How To Feed A Cat Who Can’t Eat

Cocoa on my pillow

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Cocoa on my pillow

Cocoa on my pillow I think he loves me! My big boy In the dog chair

How to feed a cat who can't eat....Hmm. I was hesitant on whether to make that the title or "How To Feed A Cat Who WON'T Eat." After almost a week of syringe feeding a cat, I thought I'd share my struggles with the readers at

As you who have been following the story about my Cocoa know, Cocoa has yet to take a bite of food on his own since I rescued him two weeks ago.

I'm not going to get into the reasons why a cat won't eat. That would take up WAY too much space. Instead, I'll enlighten everyone with just how crazy my week has been.

I took Cocoa to the vet on Tuesday after having a terrible vet experience on Monday. What's funny is my friends who live near me all emailed me and asked if it was Dr. _____ I saw. They all get an award for guessing the bad vet. After I had a good vet examine my boy, I was sent home with medicine and instructions. Did I mention I had to drop my daughter Laura off at her dad's family for a week long visit?

Yes, dear readers, I was now in charge of 18 cats-ALONE!

Everyone offered suggestions on what to feed Cocoa. I tried baby food, cooked homemade food (my other cats LOVE this), quality canned foods, salmon, tuna, soup and kitten formula. I'm probably forgetting a few...

Nothing worked unless I opened his mouth, stuck the syringe of food in him mouth, and force just enough into his mouth without choking him.

I was also giving him antibiotic liquid and steroid nose drops prescribed by the vet. I added raw apple cider vinegar as it's antibiotic, anti-viral, and an overall good tonic. Cocoa actually appears to enjoy the taste of the cider vinegar.

Do any of you realize what a hard routine I've had to follow? First the antibiotic liquid. I swear that cat watches my every move from the corner of his eye. I hate having to hold his neck and head with one hand in a semi-choke hold while I lean his head back. Then I have to lean his head back again to place one steroid drop in each nostril. After that comes the vinegar.

It's a miracle Cocoa doesn't hate me by now! He has to feel helpless with no teeth and no claws. I'd be minced meat by now if he had them because he's fought me every step of the way.

He sleeps beside me on my pillow. Or should I say he "watches" me. Every time I look over at him he's staring right at me. He's probably afraid I'd syringe him in his sleep.

Which was the easiest way to sneak attack him in the beginning. But after a few days of this I got to thinking how it could be traumatizing him and he's been through enough.

It's very hard to know what to do when your cat can't stand the sight of you when he sees the syringe, but you know he'll die if you can't get SOMETHING into him as nourishment.

It was on Thursday night that I noticed him washing up. I'd never seen him do this and it was a sure sign he was feeling better.

On Saturday night we had the "battle royal" of all cat feedings. I'd purchased some Greek yogurt with honey. Don't do this if you know your cat is diabetic and DON'T use the kind of yogurt with fake sweeteners as they're toxic to cats. I've read a few packets can actually kill a pet. I chose the honey flavor as honey is a natural antibiotic. Lucky took honey in kitten formula when he was so ill with the URI at the time of his rescue.

To make a long story short, Cocoa and I both ended up covered in Greek yogurt. I had it on my shirt (my dog Cody cleaned me up) and Cocoa had it all over his face, whiskers and even his back. Plus he was looking at me like he never wanted to see me again.

I'm sure if anyone could have caught this episode on tape I'd have won a funny video award or gone to jail for cat abuse. I wasn't hurting him in any way but it surely didn't look that way.

So I decided to give the feeding a break and retreated to the other side of the room. A few minutes later I decided to pet him and "make up." It was at this time I noticed the yogurt was GONE! He's licked it all up.

He drank some water and returned to his resting spot, constantly keeping watch for "sneaky mama."

I filled the syringe with the yogurt and squirted some on each paw. Then I sat down and waited a few minutes until I saw him lick it off. Then I repeated the process.

I decided to try the canned food mixed with a little water. That worked too! My boy was eating! Not the way I'd hoped, but at this point I began to have hope.

I do wonder what Cocoa thinks about all of this. Did he think the food just kept magically reappearing on his paws? Does he think I'm "spoiling" him?

