Table of Contents
When it comes to caring for stray cats that hang around your home, one of the most important things to consider is what to feed them. You want to provide them with nutrition while also ensuring that the food doesn’t spoil. Additionally, you want to be mindful of your neighbors and create a safe environment for the cats. Feeding stray cats can be a more involved process than simply leaving out a dish of dry kibble or canned food. It’s important to determine the appropriate amount of food to give them based on their age and to consider the weather conditions. In this article, let’s explore what you should feed a stray cat and provide helpful tips on how to care for them without creating tension with your neighbors with the website BEACONPET.
What Do You Feed a Stray Cat?
Feeding stray cats can be more involved than simply leaving out a dish of dry kibble or a plate of canned food. It can sometimes be difficult to determine if a stray cat is a senior or an adult, but regardless, according to Alley Cat Allies, most adult cats eat 5.5 oz of canned food and 2 oz of dry food a day. If you’re feeding just dry food, one adult cat will eat about 1/2 C dry food a day. Kittens (that are weaned from mother’s milk) may require more food a day, and they should be fed kitten food specifically.
The decision to feed your cat dry food and wet food can depend on the weather where you live and the time of year. In the summer, when temperatures and humidity are high, canned food may spoil more rapidly. Dry food is less likely to attract bugs in the summer months, and wet food may dry out quickly. In this type of weather, if you do opt to feed canned food, add extra water to help prevent it from drying out and pick up anything left uneaten after 30 minutes. Uneaten dry food should be picked up after it’s been left between 30 and 45 minutes. 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. Additionally, there are specific ant-proof bowls and feeding stations that can be a good investment in warmer climates. Alternatively, you can pour a line of either baking soda or food-grade diatomaceous earth around the food (and water) bowls. Believe it or not, ants won’t cross over this barrier. In the winter, cats may require slightly more food for added energy. Although there may be no bugs to worry about, uneaten food should still be picked up to prevent the attraction of wildlife and to prevent the food from freezing. There are heated electric bowls that can also prevent freezing. These can be especially useful for a stray cat’s water source.
Where Should You Feed a Stray Cat?
Cats are habitual animals. They will come back to the same spot at the same time if they found food and water there before. Alley Cat Allies recommends feeding stray cats somewhere discreet that is accessible to your residence but away from busy roads or neighbors as much as possible. Additionally, creating feeding stations, which can be something as simple as a plastic storage container with an entry hole cut into the side, can keep the food and water safe from the elements. Cats also tend to feel more safe when they are up high, so placing food and water bowls on ledges, benches, fences, etc. may make a nervous, shy stray cat feel more comfortable. Stray cats should also be fed at the same time(s) every day and in the daylight, when able. Feeding in the daylight hours can help deter wildlife from eating the food instead of the cat(s) for whom it is intended. As daylight savings approaches, feeding 10 minutes earlier or later, depending on spring or fall, can help stray cats acclimate better to the time change.
Feeding Recommendations for Different Weather Conditions
In hot weather, it’s important to take extra precautions to ensure that the food doesn’t spoil. Canned food may spoil more rapidly, so it’s advised to add extra water to prevent it from drying out and pick up anything left uneaten after 30 minutes. Dry food is less likely to attract bugs, but it may still dry out quickly. Uneaten dry food should be picked up after it’s been left between 30 and 45 minutes. In order to deter wildlife and bugs from getting to the food, you can use specific ant-proof bowls and feeding stations or pour a line of baking soda or food-grade diatomaceous earth around the food bowls.
In cold weather, cats may require slightly more food for added energy. Uneaten food should still be picked up to prevent freezing and to deter wildlife from getting to it. There are heated electric bowls available that can prevent freezing, which is especially useful for a stray cat’s water source.
Feeding Stations for Stray Cats
Creating feeding stations for stray cats can help keep the food and water safe from the elements. These stations can be as simple as a plastic storage container with an entry hole cut into the side. Placing the food and water bowls on elevated surfaces, such as ledges, benches, or fences, can also make cats feel more safe and comfortable. Additionally, there are specialized ant-proof bowls and feeding stations available that can be a good investment in warmer climates. Another option is to pour a line of baking soda or food-grade diatomaceous earth around the food bowls, as ants won’t cross over this barrier. For colder climates, heated electric bowls can be used to prevent freezing, which is especially important for a stray cat’s water source.
