Have you ever encountered a stray cat and wondered what you can feed it?
This article aims to provide concise, accurate, and actionable information about safe foods for stray cats and what to avoid, empowering you to make informed decisions and provide appropriate care for these feline friends.
Keep in mind that it’s important to understand the difference between stray and feral cats: stray cats are domestic cats that have been abandoned or lost, while feral cats are born in the wild and have little or no human contact.
Understanding stray cats and their unique needs is crucial for anyone wanting to help them.
Stray cats face numerous challenges in finding food, water, and shelter, and are subject to predators, diseases, and parasites.
By learning the dos and don’ts of feeding stray cats, as well as how to approach and care for them, you can make a significant impact on their well-being and increase their chances of survival.
If so, it’s unlikely that you have cat food stocked up in your kitchen to feed them then and there, right?
Also, due to lack of knowledge of which food to offer and which not to, is a concern when you run to the pet store to get some.
Picking up uneaten food not only prevents stray cats from accidentally ingesting spoiled food, but it can also deter wildlife and/or bugs from getting to the food.
- Learn the difference between stray and feral cats and their unique needs
- Discover the dos and don’ts when feeding stray cats, ensuring their nutritional health and safety
- Acquire knowledge on how to approach and properly care for stray cats, improving their well-being and chances of a better life
Understanding Stray Cats
Have you ever encountered a stray cat and wondered what you can feed it?
To help you make informed decisions and provide appropriate care for stray cats, we’ll discuss the challenges they face and how your actions can help.
Stray cats face many difficulties in finding food, water, and shelter while also dealing with predators, diseases, and parasites.
There are approximately 200 million stray cats worldwide, as reported by the World Health Organization. (1)
Feeding stray cats, such as the ones supported by Alley Cat Allies, can improve their health, reduce reproductive rates, increase adoption chances, and foster bonds between humans and animals.
However, feeding strays can attract other animals, create conflicts with neighbors, and cause environmental concerns.
It is essential to understand the difference between stray and feral cats. Stray cats are domestic cats that have been abandoned or lost, while feral cats are born in the wild and have little or no human contact. (2)
Additionally, stray cats are usually friendlier than feral cats and may come with a collar or tag, indicating previous ownership or neutering.
Now that you have some background knowledge, the next step is to learn what types of food you can safely feed a stray cat.
Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they primarily require animal-based food sources like turkey, chicken, tuna, and even scrambled eggs, which are a great option.
Eggs are a good source of protein, and they are also relatively easy for a cat to digest. Plus, eggs are relatively cheap and easy to come by, so you can stock up on them when you’re filling your stray cat’s food bowl.
Commercial cat food, both dry and wet, is the best option, as it is specifically formulated to meet their nutritional needs.
Occasional fish or boneless cooked meat can also be given as a treat. However, when it comes to veggies, there are some good options for stray cats to include in their diet, such as broccoli, spinach, and carrots.
It’s important to provide a balanced diet for the cat, so make sure to include some meat or fish as well.
Avoid feeding them dairy products, dog food, or certain fruits and veggies like grapes, raisins, and avocados, as these can be harmful to them.
When feeding a stray kitten, use a clean, shallow dish or bowl and provide fresh food and water in the daylight.
The general guideline is to give about one cup of dry food or half a can of wet food per day per cat.
However, this may vary depending on the cat’s size, age, activity level, and health condition.
Also, remember to adjust the quantity of food according to the season, increasing it by 10% in the winter and decreasing it by 10% in the summer.
As you feed stray cats, be sure to dispose of leftovers properly, clean their dishes, and provide them with shelter to ensure their safety and well-being. By following these guidelines, you’ll be playing a vital role in supporting the stray cat population in a responsible manner.
Dos and Don’ts of Feeding Stray Cats
In this section, we’ll discuss the appropriate foods to give stray cats and the ones to avoid, ensuring they get the proper nourishment and avoiding any health risks involved in feeding them.
Dos: Safe Foods to Give Stray Cats
As obligate carnivores, cats require animal protein in their diet. In addition to protein and water, they also need vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids. Here are some safe food options for stray cats:
The optimal choice is commercial cat food, either dry or wet, as it’s formulated to meet the nutritional needs of cats. It’s also convenient, affordable, and easy to store and serve.
Fish provides protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and iodine. Ensure it’s cooked, deboned, and given occasionally as a treat.
Avoid certain fish such as canned tuna, as high levels of mercury can be harmful to cats.
Boneless Cooked Meat
Cooked meat, such as chicken or beef, provides protein, iron, zinc, and taurine.
Cook thoroughly to avoid bacteria or parasites and ensure it’s boneless to prevent choking or intestinal obstruction.
Grains and Veggies
Although not essential, cooked, mashed, or pureed grains and veggies (e.g., rice, oatmeal, carrots, peas, green beans) can benefit cats’ digestion and immune system.
Avoid wheat, corn, soy, potatoes, onions, garlic, chives, mushrooms, and tomatoes.
Eggs are an excellent source of protein, biotin, and riboflavin. Make sure they are cooked well, and offer them sparingly as an occasional treat.
Don’ts: Foods to Avoid
Feeding unsuitable foods can cause digestive issues, allergic reactions, toxicity, or nutritional imbalances in stray cats. These types of food should be avoided:
Most cats are lactose intolerant, meaning milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, bloating, or gas in cats. Read more on what to feed a cat with diarrhea.
