Best Cat Food for Strays

Do you have a stray Tom coming into your backyard every now and then?  If the wandering kitty isn’t afraid of you, then it’s probably a stray cat; a cat who once had contact with humans and may now be lost or abandoned.  Otherwise, the kitty coming to your yard may otherwise be someone else’s cat who is often let outdoors, or it is quite possible s/he may be a feral cat.

Best Cat Food for Strays - Fluffy Kitty

Don’t know whether the wandering cat is a stray or feral cat?  As mentioned above, strays are usually lost or abandoned cats who are used to human contact (in most cases).  Feral cats on the other hand, are cats who were born “wild” and basically grew up fending for themselves out in nature, with little to no contact with human love.

Regardless if the visiting cat is a stray or a feral cat, there are some things you can do to help him/her live a healthier, happier life.  For starters, let’s discuss what’s the best cat food for strays (or any visiting cat).


In this article:

  • What to do (type of food to give, the best cat food for strays)
  • What not to do 
  • Extra tips

What to do

Type of food to give stray/feral cats

If you do not have a cat and therefore have no cat food in the house, do not abandon ship.  You can quickly whip up some plain cooked chicken and rice as this is actually a great meal for your little friend.

However, if you do have cats, then luckily you’ll already have some food to offer the hungry stray.  A good quality food, either dry or wet (canned) will do just fine.  Just make sure to pay attention to the number one ingredient.  Avoid meat by-products as the first ingredient, and grains like corn meal that are listed as the top 1-3 ingredients.  Offering stray or feral cats a healthy, balanced meal is just as important as feeding your own beloved house cat a healthy, nutritious diet.

Giving the best cat food to strays (on a budget)

It’s highly probable that most people are unlikely to buy expensive, high-quality cat food just to feed the stray(s) that show up now and then at their house.  We understand what it’s like to be constantly on a budget, so spending extra cash that you don’t have on a wandering kitty is just not on people’s priority list.  We get it.  So here is why we’ve suggested two of the best dry and wet cat food options that offer stray and/or feral cats a healthy balanced and nutritious meal without breaking the bank.

FoodPriceQuantity Highlights 

$ 24, 3-ounce cans Real meat as the first ingredients (Chicken, broth, chicken, liver..)

Very affordable

Balanced, nutritious option

$$16 lb bagReal meat #1 ingredient, no soy, corn, or wheat

The best for your buck

Premium nutrition

Antioxidant blend

(Click images to see pricing detail and customer reviews on Amazon).

What not to do

Many people make the mistake of thinking that stray cats (because they are living off nature mainly) can or will eat anything given to them.  Please note that this is incorrect and could actually pose a bigger health risk to the stray if you were to offer him/her human foods that cats cannot eat. For more info, check out our article on human foods that cats can eat.   The food you give does have a large impact on the cat’s health, so please keep in mind that “just because” they are stray and/or feral, their stomachs are not accustomed to eating everything and anything.

Do not give up on the stray.  The stray or feral cat may depend on the nutrition that you provide.  Many strays are not used to hunting and catching their own food like perhaps their feral cousins are, so therefore you can expect a stray to stick around and keep returning to be fed.

Best cat food for strays

Extra tips for feeding stray or feral cats

Cleanliness is key: It’s important to not just throw out food to the stray cat assuming they will know where to find the scattered bits.  Rather, you should provide clean bowls for both food and water. Any bowl will do fine, but the number one rule is to clean it daily, or even several times a day.  Place the bowls somewhere where adverse weather conditions cannot reach.  Always provide fresh, clean water as the bowls get slimy and sitting water can gather mosquito eggs and other unwanted bacteria or critters.

Also do not “top up” fresh food onto food that has already been sitting (dry or wet).  If you notice the cat is not eating all of the proportions you provide then consider providing a little less.

how to introduce two cats

Love & be loved: A stray / feral cat is just like your cat but one that is not receiving any human love.  But you can change that!! Cats only meow at humans, so next time don’t ignore that pitiful cry – they are indeed talking to you! They may be a little wary or scared by your touch at first, but after you build their trust they will loving come to you.

