Feral cats represent a growing problem, with estimates as high as 160 million animals roaming freely in our cities, suburbs, and rural communities. Unfortunately, these wild felines have taken a toll on birds, killing an estimated 2.4 billion each year. They’ve also played a role in the extinction of 142 animal species. You may wonder then why we’ve chosen to research the best cat food for feral animals.
The short answer is that it may help fix the issue.
A study by the University of California-Davis found that cats prefer to get their food without the work necessary by hunting for prey. Our round-up includes some of the best foodstuffs you can offer feral animals in your neighborhood with detailed reviews to help you choose the right one. The wildlife will thank you and maybe that malnourished feline, too.
A Quick Comparison of Our 2022 Winners
The 10 Best Cat Foods for Feral Cats
1. Purina ONE High Protein Dry Cat Food – Best Overall
Purina ONE True Instinct High Protein Dry Cat Food came out on top for our pick for the best overall best cat food for feral cats. It ticks off many of the boxes we like to see in these products that make them suitable for wild felines. It is nutritionally dense, providing more than adequate amounts of protein, fat, and Taurine. It comes in three sizes: 3.2 lbs., 6.3 lbs., and 14.4 lbs. That’s a good thing, given its shorter shelf life.
The calorie count supports the active lifestyle that is typical of feral cats. The food is also value-priced, making it less painful to feed the neighborhood strays.
2. Friskies Pate Poultry Canned Cat Food – Best Value
Friskies Classic Pate Poultry Platter Canned Cat Food is the best cat food for feral cats for the money. The food is affordably priced to help compensate for the lower calorie count. It is also on the bottom end of the spectrum for Taurine. We think that this product’s ideal use is to supplement a wild-caught diet. Its moisture percentage is in line with the recommended amount these animals should get.
Poultry is the first ingredient, making it highly palatable for even the pickiest of cats. While it’s tasty enough, we can easily see providing more than one can a day to a hungry feline. We think that this product can also work as a topper for dry food to extend its value.
3. Wellness CORE Turkey & Duck Wet Cat Food – Premium Choice
Wellness CORE Turkey & Duck Pate Canned Cat Food intrigued us with its interesting blend of protein sources. The latter may make it more palatable to fussy eaters since it may appear at least occasionally on the prey menu. The protein content is decent, especially for a wet product. The first four ingredients include various sources for optimal nutrition.
You can buy it in 3.5-ounce cans to prevent waste. That’s essential, given its higher cost. This food isn’t cheap. However, if you have a soft spot for the neighborhood’s feral cats, you can rest assured you’re taking care of them.
4. Sheba Perfect Chicken, Turkey & Beef Wet Cat Food
Sheba Perfect Portions Savory Chicken, Roasted Turkey, & Tender Beef Pate Cat Food Trays come in a multipack that includes these three flavors. The biggest selling point is the portion sizes. You can feed the cats as much or as little as they want to minimize waste. That makes it an even better value for the price. All three have decent amounts of protein, fat, and moisture. We just wish that the Taurine was a bit higher.
The protein content is decent, with several sources in each flavor. The ingredients also include fish oil to improve the skin condition of feral cats. That’s worth noting since these animals are more likely to have external parasite issues.
5. Royal Canin Feline Nutrition Wet Kitten Food
|Food Texture||Chunks in gravy|
|Calories||78 kcal/3-ounce can|
Royal Canin Feline Health Nutrition Kitten Food satisfies the needs of young feral cats to give them an excellent start in life. It comes in a highly palatable form to ensure that the little ones eat. While the calorie count may seem low, it’s more than adequate for kittens. It also meets their nutritional requirements and even exceeds them—if you follow the recommended diet plan that includes more than one can a day with age.
That makes this product expensive. However, you must balance that intel with the higher nutritional needs of kittens. They need more nutrients and more meals to maintain their blood sugar levels. That’s especially true with feral animals.
6. Fancy Feast Tender Beef & Chicken Wet Cat Food
Fancy Feast Classic Tender Beef & Chicken Canned Cat Food is well known for its palatability. It’s one reason that . A cat that is reluctant to eat may not turn up its nose to this one. We liked the fact that Taurine showed up early in the list of ingredients. However, we’d like it better if there was a bit more of it.
Meat byproducts are the first ingredient. However, that doesn’t distract from its nutritional value. All it means is that not from the first run of foods intended for human consumption. Instead, it extends the value of the meat by making nose-to-tail use a reality. It keeps the price affordable, which is beneficial, given the fact you’ll need to feed adult cats more than one can.
7. Cat Chow Complete Dry Cat Food
If you have a group of feral cats to feed, you can’t go wrong with the Cat Chow Complete Dry Cat Food. It is appropriately named since it delivers everything that felines need to keep them healthy and sated. The food comes in four sizes, from 3.15–20 lbs. Even at the larger size, it’s an excellent value that provides a high-quality diet for adult cats.
The calorie count is relatively high for a dry food. That is true for indoor pets, but it isn’t as much of an issue with feral cats that are more active. The nutrient levels are higher than the recommended amounts set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards.
8. Hill’s Science Diet Perfect Weight Dry Cat Food
Hill’s Science Diet Adult Perfect Weight Dry Cat Food pulls its nutrients from a wide variety of sources. That adds phenols or other beneficial chemical compounds to the mix from both meat and plant sources. While chicken is the main protein, the diet also draws from other foods to make it nutritionally complete. The nutritional profile balances health with weight maintenance.
The food has a higher calorie count that makes it appropriate for feeding to feral cats. The affordable price also helps. It comes in three sizes to meet the demands of your wild cat situation. We liked that it is a USA-made product.
