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What to Feed the Stray Cats in India? Should You Feed Them?

Amir Ali
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Posted on May 5, 2022, | Updated on December 1, 2022

What to feed stray cats? If this is the question that has brought you here, then let me tell you you are at the right place; at the right time!

According to the  State of Homelessness Index India, there are around 91 lakh street/stray cats in India. The majority of them are living in extremely poor living conditions and leading sheer miserable lives.

The dearth of food, safe shelter, and health care have become the destiny of these unfortunate felines who are the offspring of either abandoned or lost cats. As a consequence, these cats often have to lead a life of absolute suffering. 

They are being forced to feed themselves by exploring the trash bins, stealing food from the houses, or begging for food from passersby. 

Many of them often get killed by larger animals or in accidents. And, a lot of them are sick, underweight, and struggling against lethal diseases. 

Very few people and some animal organizations in the country care about the well-being of stray cats. 

So there’s a huge scope to take a step forward and do something within your reach to help these innocent cat populations to make their lives less miserable. 

On the other hand, there is a group of cat experts who discourage feeding stray cats and they have valid reasons.

So in this post, we’ll dig deep into whether you should feed stray cats or not in the first place. 

If yes, what should be the right way, and what are the best non-commercial and commercial foods to feed stray cats in India?

Let’s get started.

Should You Feed Stray Cats or Not?

Whether one should feed stray cats or not is debatable. There are two groups, both of which desire the welfare of stray cats but have different viewpoints. 

Let’s first look at what the people (who are against feeding stray cats) say about the problems associated with feeding stray cats. 

Problems Related to Feeding Stray Cats.

1. Feeding Stray Cats Can Increase the Stray Cats Population Even More.

According to WebMD, stray cats in healthy conditions can multiply rapidly.  There can be as many as 4,20,000 more stray cats produced by a single stray and her kittens in seven years. 

This is because female cats get pregnant quickly at the age of just 16 weeks and give birth to 2-3 litters every year. If all these kittens survive and reproduce then we could have an even larger number of stray populations depending on us for their food.

Thus, stray cats mean a higher probability of surviving and growing. Which would make it even harder for humans to take care of such a large population of stray cats.

2. The Higher Probability of Poor Health and Miserable Life.

Obviously, the more stray cats we have near our settlements the less likely we are to give them proper care and attention. This may lead to starvation, poor health, spreading and catching, and overall miserable life for stray cats. In this way, feeding stray cats without neutering and spaying is not in favour of the cats themselves. 

3. Risk of Transmission of Diseases to Humans.

When we have more stray cats near our colonies and settlements, there will be a higher risk of Transmission of pathogens and parasites to humans. Especially in those localities that have a higher population of children. 

Also, these cats may urinate or spray on doorsteps, vehicles and walls to mark their territories. This can make the human surroundings unhygienic. 

4. Lack of Peace.

Another problem linked to the rising population of stray cats is that they often destroy the peace. When you have more cats around your habituation they will compete with each other to get access to already scarce resources. This may lead to serious fights. A lot of these fights between cats happen during the night as well which can ruin your peace. 

Similarly, cats sometimes cry due to many reasons, especially at the night. For pet cats, you can do many things to calm them but in the case of stray and feral cats, you can’t do much in the middle of the night.

Now let’s listen to those who say that it’s good to feed stray cats.

Benefits of Feeding Stray Cats

This infographic shows the benefits of feeding stray cats
This infographic shows the benefits of feeding stray cats

#1. You Can Save The Lives of Stray Cats

The biggest advantage of feeding stray and feral cats is that you can save their lives. Especially, in a country like India where food is scarce even for humans, the situation for cats is even worse. 

Since there are almost no efforts from the government to improve the lives of street cats. They lack food, shelter and health facilities. 

Our companion animals are struggling to calm down their stomachs every single day. Many of them die out of hunger due to the unavailability of food. So, by feeding stray cats you can save the lives of many who might die of hunger otherwise. 

These people agree that this may lead to a further increase in their population there are very few animal shelters in the country and many of them exist only in big cities. So, what about the starving cats of towns and villages should we allow them to die?  