If the cat is adoptable, consider speaking to the local animal shelter, getting him/her spayed or neutered, and finding kitty their forever home! (Maybe your home???) 🙂

Otherwise, if you’re feeding a scared feral cat (who is not used to human contact) it will be harder to find this cat a permanent home.  It is most likely however, that feral cats will even be very uncomfortable living in a shelter as they are just very unaccustomed to human contact.  For answers to frequently asked questions regarding strays and/or feral cats, visit the US humane society’s website.

Final thoughts: Best cat food for strays

Remember, strays can be helped more than by the food that you give them.  Most strays are adoptable cats who are yearning to be loved again!  When possible, do more than just feed a stray.  Offer him a warm bed to sleep in, too!

Folks, you have the power to make a change in the lives of our furry friends.  Help spread the word (and love) that strays and ferals are just like the cats you spoil within your home except they lost out on the lucky card somewhere along the way.  Give animals a second chance!

Most importantly, let’s spread awareness of the great importance of spaying/neutering cats, whether it’s your indoor pet, the traveling tom, or a feral.  There are many ways you can help!

Thanks for your support with Fluffy Kitty!

Please note that this blog is in affiliation with the Amazon Affiliates Program, a program that allows us to finance this (awesome) cat blog and to spread the kitty love. By clicking on our product links and buying through Amazon, you help us toward this goal! Please feel free to contact us if you have questions, comments, or other inquiries.

Sincerely purrs,

Brittany, Paul, and Yoda =(^^)=

16 Comments

  1. Julie Tamayo said:

    Hi, I take care of a colony of 20. they all have been TNR. I do not want to make my own cat food. What is the cheapest but yet good for the cats dry and wet cat food brand that you recommend. also any other advice on taking care of ferals. I have TNR and beenfeeding twice a day for 4 yrs now.

    April 29, 2018
    Reply
    • Wow hi Julie, thanks for taking care of so many amazing kitties! So, I can imagine how $ it must be to take care of that many ferals. What have you been feeding them? So I rechecked the latest prices of some of the cheapest, good quality cat food. I avoid Friskies, Meow Mix, and 9 Lives entirely. Those have corn and corn meal as the first ingredients, where meat by-product is down the list.

      Those are the cheapest wet/dry cat foods available, but we don’t recommend Friskies, Meox Mix, 9 Lives, etc.

      We do recommend foods where protein is the #1 ingredient: aka “Chicken” “Salmon” “Turkey” etc. From our research of the best good quality (not Blue Buffalo or Orijen great), here is what we found (prices may vary from the time of writing):

      Dry:
      -Purina One Tender Selects offers around $22 for 16 lbs, or $29-30 for 22 lbs.
      -Rachel Ray’s Nutrish natural cat food offers around $19-21 for 14 lbs.
      -Purina Beyond’s “Simply” is around $20-21 for 13 lbs.
      -GOODLIFE is approx. $18 for 16 lbs.

      These are the (best) cheapest we could find online.

      As for wet food:
      -Purina One’s grain-free is around $18-20 for 24 x 3oz cans.
      -Purina’s Fancy Feast is probably most popular and is probably the cheapest at around $13-15 for 24 x 3oz cans. The ingredients label mentions several meats as the first few ingredients, which is a good sign. But compare the ingredients to Purina’s “Muse” wet cat food at around $28-30 for 24x3oz cans and you can see a big difference in the ingredients and quality.
      -R. Ray’s wet cat food is $19-20 for 24 x 2.8 oz packs.

      I hope these estimations are helpful. Again, if you want the absolute cheapest, these aren’t them. But these are the cheapest with decent quality. If you look at the ingredients and compare, you can easily see how a couple extra dollars improves the quality.

      We are not experienced in taking care of ferals, so you probably know more than we do about that! Getting them familiarized with you and human contact is never a bad idea though 🙂 You could consider domesticated them and adopting them out to homes. It would take extra work for you so we understand if that’s not an option. Nonetheless, many thanks for caring for all those kitty cats! Please let us know if you have any more questions and good luck!

      May 1, 2018
      Reply
  2. Mary Escobar said:

    Hi , I feed about ten stray cats that gather on my porch each nite. It is getting expensive so I am wondering how to give them good food at a reasonable price. Any help will be appreciated some of them have let me pet them . One of them I took to be fixed . So I am hoping to get more of them fixed soon. I have a cat bed out on yhe porch and one of them sleeps in it at nite. Also are there any weather proof beds to get for the winter . Lots of rain here no snow. Thanks for any help. I love that Amazon is helping with the animals. My daughter works for Amazon.

