Technically, feral cats can survive up to two weeks without eating, given that they drink water. However, they’ll suffer severe health consequences if they don’t eat during this period.
After three days of not eating, the cat’s body will use stored fat as energy, the same way the human body does.
When feral cats go without eating for a few days, they’ll start approaching human settlements looking for food. Feral cats are strong, wild animals that have the means of surviving astray against temperature changes, lack of resources, and other inconveniences.
In this article, we’ll explore the eating habits of feral cats. We’ll go over the debate of whether or not you should feed feral cats.
Feral Cats Are Territorial
Cats, in general, are territorial. They try to maintain territories to mark hunting and breeding areas as a survival tactic. Feral cats establish dominance over more expansive territories than domestic cats because they need to secure food resources.
Territories of feral cats can range from two to a thousand acres to cover a vast area to guarantee a consistent supply of food and mating options.
Male feral cats usually have larger territories than females. In general, the range of a male’s territory is determined by prospective mates, while that of a female is governed by food availability.
This territorial nature of feral cats makes it hard for them to find alternate food sources if their primary food sources are lost for any reason.
For instance, if you’re used to feeding some feral cats regularly, they’ll familiarise themselves with the place and yourself as a food source. It’ll take a while to realize if you stop giving them food. Then, they’ll start looking elsewhere, usually approaching human-populated places.
What Happens When You Stop Feeding Feral Cats?
After not getting sufficient food, there’s a high chance that cats develop Hepatic Lipidosis, a common disease among felines known as “fatty liver syndrome.”
Hepatic Lipidosis usually happens to obese cats after being anorexic for three to four days. As we discussed, when cats go without eating for this period, their bodies will start breaking body fat as a source of energy.
The liver might be unable to process fat breakage at such a rapid rate. Instead, fat cells will accumulate around the cat’s liver, compromising its function.
Should I Feed Feral Cats in My Area?
Well, that’s a loaded question.
Feeding stray cats is noble. After all, you’re being affectionate with a street animal and nurturing animals that don’t have constant access to food resources.
On the other side, when you feed stray cats regularly, their local population in your area will increase. You won’t necessarily be able to provide for all of them, which will become a hassle. Besides, stray cats carry diseases and might transmit them to humans and domestic animals.
Feral cats are scared of people, and likely won’t approach them directly when they give them food. If you want to feed a feral cat, it’d be better to put the food close to it and leave. It’ll approach the food when you move away.
How Much Should I Feed a Feral Cat?
An average weighing feral cat, between 6.5 and 13 pounds, needs around 200 calories per day. This roughly translates into ¾ to one cup of food a day, dry or wet.
Pregnant cats and growing kittens need more calories from nutrient-dense foods, ideally meat-based. Needless to say, this applies to anorexic cats, as well. You can identify a malnutrition cat from the prominent muscles of its rib cage and a narrow waist alongside bald patches.
What Should I Feed a Feral Cat?
Being carnivores, cats need a protein-dense diet, ideally. However, preparing meat-based meals for cats, let alone stray cats, won’t always be practical. It’s also not cost-effective.
A better alternative is regularly dry and wet food. Dry kibble is the cheapest option, and it gets the job done. It also has the advantage of preserving its state in various conditions. Dry kibble won’t go bad easily.
If you manage to place a portion of dry kibble in the same place every one or two days for the feral cats in your area, it’ll be more than enough. Feral cats might be suspicious of metal bowls since they’re not used to them, so placing their food on a piece of newspaper will do.
Remember that when you maintain a schedule for putting food out for stray cats, they’ll learn when and where to expect it. This can be both cursing and a blessing, depending on your area of residence, your neighbors, the number of feral cats around, and, more importantly, your capacity to handle them.
Where Should I Feed Feral Cats?
You should be strategic when you place food for feral cats. Try to aim for accessible spots that aren’t in high proximity to your residential area so that you don’t annoy neighbors.
High spots on a bench or the side of a wall are favorable. Think of a safe spot, away from traffic. It’ll also be wise to divide the food into two portions so stray cats don’t fight over food. Stronger cats will win this fight, overpowering the kittens and nutrient-deficient, which is not what you want.
How Can I Get Rid of Visiting Feral Cats?
If the situation gets out of hand, you can always contact a local pet shelter or your local council.
Until then, you can use citrus-based products to repel feral cats. For example, you can try scattering lemon, orange, or lime peels.
If you eliminate food resources from your area, feral cats won’t abandon it immediately because they’ll need to expand their territory looking for food. This way, they might conflict with other cats’ territories.
Feral cats know how to survive on their own in the wild. They can survive up to two weeks without food if they maintain a stable water source, but if they recognize the lack of food, they’ll start looking for new territories.
You can always feed them as an act of kindness. However, remember to be smart about your choices, so you don’t regret them!