9. Purina Pro Plan Chicken & Rice Dry Cat Food
Purina Pro Plan Adult Chicken & Rice Formula Dry Cat Food is a new formulation of an old standby. This one mixes up the ingredients to deliver a tastier version keeping its higher protein and Taurine content. It is highly digestible, thanks to its prebiotic fiber. The product also supports good skin health with its omega-6 fatty acids from cold water fish.
The diet comes in three sizes. The food is nutrient-dense, which makes it an excellent value when following the recommended diet plan. The calorie count is also high. It makes sense for feral cats that will benefit from the extra energy.
10. Wellness CORE Chicken & Liver Wet Cat Food
Wellness CORE Signature Selects Shredded Boneless Chicken & Chicken Liver Entree bills itself as a premium brand with its name. It succeeds in its protein profile that draws from several sources. However, its fat and Taurine contents are on the low side, making it less suitable for feral animals. While the protein is excellent, it’s a spendy choice, given the recommended diet plan.
The devil is in the details when you consider the use of the word entree. That means that the product can contain a mix of other ingredients in addition to the named proteins. If it meets an animal’s nutrient needs, we can overlook it.
Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Best Cat Foods for Feral Cats
Choosing a food for a feral cat isn’t unlike picking one for your pet. The difference is that a wild feline will likely have higher caloric needs because it’s more active. Hunting takes energy. Cats aren’t always successful, either. Domesticated animals are only lucky about 32% of the time, depending on the prey species and habitat. The meals that you give feral cats can supplement the nutrition that Nature isn’t providing.
You’ll benefit by having your personal pest control agent on-site to take care of any rodents. Of course, it’s also essential to weigh the costs of feeding the neighborhood cats and the value of what you’re offering them. Things to consider when choosing a food include:
- Food Texture
- Nutritional Value
- Protein Source
It used to be there were only two choices for cat food, wet or dry. The consumer-driven market has changed the playing field. Now, you’ll find various forms, such as moist kibble, frozen diets, and raw foods. On a side note, the American Veterinary Medical Association urges pet owners not to give their animals raw foods because of the risk of foodborne illnesses to them and you.
Not surprisingly, over 96% of cat owners feed their pets dry food if just for the convenience they offer over canned. They’re also usually less expensive than the latter. Other things often outweigh the type of diet you put out for the feral felines. Convenience and cost are usually the driving factors.
As with the type, the texture of cat foods has also increased. You’ll see kibble in various stages of dryness. The range is even wider in canned products, where you can choose from shreds to pate to chunks in gravy. Part of it has to do with the humanization of the market. Pet owners equate love with providing people-like foods for what they consider to be members of their families.
If you’re feeding feral cats in your area, then chances are you’re also putting out water for them. Felines differ from canines in that they are obligate carnivores. Meat is their primary source of food and water. Offering wild cats wet diets versus dry can provide additional moisture.
As we’ve discussed, hunting success is a hit-or-miss proposition for feral cats, despite the numbers that speak to the contrary. The chances are that if these animals start to depend on your handouts for food, it’s going to end up as the primary source of their nutrition. Therefore, it makes sense to provide the cats with a healthy diet that is complete and balanced.
It also means giving the felines a commercial diet that meets their bodies’ needs for Taurine. This chemical is an amino acid or a protein building block. Humans can synthesize it, making it non-essential. Cats, on the other hand, cannot. Usually, they would meet the requirements by eating animal protein. However, if you’re feeding the feral cats changes that factor, the food you offer must provide it.
The recommended range for Taurine is between 0.08–0.1. You’ll see the percentage on the pet food label to help you decide if it meets the necessary criteria for this nutrient. You can safely supplement the feral cats’ diet with Taurine if the amount is inadequate.
Many people associate cats with fish, thinking that it’s a natural choice for them. While some felines will hunt for these prey species, it often takes exposure to these foodstuffs before they’ll take them. The exception is the hungry animal that is typically less picky about what they eat. We mention this fact since it may affect how the feral cats accept the new food.
The essential thing is that the diet provides the necessary amount of protein, fat, and calories to satisfy the animal’s needs. Adult cats need a minimum of 40 g or 26% by volume of protein every day, preferably closer to 50 g. A healthy diet will include 22.5–82.5 g of fat or 9% by volume.
As far as calories are concerned, the feral cats should get 200 calories at a minimum. This figure reflects the needs of indoor cats that are likely less active than their wild counterparts. Nutritionally dense foods offer the best value for you and the animals.
Tips for Feeding Feral Cats
The best advice we can give you about feeding feral cats is that it’s a commitment. They will depend on you for food. We suggest weighing your decision about whether to start it carefully. The other thing to keep in mind is the care you must take when feeding an outdoor animal. Putting out food and water for the ones you want to help is liable to attract some unwanted visitors, too, such as rodents and other pests.
If you feed wet food to feral catsw, be sure to pick any uneaten up after a half-hour. We also suggest not leaving kibble for free-feeding. Instead, try to train the felines to come to get fed at a specific time. That way, you’ll avoid having other wildlife coming to your yard for a free meal.
After completing our reviews, Purina ONE True Instinct High Protein Dry Cat Food scored the top spot for its excellent nutritional profile. It will deliver everything that feral felines need for optimal health. We especially liked its high Taurine content. Friskies Classic Pate Poultry Platter Canned Cat Food also caught our eye for its value price that doesn’t skimp on quality nutrition.
Featured Image Credit: Southern Wind, Shutterstock