Stray cats might not necessarily be feral, but they do need care and food regardless of where they came from. If you have a cat hanging out around your home or neighborhood, and it looks like it is hungry, you don’t need to run to the store right away to get it some cat food. What can you feed the cat if you don’t have any cat food?
Cats are natural predators and eat mostly food from animal sources. While they can eat some food from plant sources, it’s better to stick to animal foods like chicken, turkey, tuna, or scrambled eggs. Cats should not drink milk, as they don’t have the correct enzymes to break it down properly.
If you have stray cats in the neighborhood, stay tuned to find out what you can feed them if you don’t have any cat food on hand.
Table of Contents
How to Tell If the Cat is a Pet or a Stray Cat
Stray cats don’t always look malnourished if they live in an area where people set food out for them. However, most strays look malnourished, have rough coats, and have an unhealthy appearance. Some strays are domesticated cats that lost their way back home and need food and water.
Outdoor cats that are pets often have a well-kept look and are not malnourished. While they might appreciate food and water, they are mostly exploring the outdoors. They will have a collar with a tag with an address on it. Or, they might be chipped. Either way, pet cats don’t need the same level of care from you as a stray cat might.
A stray cat might be a feral cat, in which case the cat will not come near you if you call it. But, once you set the food and water down and leave the area, the cat will come to the area to eat.
Cats are Natural Predators and Need Mostly Meat
Cats are carnivores and need protein to survive and thrive. While they can eat certain vegetables, they need protein from animal sources like eggs, fish, beef, and poultry. Their bodies don’t process protein from plant sources efficiently, and they could get very sick or die from only plant sources of protein.
They are natural predators who hunt rabbits, squirrels, birds, chipmunks, mice, and rats. But in the winter, when their prey is scarce, you can set out the following foods:
- Scrambled eggs
- Salmon, tuna, and other fish
- Cooked ground beef
- Cooked steak, roast, or other cuts of beef
- Deli meat
- Canned meats
- Scallops, lobster, and other sea creatures
Natural predators are mostly carnivorous and need to eat meat. While some would say that cats don’t need animal protein to survive, their biological processes state otherwise. They get the most bio-available nutrition from animal proteins and derivatives.
While cats can eat some plants, they thrive on meat. So when a stray cat comes to your property looking malnourished, pull out some meat or eggs and set outside. Some people say that if you feed the cat, they will come back constantly looking for food. But, you might be the only thing between life and death for that cat.
Cats Can Eat Certain Vegetables and Grains
If you don’t have any animal protein on hand, and you need to give a stray cat something to eat, you can set out some vegetables and grains. Cooked carrots, green beans, peas, asparagus, and broccoli are okay to set out, as well as cooked rice and cooked sweet potato. Many cat food brands use rice and sweet potato as part of their formula to aid in digestion.
To make a more balanced meal for the cat, try putting scrambled eggs and cooked rice together in a bowl to help the kitty take in enough calories to survive.
In a pinch, you can give the stray cat spinach, cantaloupe, bananas, and oatmeal. But to provide adequate nutrition, combine these foods with animal proteins. You could set out cooked chicken and spinach, or you could combine turkey and sweet potato. A stray cat might be used to scavenging in trash cans and dumpsters, but that doesn”t mean you can”t give the cat nutritious foods.
Don’t Give Cats Milk, Dog Food, Chocolate, or Onions
Contrary to popular opinion, milk is not healthy for cats. They lack the proper enzymes to be able to digest it, and it can make them sick. If you find a stray kitten, you will need to find some specialized kitten formula to feed it if it is still in the nursing stage.
Don”t give a stray cat dog food, even if you have an abundance of it. Dog food is specially formulated for dogs” needs, not cats, and it could make the cat sick. Feeding a stray cat human food, such as chicken or beef, would be better for the cat than dog food.
Chocolate, onions, garlic, avocado, and grapes are all very toxic to cats and should not be put in with the other food you plan on giving the stray cat. Tomatoes and most potatoes should not be given to cats as they cause a lot of stomach issues.
If the stray cat appears to be starving, make sure that you give it protein-rich animal foods. If it doesn”t have a lot of salt, canned tuna is appropriate instead of cat food. But don”t give the cat a lot at a time, especially if it is starving, because it might eat too much all at once. This action is not healthy and could leave it with an upset stomach.
Scrambled Eggs Can Also Be Offered to Cats
Most people have eggs in their refrigerator, and it doesn’t take much to whip up an egg and scramble it before offering it to a stray cat. Don”t season or salt the egg, as any seasoning or salt might not be healthy for the cat”s digestive system. Wet and dry cat food does not use any seasoning either, so you don”t need to add seasoning.
Many cat food brands use eggs in their formulas to provide the choline needed for proper vision development. Eggs also provide B vitamins, which a stray cat might be missing in its diet.
What Else Can You Do for the Stray Cat?
Stray cats might just be domesticated pets that ran off and got lost. Before you do anything else for the cat, check with your neighbors to see if they recently lost a cat. If no one comes forward, try checking with a vet to see if a chip is embedded in the cat. The chip will tell you if there is an owner”s name or address.
If you can”t find its home, you have the option of taking it into your home or finding a home for it if you can”t take it in.
Cat food is the best option to feed stray cats, but if you don”t have cats or cat food in your house, then the foods listed in this article will help the cat get some protein to survive.
While they might be good at hunting, stray cats still need help finding food from time to time, especially if it is during the winter when prey is not as plentiful. If you feel that feeding a stray cat will encourage it to keep coming around, trap and take it to a no-kill shelter that is committed to finding a home for it.
- Pet Central: 15 Human Foods That Are Safe for Cats
- Stray Cat Advice: What Do Stray Cats Eat?
- The Fluffy Kitty: What to Feed a Stray Cat Without Cat Food
- The Happy Cat Site: What to Feed a Stray Cat – And How to Help Stray Cats and Kittens Survive
- All About Cats: What”s the Best Food For Feeding Feral Cats?
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.