What To Feed Stray Cats?

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Stray cat looking for food

Choosing to feed stray cats is admirable and deserves all the praise.

Estimates say there are 60 to 100 million stray cats in the United States alone. To say that number is staggering is an understatement! Unfortunately, most of those strays are underfed.

While they might not belong to anyone, feral cats are living creatures that deserve a chance at survival. Feeding them is one small step that has a massive impact.

But what do you feed a stray?

What Food Should You Provide?

Domesticated cats have it easy! They’re spoiled rotten and often indulge in commercial food full of protein and all the nutrients they need to stay healthy.

Strays aren’t so lucky. They must fend for themselves and resort to hunting to stay alive.

Because these animals are often on the verge of starvation, getting them to eat isn’t a huge problem. But it would be best if you chose what you provide wisely.

Whether you’re feeding a single stray or a group prowling around your neighborhood, here are a few ideas of what you can offer.

High-Calorie Kibble

The easiest thing you can provide is kibble! Dry commercial kibble is easily accessible and relatively cost-effective. It’s also super easy to portion out and serve.

There are countless brands and formulas out there. Focus on providing one that’s full of protein and calories.

A high-calorie recipe can help address weight issues, putting strays well on their way to good health.

Canned Wet Food

Canned food is another excellent choice. From pates to simple stews, it’s all full of flavor and nutrition. Wet food better mimics what cats eat in the wild.

As a result, you might find that cats are more willing to consume canned foods than dry kibble. It’s a similar sensation, so there’s less trepidation there.

Like before, choose a high-quality recipe packed with protein. Cats are natural-born carnivores. The more meat, the better!

Tuna and Salmon

Canned fish is the go-to food if you don’t have commercial products around.

Cats love fish. It’s a fantastic protein source, and some fish species are chock-full of healthy omega-fatty acids.

On top of all that, fish is cheap and easy to buy.

If you choose to offer fish, go for canned options. Canned fish is already cooked and prepared. Avoid frozen or fresh fish. They can harbor bacteria and cause health problems for the cat.


Eggs are a great snack you can provide in addition to tuna or commercial cat food. Eggs contain a good amount of protein. They’re also rich in Vitamin B.

Always cook the eggs before you provide them to the cats. Eggs can be a source of foodborne illness; you don’t want to take any chances.

Chicken and Turkey

Chicken and turkey are both high-protein poultry items cats usually love. While chicken can be a little greasy, most cats won’t experience digestive issues eating it.

Cats are obligate carnivores. That means they only eat meat to survive. They don’t consume plants in the wild.

These meat products are cheap, healthy, and easy to find. You can even pick up canned chicken and turkey, making meals as easy to prepare as tuna.

Stray cat outside

A Note About Providing Meat

We included several meat products in our recommendations. But, we’d be remiss not to stress the importance of proper preparation.

Never provide a stray cat with raw meat. Handling raw meat puts you at risk of spreading bacteria and parasites.

Cats can also suffer gastrointestinal infections with ill-prepared meats.

The best approach is to use canned or precooked meat products. Most stray cats will have no problem scarfing them down.

Tips and Tricks

Feeding stray cats seem straightforward. But you must remember that these creatures might not have much experience with human interaction.

Getting hand-delivered food is foreign to them, so you must be cautious.

Scaring a stray cat could lead to some aggression and nasty bites. You never know what diseases a feral cat is harboring.

Keep an eye on the cats for a few days to monitor their behavior. See where they hang out. Choose a spot they frequent as the feeding area.

The goal is to bring the food to the cat.

If you try bringing cats into your property, you could have problems with your neighbors. Plus, it’s harder to get cats to go somewhere new than to feed them in a place their already familiar entering.

Put the food into a steel bowl, set it down on the ground, and walk away. Don’t be surprised if the cats investigate a bit before eating. This is a new experience for them!

Once they’re done, remove the bowls, clean up the mess, and return later for additional feedings.

Eventually, cats will get comfortable with your presence and your feeding routine.

Related: What Smells Do Cats Hate?

Should You Feed Stray Cats?

Here’s the million-dollar question.

Feeding strays is a controversial subject. Some people are adamant that you should never give food to strays.

When you do, they often return. Unfortunately, they can become pests to your neighborhood.

But there are many benefits to feeding strays. It helps the cats get familiar with you over time. Why does that matter? A comfortable cat is much easier to catch!

Your goal with feeding strays should be to get them fixed.

Spaying and neutering feral cats will help control the pet population and reduce the number of homeless cats in your area.

Usually, catching these creatures is a massive challenge. But when you feed them, you earn their trust.

Another benefit of feeding strays is they get comfortable with human existence. That means less aggressive behavior all around.

Doing the Right Thing

Whether or not you decide to feed cats is up to you. But if you choose to go that route, you now know what foods to provide!

We always recommend taking steps to sterilize cats you feed. Many cities offer free programs for stray cats and spaying and neutering services.

See what’s available in your area and do your part to make your neighborhood a little more cat-friendly.

Also Read: How Much Attention Do Cats Need?