Dog food does not provide the required nutrients and can lead to malnutrition, anemia, or heart problems in cats. It may also contain harmful ingredients like garlic or onion.
Certain Fruits and Veggies
Toxic cat fruits and veggies include grapes, raisins, currants, avocado, onion, garlic, chives, mushrooms, and tomatoes.
These can damage their red blood cells, liver, or kidneys. Also, avoid seeds, pits, cores, stems, and leaves, as they can cause choking or intestinal blockages.
Keep these dos and don’ts in mind when dealing with stray cats, and remember that a well-fed cat is a happier and healthier one.
Read more on things that cats can or can’t eat
How to Approach and Care for Stray Cats
When encountering a stray cat, it’s essential to determine if the cat is stray or feral.
Stray cats tend to be friendlier, more approachable, and vocal compared to feral cats.
They may also have a collar, tag, or ear tip showing they have been owned or neutered.
Approach the cat slowly and calmly, without making loud noises or sudden movements.
Pay attention to the cat’s body language, giving it space if it shows signs of aggression or fear.
To offer food and water to the cat, place the items in clean, shallow dishes at a safe distance.
Offer fresh food and a continuous supply of clean water regularly to establish trust and routine with the cat.
Quantity to Feed
Feeding a stray cat the proper amount of dry kibble involves considering their size, age, activity level, health condition, and availability of other food sources.
Generally, provide about one cup of dry kibble or half a can of wet food per day per cat. However, this may vary according to each cat’s individual needs and the quality of the food (follow this guide for tips).
Adjust the quantity to account for seasonal needs, increasing by approximately 10% in winter and decreasing by 10% in summer.
Dispose of leftover food and dishes properly to avoid attracting pests or spreading disease.
Wash dishes thoroughly with hot water and soap before reusing them, and throw away leftover food in a sealed bag or container in a lidded trash can.
Providing shelter for the stray cat can help improve their quality of life, especially during extreme weather conditions.
Rehoming and Aftercare
If a stray cat becomes friendly and comfortable around you, consider contacting an animal shelter or vet for help with rehoming.
Shelters and vets can also provide valuable information on vaccinations, spaying/neutering, and microchipping.
If you decide to adopt the stray cat yourself, consult a veterinarian for guidance on vaccination and health care needs.
Through responsible care and consideration of the cat’s well-being, you can make a positive difference in the life of a stray cat.
Nursing kittens away from their mother need a special milk formula that replicates their mother’s milk. In some cases, they need to be rehomed with another new mother cat.
Final Thoughts on What Can I Feed a Stray Cat
Feeding stray cats is an act of kindness that requires a proper understanding of their nutritional needs and the risks involved.
To ensure the well-being of these cats, make sure to provide them with suitable and safe food options, such as commercial cat food, cooked fish, boneless cooked meat, certain grains and veggies, and cooked eggs.
Avoid feeding dairy products, dog food, and certain fruits and veggies that can be harmful to cats.
When you encounter a stray cat, approach it calmly with respect for their body language. Offer food and water in clean, shallow dishes at a safe distance, and maintain a consistent feeding routine.
Provide adequate amounts of food, adjusting the quantity based on the season and the cat’s individual needs.
Ensure that you dispose of leftover food and dishes properly to prevent attracting other animals or causing environmental issues.
Providing shelter to stray cats can also improve their quality of life and increase their chances of being adopted. By following these guidelines and showing compassion, you can positively impact the lives of stray cats in your community.
Frequently Asked Questions
What should I give a stray cat to eat?
The best option for feeding stray cats is commercial cat food, either dry or wet, as it is specially formulated to meet their nutritional needs.
Other safe options include cooked, deboned fish (in moderation) and boneless cooked meat.
Additionally, cooked grains and veggies, as well as cooked eggs, can be given sparingly as occasional treats.
Is it safe to give them human food?
Not all human food is safe for cats. Some human food can be harmful to cats and should be avoided, such as dairy products (as cats are lactose intolerant), and certain fruits and veggies, which can be toxic or cause digestive issues in cats.
You can refer to the What Human Food Can Cats Eat: The Essential List For Owners! for a detailed list of feline-safe human foods.
Can I offer a stray cat dog food?
No, dog food is not suitable for cats because it does not meet their specific nutritional needs.
Cats require higher levels of protein, taurine, and arachidonic acid, which dog food lacks.
Feeding cats dog food can lead to malnutrition, anemia, or heart problems.
What do stray cats eat during winter?
During winter, stray cats may struggle to find adequate food sources.
Therefore, it is crucial to ensure they have access to enough high-quality cat food.
You may need to increase the amount of food by about 10% in winter to help them maintain their energy levels and keep warm.
Should I provide water or milk?
Water is vital for stray cats. They need to stay hydrated, so providing fresh water is essential.
On the other hand, milk is not recommended as most adult cats are lactose intolerant and may experience digestive problems when consuming dairy products.
Are there any dangers in feeding stray cats?
While feeding stray cats can be a compassionate deed, it can attract other animals, create conflicts with neighbors, and cause environmental issues if not done responsibly.
To minimize these risks, ensure that you dispose of leftover food properly, maintain cleanliness around the feeding area, and provide appropriate nourishment to maintain the well-being of the stray cat.