#2. You Can Help Them Improve Their Health.

Even if stray cats somehow manage to survive by arranging food for themselves and their kittens, a large number of them still suffer from malnutrition and diseases. 

We take care of our pet cats by giving them nutritious food or by not feeding them what is bad for their health. But, this is not the case with stray cats. They eat whatever they find. Due to the intensity of hunger stray cats don’t care about whether things that they have found are good for them or not. As a result, they suffer from malnutrition, diarrhoea and many other diseases.

Considering this some people help stray cats by supplying nutritious food. In a hope that this would eventually help them to achieve good health and develop better immunity. 

#3. You, Will, Receive a Lot of Love in Return.

People also feed stray cats because they receive love from them in return. They say, “When you continue feeding cats over a long period, then gradually they would start becoming friends with you. You’ll see how quickly you have turned into their dad/mom from a mere stranger. They would wait desperately for you to come and feed them during a set time of the day. As soon as you step out of your vehicle you would find them surrounding you from all around; rubbing their bodies against you and making begging meows by looking into your eyes. All these gestures are signs that now you are someone whom they know and trust and want in their lives”.

#4. Feeding Stray Cats Can Help in Carrying Out TNR Programs.

Feeding stray cats can help in TNR programs. We will explain it in the next section. In fact, the TNR program is the right way to help stray cats without increasing their number. So you can become a  part of TNR programs and contribute financially or physically or both ways to help stray cats.

#5. Easy Adoption.

Feral cats can’t be tamed yet you can adopt a stray cat who are the offsprings of lost or abandoned pet cats. So, you can take any stray cat home from the group, with whom you have good bonding. This would be a win-win situation for both of you. Also, feral kittens can be tamed if you adopt them in the early stage of their lives.

The good thing is, adopting a cat from a street doesn’t require any paperwork which is a must when you adopt cats from adoption centres. This makes the adoption easy, quick and simple. 

The Right Way to Help Stray Cats: TNR Programs 

Sad and sick Stray Kitten Sitting on the rock
Sad and sick Stray Kitten Sitting on the rock

Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs aim to help stray cats by providing them with food, health checkups, vaccinations and medication while at the same time controlling their population. 

Under this program, stray and feral cats are first humanely trapped for their health checkups, vaccinations, surgical sterilisation and neutering and spaying. After that, they are again released to their familiar location. Also, some volunteers are assigned to keep a check on their health and provide them with a regular supply of food and water. 

This is the right way to help the stray and feral cat population as advocated by ASPCA and the Humane society. 

TNR programs have two major benefits: 

Benefits to Stray and Feral Cats:

As stray and feral cats get complete health checks, vaccination, and sterilization, and are spayed or neutered they tend to experience fewer health problems. Secondly, it reduces the risk of pregnancy which eventually controls their increasing population and decreases competition for scarce resources. 

Benefits to Humans:

First of all, it helps to control the increasing population of stray cats which ultimately reduces the burden on humans to take care of their feline neighbours. Secondly, it reduces the risk of transmission of diseases. Thirdly, less cat means fewer fights and this can secure the peace of people who have stray cats colony dwelling around their habitation. 

So, considering all the negatives and positives of feeding stray and feral cats and looking at the advantages of TNR programs it is time to look for any cat organisation or cat shelter that is working on this line and volunteer your services by contributing to their work.

What You Must Never Do 

Grey and white feral kitten in a poor condition sitting on the ground
Grey and white feral kitten in a poor condition sitting on the ground

There are people who instead of resolving the issue of stray cats contribute to complicating the problem further. Make sure that you are not one of them. Below are the points which explain how people can increase the problem of stray cats which you must avoid. 

1.  Abandoning Old and Sick Cats 

There are a lot of heartless people living in our society who first buy or adopt kittens for their own entertainment and when their cats become old or sick they abandon them. These poor cats suddenly find themselves in the midst of misery and suffering as they are not habitual of eating from trash and surviving in outdoor conditions. They also get attacked by native stray cats who don’t want to accept these abandoned cats in their territory. Many abandoned cats die due to such insensitive behaviour of humans.