Feeding Schedule for Stray Cats
Consistency is key when it comes to the feeding schedule for stray cats. It’s recommended to feed them at the same time(s) every day. This will help them establish a routine and keep coming back to the same spot. Feeding the cats in daylight hours can also help deter wildlife from eating the food instead of the cats. As daylight savings approaches, adjusting the feeding time 10 minutes earlier or later depending on spring or fall can help the cats acclimate to the time change.
It’s important to deter wildlife from eating the food, as this is intended for the stray cats. By picking up uneaten food, you can prevent other animals from getting to it. This also helps to keep the area clean and free of pests.
Feeding Stray Cats with Kittens
If a stray female cat you are feeding has kittens, you don’t need to be worried about her abandoning her kittens if you start feeding them. Even if you don’t see her, she won’t leave her kittens behind. It’s important to ensure that there is enough food available for both the mother cat and her kittens. The mother cat may require more food to support milk production, so it’s advisable to provide her with additional food and water. Building trust with the mother cat is important, as it will help her feel more comfortable with you being around her kittens. This can be achieved by providing a safe feeding environment and avoiding any sudden movements or loud noises.
Dealing with Challenges of Feeding Stray Cats
Feeding stray cats may come with its own set of challenges. Some homeowners associations (HOAs) may forbid feeding stray cats, and some neighbors may not be happy to have feral cats on their property. It’s important to approach these challenges with sensitivity and respect. Building a positive relationship with your neighbors through open communication can help address any concerns they may have.
In some cases, managing neighbor concerns about stray cats may involve finding alternative feeding locations or working with local animal welfare organizations to find a suitable solution. It’s important to remember that feeding stray cats can help them feel safer around you, and in turn, this can help you monitor their health. Additionally, providing food for strays may make it easier to trap them for spaying/neutering and vaccination, which are critical for their long-term welfare and for controlling the neighborhood cat population.
Health Monitoring Through Feeding
Feeding stray cats can provide valuable opportunities for health monitoring. By observing their appetite and eating habits, you can gain insights into their overall health and well-being. Changes in appetite or eating patterns may indicate underlying health issues or potential injuries. It’s important to seek veterinary care when needed to ensure that any medical conditions are properly addressed.
Regular feeding also allows for a closer observation of the cats’ physical appearance and behavior. Look for signs of illness or injury, such as weight loss, dull coat, limping, or respiratory symptoms. If you notice any concerning signs, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Importance of Neutering/Spaying and Vaccination
Neutering/spaying and vaccination are crucial for the long-term welfare of stray cats. These procedures not only help prevent unwanted litters but also contribute to overall population control and the reduction of stray cat colonies. Neutering/spaying helps minimize behaviors associated with mating, such as roaming and fighting, which can lead to injuries and the spread of diseases.
Vaccination is essential for protecting stray cats from common infectious diseases, such as feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia. Vaccines can help boost the cats’ immune system and prevent the spread of these illnesses within the stray cat population.
By providing food for strays, you can create a more favorable environment for trapping them and bringing them to a veterinarian for spaying/neutering and vaccination. These interventions not only improve the cats’ individual health but also contribute to the well-being of the entire community.
Community and Feral Feeding Tips
Feeding stray cats is an important act of compassion and care. It’s essential to understand the needs of stray cats and take steps to provide for their well-being. Additionally, addressing any concerns or challenges that may arise within the community can help create a positive environment for both cats and humans.
To promote community and feral feeding, it’s important to educate others about the benefits of spaying/neutering and vaccination. Engaging with local animal welfare organizations and veterinary clinics can provide access to resources, such as low-cost or free spaying/neutering programs and vaccination clinics.
It’s also important to provide information about responsible feeding practices, such as proper food storage, cleaning feeding areas, and discouraging wildlife from accessing the food. By working together, community members can help ensure the health and welfare of stray cats while maintaining harmonious relationships with neighbors and the larger community.
Note: This article is for informational purposes only and does not replace the advice of a veterinarian. Always consult a veterinarian for specific recommendations regarding the care and feeding of stray cats.