    November 12, 2017
    Reply
    • Brittany, Paul, and Yoda =^^= said:

      Hi Mary ! Thank you for your message and sorry for the late reply. Thank you for taking care of those kitties! We understand this can turn into a financial burden after some time. The cheapest cat food brands are not great for cats health, but when your faced with either feeding them with cheap food or letting them go hungry, it can blur the lines a bit. We would suggest trying to make your own cat food, it can take a little more time, but you’ll save money (and it’ll be healthier for the kitties too). I don’t know about your location and your market options there, but I know quite a few people who go to the butcher and ask for the leftover cuts of the chicken (fat, bone, grissle, liver, hearts, etc.) or the meat that didn’t sell at the end of the day — this way you can get it for very, very cheap. My friend Marcela broils the leftover chicken for her cat, and then freezes it and thaws out portions every few days. This usually lasts her two weeks! With this, you could combine this healthy portion of protein with rice and/or unseasoned scrambled eggs to “fluffen” up the proportions. Have you considered setting up a GoFundMe page for food and (at a later time, possibly funds for spaying/neutering?) We really thank you for what your doing for the feral cats, but you don’t have to do it alone! Try to reach out to the community. Best of luck to you and thank you for helping them!

      November 19, 2017
      Reply
  3. Nikki said:

    Hi, I just met one mom Siamese cat with her 2 kitties I give them some chicken and water but they are afraid of me. Once they saw me coming out the door they will run away, but I want to help feed them. I don’t know what I must do to gain their trust.

    October 29, 2017
    Reply
    • Brittany said:

      Hello Nikki! Did you happen to see any sign of collar or identification on the mom? Siamese strays are rare (but not impossible), so we’re thinking she and her babies could belong to a neighbor. Otherwise if they are hungry and in need of care and keep coming around, the best way to earn their trust is with patience. Your scent will be everywhere, for instance on the food and water bowl you provide, so little by little they will start associating food & water with this nice lady 😉 Best of luck!

      November 1, 2017
      Reply
  4. Robin A McGee said:

    Hello,
    I am feeding 22 feral cats. Problem is there is so many I cannot afford to keep this up. Please do not reply the obvious have them spayed or neutered. I am trying. I just need a reply what is best inexpensive food I can buy for them. I hate to go the cheapest at the supermarket because it will be all grain. In all honesty I am not working so finding it difficult. All the shelters are full because they are getting animals from Houston and Florida disaster and nobody wants cats. No agencies to help so I am reaching out for suggestions.
    Thank You,
    Robin

    September 28, 2017
    Reply
    • Brittany said:

      Hi Robin,
      Thanks very much for your message. Kudos to you for taking care of all those kitties! We understand this can turn into a financial burden after some time. As you said, the cheapest cat food brands are not great for cats health, but when your faced with either feeding them with cheap food or letting them go hungry, it can blur the lines a bit. We would suggest trying to make your own cat food, it can take a little more time, but you’ll save money (and it’ll be healthier for the kitties too). I don’t know about your location and your market options there, but I know quite a few people who go to the butcher and ask for the leftover cuts of the chicken (fat, bone, grissle, liver, hearts, etc.) or the meat that didn’t sell at the end of the day — this way you can get it for very, very cheap. My friend Marcela broils the leftover chicken for her cat, and then freezes it and thaws out portions every few days. This usually lasts her two weeks! With this, you could combine this healthy portion of protein with rice and/or unseasoned scrambled eggs to “fluffen” up the proportions. Have you considered setting up a GoFundMe page for food and (at a later time, possibly funds for spaying/neutering?) We really thank you for what your doing for the feral cats, but you don’t have to do it alone! Try to reach out to the community – maybe you all could fund this project together in response to the natural disasters that caused this overflow of shelters, etc. Also, if we could play a role in helping you share the word – don’t hesitate to let us know. We’d be happy to. Best of luck to you!

      October 2, 2017
      Reply
  5. Katie said:

    Hi! Under the porch of my neighbor’s house (which is right by my dad’s car), there is a mother cat living with about 4-6 kittens. I found them today and I’m pretty sure they are strays. I’ve put out a bowl of clean water and when I came back about thirty minutes later, the bowl was empty. I refilled the bowl and now I’m wondering what I should do. Any advice? And can I tell if they’re definitely strays?