2. Losing Cats 

Many cat owners don’t intentionally drop cats but they lost them. Therefore, you must keep your cats indoors. And if you want to take them to get outdoors then train them first to walk on a leash or make a cat-friendly backyard where cats can enjoy the natural environment safely. The lost cat would either join the stray cats’ population, become a victim of any accident or be attacked by other animals such as dogs and raccoons.

3. Don’t Feed Cats for One or Two Days and Forget

Many cat enthusiasts out there for some days and then forget about them. Know that when you feed stray cats they become habitual of getting easy meals. When you suddenly, stop feeding them they would have no idea of where to find food as a result they have to starve for days. So, if there is no cat organisation or government-run TNR program in your city or town and you have decided to feed stray cats then do it with responsibility.

Now as you know have decided to become a part of volunteer in TNR programs or feed stray cats yourself. Let’s explore the options that you have to feed them. 

Foods You Can Feed to Stray the Cats

If you have decided to become a part of the TNR program and feed stray cats from now onwards, you have two ways to go. First, you can feed them with human food and the second is to feed them with cat food.

In this section, I will briefly suggest some human foods that you can give to your cat. 

Non-Veg Food to Feed Stray Cats

#1. Boiled Chicken, Lamb, Meat or Beef

Non-veg food is the best option to feed stray cats. Just bring meat, chicken, lamb or beef; wash and then boil. Boiling will make it easily digestible and kill the disease by causing germs. Also, you can take mince instead of pieces of chicken or meat. But make sure that you won’t add spices to it. Just boiled meat/lamb/chicken is the best.

If buying beef, lamb or chicken seems costly then you can go to the chicken shop and ask for internal organs or by-products such as the liver, heart, and paws. Humans don’t usually eat these organs but cats do. So this is an economical option when you have to feed 4-5 cats daily. 

#2. Boiled and Meshed Eggs

The next food that you can give to cats is boiled eggs. These are pretty economical too. All you need to do is bring eggs; give them a nice boil and then mesh them after removing their shells. Purr-fect! 

Now, go directly to your feline friends on the streets and give them this nutritious food. Eggs are a good source of protein. 

But egg yolk contains a lot of fat. So, give them eggs only occasionally or give them just the egg white without the egg yolk.

#3. Tuna 

The next human food that your furry friends can enjoy(only occasionally) is tuna. Tuna is rich in protein. Plus it contains essential fatty acids. However, you can’t feed tuna regularly since it may cause mercury poisoning and some cats get addicted to it too. Also, some tuna packs contain too much salt so ensure that the one that you are giving to cats is not too salty.

#4. Fish

A better option than tuna cans is fish which is available in the local fish markets in a great variety and at a cheaper price than canned tuna. 

Just like meat and chicken, you need to boil the fish before giving it to cats. Fish is a superfood for cats. It contains a lot of protein which is required for the proper development of cats. 

In addition, fish also contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and taurine which are essential for the skin, hair and eyes of cats.

#5. Prawns

Prawns are seafood that is easily available in fish markets and they are cheaper than fish. So, boiled prawns(without ingredients) can become a diet for stray cats. Remember, prawns are deficient in fats and are not considered a balanced diet for cats. So it is advisable not to give prawns to cats daily. 

Vegetarian Foods That You Can Feed to Stray Cats

Before you give vegetarian food to cats, remember that cats are obligate carnivores. They need animal protein for their proper growth and development. Grains are rich in carbohydrates which are difficult for cats to digest. This may cause vomiting, loose stools, upset stomach and even diarrhoea. 

However, there are some plant-based foods that you can give to cats sometimes in small quantities. Let’s have a look at some of them.

#1. Rice

Boiled rice without oil, seasoning, spices and oils can be given to cats by mixing it with boiled chicken, fish or prawns. Rice can also help in calming down an upset stomach. However, don’t make it a regular diet. Too much rice can cause digestive problems and malnutrition in cats.

#2. Pumpkin

According to Pet MD pumpkin is a good source of fibre, vitamins A and C, and zinc. It helps to prevent digestive problems and hairball formation. Pumpkin also helps cats in improving the health of their skin and coat and improves vision. 

