Since I seem to have better than average experience with this, a vet invited me to share some tips and tricks with her and others. I have been thinking about and actually spent part of day observing at a local vet clinic to really see what the differences were. I think there are 5 critical differences.
1. Time. I usually am force feeding only one cat at a time and don't have to rush off and do other things. I will take anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes to get the food into the cat. I only put a small amount in and I let the cat swallow and relax before the next mouthful.
2. Location. I force feed the cat in my lap or between my legs while sitting on the floor. I have the cat surrounded with my legs and arms, with my torso draped over the cat. I believe this makes the cat feel safer. Rarely do I have to 'towel' a cat to force feed it -- even with new arrivals.
3. Tools. I use a feeding syringe from FourPaws. It holds a nice amount and the tip can be cut off so that the food comes out quickly. I have tried regular syringes and I didn't like it. If the syringe is re-used, the plunger sticks. The tip is usually too small unless one uses the 50ml size and then it's too big to easily handle.
4. Food. I always feed the food at or slightly warmer than room temperature. (And apologies, Dr. Muns for this next part.) I know Science Diet A/D is considered a great force feeding food, but many cats do not like it. I may use it, but I mix it with other ingredients, such as goat milk, to make a mix that is more appealing to cats. The food also needs to be of the right consistency -- not runny, not thick, but something like cold gravy.
5. Position of head. I try to keep the head level and squirt small amounts of the food ( like .5ml) in the middle of the upper palate. This works better than what owners are told to do -- squirt it between cheek and teeth. I know vets and vet techs are afraid owners will choke the cat with the food, but if it's the proper consistency (not a liquid) and if it's small amounts, I've never had any problem.