition of a substantial amount of water, broth or oil. The minced has bits of rice and other things, so you will need to blend it with a high powered blender or mash it with a potato masher before you can syringe feed it. You will need to add just a little liquid to the k/d minced. The cats seem to prefer the k/d minced and may even eat it on their own before blending or mashing.


Baby Food – such as ham, turkey, veal, chicken, Beechnut Chicken&Rice Stage 2, etc., may be mixed with regular food to increase protein and calorie intake or fed as a treat to entice your cat to eat. Baby food, however, is not a complete food for cats and cannot be used as a sole source of nourishment. For example, the essential amino acid Taurine is missing from baby food.


CAUTION: Read the labels carefully and DO NOT buy any food containing any form of onion (fresh, cooked, powder, etc). A serious condition called Heinz Body Anemia can result by feeding even a small amount of onion powder regularly found in baby foods. Garlic is also thought to cause Heinz Body Anemia but how much garlic is currently in debate.



Fancy Feast – This is a food that seems quite popular with cats who might be eating a little on their own.


Missing Link


Canned Pumpkin or peas for fiber. Fiber is used for both diarrhea and constipation. Every case is different. Here’s a tip from Carolyn: “Sam’s doctor told me that canned pumpkin will spoil after being opened, after a few days even if put in a sealed container in the fridge. So what I do for Sam is measure out the amount needed, and put it in ice cube trays – freeze it, and then defrost it just before I give him the pumpkin. Sam has to take it for the opposite – he has to have it for diarrhea [not constipation] – it works great!”


Chicken, Beef, etc.

Plain Yogurt

How Much to Feed:

Every cat is different with how much food they will accept in one feeding. When I first started with Bubba, I was thrilled if I could get 28cc’s in him in one sitting. I then read that others were able to feed over 40cc’s in one sitting so I gradually increased the amount I fed. I think Bubba’s stomach had “shrunk” since he had been eating a tiny amount on his own for so long, that it took a while to stretch his stomach back out. Also, I was only squirting only a tiny amount of food into his mouth each time, and I think he ran out of patience before I got all the food in him. As I got better at feeding and he more tolerant, we’ve been able to increase to 42cc of food 4 times per day.


Here’s a site that has a calculator to give you a ball park on how much to feed. Remember, your scale is going to be your best guide.

Enteral Nutrition Calculator

When to Feed:

Cats, just like humans, do best when they stick to a schedule. Every living thing lives by a rhythm and an internal clock. Do you best to feed your cat on a regular schedule. It may be hard at first to get into a routine, just do your best. My cats wake up early and have a heavy nap time from 1-5 pm. Think about your cat’s normal schedule and, if possible, work around that. If you work and cannot come home for lunch, you may only be able to get 3 feedings in per day. For example: assist feed when you get up, as soon as you get home and about an hour before you go to bed. If you can get home for lunch, a 4th feeding would be great. Preparing the food ahead of time will make it easier for you.


  • Feed at approximately the same time everyday so your cat’s not caught off guard.
  • Allow 3 to 5 hours between feedings if you are able to feed 35cc (minimum) or more per feeding. Every 4 hours is a popular feeding schedule. More often if you are feeding less. (If you are just starting to assist feed, you may need to work up to 35cc and higher per feeding.)
  • Many people feed 3 to 4 times a day.
  • Don’t wake from a deep sleep to feed. Waking up is very hard on the body.
  • Try to feed at least an hour before you and your cat’s bedtime. This allows the food to be digested. Digestion slows down tremendously when asleep. Before I figured this out, my cat would often throw up the last feeding during the night or just before daybreak because it had not digested.
  • Sometimes getting a little food in the tummy is all that’s needed to encourage a cat to eat on it’s own. If you feed 12-24 cc’s of food, there’s probably room in the tummy for a little more. After you are done with a feeding, offer your cat’s favorite food and see what happens. If not interested, try an hour or two later.


Tip: Does your syringe have cc measurements or ml? Don’t worry, they are essentially the same thing! Milliliter (ml) is a measure of liquids and cubic centimeter (cc) is a measure of solids. Is our case, they are interchangeable… i.e. the same.


Tip: Your cat may hide from you when you first start assist feeding. Try to make each session as pleasant as possible and your cat may soon understand that you are trying to help and the hiding will stop.


Tip: Try to give medications during the day instead of late at night to allow for digestion. This is especially true if you pill your cat. Have you ever found a whole, undigested pill thrown up in the morning? If you give that pill during the day and chase it with some food, you probably will have a better chance of keeping it down.


Tip: Carolyn writes “Sam’s doctor told me that canned pumpkin will spoil after being opened, after a few days even if put in a sealed container in the fridge. So what I do for Sam is measure out the amount needed, and put it in ice cube trays – freeze it, and then defrost it just before I give him the pumpkin. Sam has to take it for the opposite – he has to have it for diarrhea [not constipation] – it works great!”


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Disclaimer: Kathy Fatheree is not at all a medical expert. Contents of this web site are a collection of Kathy’s assist feeding experiences as well as the experiences of other cat owners who have assist fed their cats. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, Kathy Fatheree or anyone associated with this web site cannot be held responsible for anything that may happen as a result of using the information on this site.