You can feed the pumpkin to cats directly taking it out of the can. I want you to avoid a pumpkin can that contains flavours and spices. The second opinion is to feed boiled pumpkins by removing their skin, pulp and seeds. Thirdly, you can prepare a mix of pumpkin, meat, chicken and fish to make a delicious fusion diet. 

Too much pumpkin, on the other hand, can give rise to digestive problems. So, it should be given only in small quantities or occasionally.

#3. Sweet Potatoes

Cats can eat sweet potatoes if they are boiled, steamed or cooked without seasoning oils. Just like pumpkin sweet potatoes are a good source of fibre that can help in preventing hairball formation and digestive problems. 

Feeding sweet potatoes to cats is only okay when you give them in moderation. As you know, sweet potatoes have a lot of carbs. And, our fluffy friends are bad performers when it comes to digesting carbs. 

This infographic shows vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods that you can feed stray cats
This infographic shows vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods that you can feed stray cats

How Much to Feed a Stray Cat? 

Well, it depends on the life stage and health of the individual cat whom you are feeding. In general, kittens in the age range of 8 to 16 weeks need 3-4 meals a day which would sum up to +60-70g in the entire day. Junior cats of more than 1-year-old need 80g(⅔ cup) of food daily. Which can be divided into two meals(40g + 40g). Adult cats need 40-60g(⅓ to ⅔  cups) of food which is less than what kittens need. Kittens need more food than adults because they are in a growing phase and hence require more protein for the growth of their bodies.

I advise you to go through the feeding guide given at the back of the cat food to avoid any confusion.

Tips for Feeding Stray Cats

1. Street cats might not trust you in the beginning when you put food in bowls.  They might run away as soon as you approach them to offer food. So, it’s better to feed on cardboard pieces or paper for some days. Once, the cats start trusting you, then you can use feeding bowls.

2. Never place meals of cats too close to each other. This may give rise to a fight among them. Placing meals at safe distances will give a chance to weak and submissive to have what they need without getting beaten by the dominant cats.

3. Fix a cup or measuring spoon for measuring the quantity of food. This will help you to give an appropriate quantity of food every day.

4. Airtight containers and jars are the best to store cat foods. This would prevent the food from getting spoilt early. 

5. Always keep a paper bag, garbage scooper and broom with you to clean the place after the meals. 

Where to Feed Stray Cats?

The place where you feed stray cats should be at some distance from the residential areas. Because some residents might not like your act of assembling stray cats near thier housing. Hence, it’s better to avoid objections. 

Also, make sure that this place is safe from dogs and other bigger animals who may harm cats. Some stray and feral cats are fearful o humans too. Therefore, ensure that the spot has low human traffic so that the stray cats can have their meals freely.

The backyard of your house, vertical spaces, gardens, or empty chairs are some good places where you can feed stray cats.

Can I Feed Stray Cats Milk?

No! You can’t feed stray cats milk. Cats are obligate carnivores and they are unable to digest milk because of the absence of an enzyme called lactase. Lactase is the necessary enzyme” to break down “the lactose” present in milk. So it’s a no. You may read our post ‘Can Cats Eat Cheese, Milk or Dairy Products to know more about this.

What Do Stray Cats Eat?

Stary cats mostly eat from the trash, garbage bins and open pit. If you want to contribute to the TNR and want to feed them human foods then you cat give them boiled chicken, fish, boiled meat, meshed eggs, prawns, and meshed pumpkin with meat or chicken. If you want to give commercial food then Drools and Whiskas are the best choices available in the market at present.

Do Stray Cats Eat Biscuits?

NO. Biscuits are not good for cats whether they are pet cats or stray cats. Biscuits are made with flour which is rich in carbohydrates. Cats find it extremely difficult to digest carbs which may lead to stomach-related problems, hard stools and vomiting. Therefore you should not give biscuits to stray cats.

References: 

https://endpethomelessness.com/downloads/State-of-Pet-Homelessness-Index-India.pdf

https://www.petmd.com/cat/nutrition/benefits-pumpkin-cats

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