    September 11, 2017
    Reply
    • Brittany said:

      Hi Katie! Thanks for dropping by and for providing for the kitties so far! Have you tried asking your neighbors if they are the owners of the momma cat (and now kittens)? Try asking around, but if no one claims them, then they would seem to be strays indeed! If you can keep an eye on them and make sure they seem healthy – that would be great. Eventually when they are a bit older (around 8 weeks) you could give them to your local shelter so they can be adopted out, spayed/neutered, and find a loving home! We wish you the best 🙂 Thanks again and keep us updated!

      September 12, 2017
      Reply
  6. Oriana Figueroa said:

    So I have been feeding this stray or feral girl. She was pregnant, I don’t know where her kittens are yet. She was so afraid that she would run as she heard me opening my backyard door. Once, I managed to go outside and gave her some boiled chicken breast. She would eat and stay close but wouldn’t let me touch her, she only shows up at night. Once she just came at me and even start purring and finally let me touch her. I don’t know what to do since her babies must be like a week old. I’d love to get her to the vet. How long should I wait?

    August 8, 2017
    Reply
    • Brittany said:

      Hi Oriana, thanks for reaching out! It seems like this sweet new momma is warming up to you and is starting to trust you, that’s a great sign! As for her babies, it’s difficult to say. They could have already been taken to a shelter, or have wandered off far from mum (but I’m sure they aren’t too far away since they are so young). The momma cat may guide you to her babies! It’s happened before, so if she continues to trust you, watch where she goes! Is her condition bad or could she wait to get to the vet a few more days? You should call and ask your vet, say you want to bring the mom in but you don’t know where the babies are, etc. Will you consider adopting her after?:) We hope you can find the kittens and get mom all sorted out as soon as possible. Keep up the great work for looking out for neighborhood cats though! 🙂 Thanks for sharing with Fluffy Kitty and best of luck.

      August 9, 2017
      Reply
  7. Bella said:

    We have a stray cat that comes to our house everyday, and is there for most of the day. He is very friendly, likes to be pet and LOVES human affection. We feed him tuna every once in a while and dry cat food. Sometimes he sleeps on the front porch, and tries to get in the house. Why do you think he tries to get inside, and do you think adopting might be a good option?

    July 22, 2017
    Reply
    • Brittany, Paul, and Yoda =^^= said:

      Hello! Thanks for stopping by. From what you say, it seems that this cat has already adopted you 🙂 Your home smells like you and he/she probably identifies it as a safe shelter since you have been taking great care of him/her. If you are ready to take him in be sure to do it step by step to ease the transition. Maybe let him come in one room only at first and see how he does. Let us know how it goes, we’d be happy to hear about you and your new friend! Take care

      July 25, 2017
      Reply
  8. jane said:

    I am feeding a feral cat who loves to talk but is afraid of being close I sit and talk to the cat when I feed her or him not sure which… but the cat loves to talk but will not allow me close or it will not come close but will walk beside me when it comes to the door morning and evening time for its meals. I have two glass bowls I use to feed this cat and wash then out… this poor cat didn’t know how to eat out of a bowl so I cooked chicken and topped the dry food . and was not use to water bowls so now this cat is drinking the water during and after meals. after two weeks of food has put on weight. I can not catch it to take to the vet for shots or spay or nuture … it is much too afraid. I went to pet smart and bought some cat toys it doesn’t know what a toy is much too afraid … I keep trying to get it use to a feather on a stick but it looks at me like I am crazy… but seems to like me talking to it.i can not stand for a animal to be hungry or unloved. as I have two sweet little dogs that are my children. this poor cat has never known love as you can tell. how sad!

    October 7, 2016
    Reply
    • Brittany, Paul, and Yoda =^^= said:

      Thank you very much for sharing your experience! It seems like you have already done a great job by feeding him 🙂 Maybe you could try and feed him out of your hand so he can get used to you and build the trust with this little guy. We love to hear stories like this and we understand how you feel about hungry or unloved animals. Thanks for making a difference! Do not hesitate to come back and tell us more about your love for cats.

      October 12, 2016
      Reply

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