Since I've stopped the cat-cat lady wrestling matches he's looking a lot more relaxed. I don't know how long I'll have to keep this up. He goes for a recheck on Monday and they'll also do the blood work.

I thought of ordering Nutri-Cal Gel for Cats. It's a high calorie supplement for sick/old/malnourished cats. I've also read cats hate it and it has to be placed in the roof of the mouth to force them to eat it.

I'm tired of force. Cocoa's tired of force too.

Laura will be coming back home with me after the vet visit. I think my biggest problem with her gone wasn't forgetting to feed the cats, it was knowing which cats had peculiar eating habits. Lily wants to eat out of one bowl and only that bowl. And Samantha finally came out of the master bath in search of the food she smelled me cooking. Jethro is living on top of the refrigerator now. He HAS to drink out of the faucet.

I had so much to do one day I baked a whole chicken and let them have at it. I took it away before they got down to the bones. Ever seen 17 cats eating one chicken? I wish I'd thought to take a photo.

I also made up a batch of my homemade cat food. I take chicken liver, frozen mixed vegetables, old fashioned oatmeal and a little oil and cook it to a mush. I put it in the refrigerator and had planned on feeding them this over the course of several days. This plan flew out the window when I arrived home after working eight hours and then going to the grocery store. I was literally "welcomed" by 18 cats. HUNGRY cats.

So I warmed the liver mixture in the microwave and tested it to be sure it wasn't too hot. Then I placed the entire batch on a pizza pan and put the pan in the middle of the feeding bar. This turned out to be a great way to get the groceries in without anyone escaping. It was gone in twenty minutes and everyone got their share. Everyone except Cocoa, who refused my special treat.

I'll post an update after his vet visit on Monday. I'm hoping I'm dealing with a very neurotic cat who has been traumatized and will have to heal emotionally before he can enjoy food on his own. He may be having PTSD over having his teeth pulled. I know I would if a vet pulled all of my teeth and then someone forces my mouth open for any reason.

The other possibility-a serious medical condition-is too much for me to deal with right now.

Cocoa is the first cat I didn't use my empathic ability to pick. My friends at Facebook hooked us up. Kind of like a blind date. There has to be a reason we've been put together. Nevertheless, he's mine and he'll stay with me until he tells me he doesn't want to live anymore.

Hopefully not for many more years.

I have two questions for the readers. First, have any of you ever dealt with a cat who's behaving this way over food? And second, do any of your cats have weird bowl or feeding spot habits? I'm just curious.


P.S. Here's Cocoa's chip-in link if you'd like to donate. If it goes over the amount I'll hold the money back for his next vet visit..

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How To Feed A Cat Who Can't Eat

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May 03, 2011
You're so bad Ruth
by: Elisa

Sounds like something I'd do with a cat.

What's funny is explaining to Laura why I won't buy her Greek yogurt because it's too expensive but I'm buying it for the cat.

What's so strange is almost everyone has moved into the living room and now they want to stay here. I'm counting 15 in here right now. Where did all these cats come from?

May 03, 2011
Stressful time produced a great read
by: Ruth (Monty's Mom)

I know you and Cocoa have been having a rough time, and I have been praying for you and all your kitties-- but what great articles, Elisa! You describe everything so well, that despite the grim situation, it's just fun to read about your exploits with Cocoa. Putting food on his paws was pure genius. I feel in my heart that in the end all will be well. Some things are just meant to be. I think you are supposed to be together.

I used to cat sit for a cat named Zach. The first time he was at my home he was stressed and wouldn't eat. He seemed to calm down as I was petting him, and bent to eat from his dish. I stopped petting him and he stopped eating. This was repeated several times until I figured out he wanted to be petted while he ate! It was like the best thing ever for him-- his two favorite things at the same time! I'm a light sleeper so sometimes I'd get up at 3 a.m. to pet him while he ate.

His family was a little annoyed to have a cat returned to them who demanded to be petted while he ate-- even if he got hungry at 3 a.m. You also had to be careful, because he enjoyed it so much that he would easily overeat if you petted him for too long while he was eating. Monty is not the first cat to barf in my house.

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