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Published: May 18, 2012

Most cats come running at the sound of a can opener, but if your feline is refusing to eat, it should be cause for concern - especially if this goes on for several days or longer. Malnutrition can cause other serious health problems so your veterinarian may recommend tube feeding for cats that have prolonged anorexia, or an anatomical or surgical condition that prevents it from eating normally.

Sick cats may need to be fed through a tube if they have not been eating for more than five days or have lost more than 10 percent of their body weight, according to the School of Veterinary Medicine at Louisiana State University.

Although tube feeding can be uncomfortable for the cat at first, the process is easier than you think once the tube has been inserted. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, many owners get the hang of it after just a few meals. Many veterinarians recommend feeding canned food on a schedule based on the size of the feline and the particular cat illness it is fighting.

The most common type of temporary feeding tube is inserted into the cat's nose, then passes through the cat's nasal cavity into its esophagus.  Depending on the nature of your cats illness and how long your veterinarian feels they may require the tube, they may use feeding tubes that insert directly into the esophagus or stomach.  Regardless of the type of feeding tube used, vets will often provide Elizabethan collars for cats to prevent them from pawing at or trying to disrupt the tube.

Cats usually adapt to the presence of the feeding tube quite quickly.  Once a cat begins eating on its own again, feeding tubes can be easily removed by your veterinarian.