Every cat deserves a healthy and nutritious diet. Unfortunately, feral cats don’t have access to the same food resources that house cats have, which means that their diet is often less than perfect.
Just because a cat is feral doesn’t mean that it doesn’t still depend on humans for help. If you are the caregiver of a feral cat colony, you know how important your work is. Each and every day you provide food and care for cats who might otherwise have nothing. As noble as your calling is, you still have to be practical about it.
Caring for one cat can be expensive, let alone a whole colony. So, how do you provide your colony with healthy food without breaking the bank?
Keep reading to learn the basics about feeding a feral cat colony and choosing the best cat food that provides the right balance of quality and price.
Understanding the Nutritional Needs of Feral Cats
All cats have the same nutritional needs whether they live on the streets or in a cushy condo.
Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that their bodies are designed to derive nutrition more efficiently from animal than from plant sources.
What does this mean? All cats need meat in their diet! Protein is the most important nutrient for a cat and should make up at least 26% of its diet (30% for kittens). That protein should come from quality animal sources like meat, poultry, fish, and eggs.
In addition to protein, cats need healthy fats in their diet for energy and for skin and coat support. Again, this nutrient is best from animal sources, and it should comprise at least 9% of a cat’s diet.
Having a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is particularly important for healthy skin and coat.
But what about the needs of feral cats?
Feral cats have the same basic nutritional needs as house cats, but there are some practical considerations to be made.
Protein is essential for all cats to maintain lean muscle mass, but feral cats tend to need extra fat in their diet to provide calories.
When every meal is a struggle, it is important to maximize the calorie and nutrition content of each meal. Balanced nutrition is also important for feral cats because they often feed on scraps between meals, which may not provide essential nutrients.
Also Read: Best Cat Food
How to Balance Quality and Price
People who care for feral cats often think of the cats as their own, even if they aren’t. Just because a feral cat doesn’t live in your home doesn’t make it any less deserving of your attention – or of a healthy and well-balanced meal. But how do you balance the cost of caring for an entire colony of cats, while still providing quality nutrition?
Shopping for cat food to feed a feral cat colony can be a challenge because there are many factors to consider.
First and foremost, you want to choose a product that contains high-quality ingredients and is nutritionally balanced.
This means finding a product that lists a quality animal protein as the first ingredient, and contains other sources of healthy nutrition such as supplemental proteins, animal-based fats (like chicken fat and salmon oil), vitamin and minerals, and other beneficial supplements.
To find a cat food that provides decent nutrition at an affordable price point, stick with simple recipes made with nutritious but affordable ingredients.
Chicken is one of the most affordable proteins for cat food. For the sake of price, you may need to choose a cat food that contains grains, though it is best to stick with digestible options like brown rice and oatmeal.
Make sure the recipe is complete and balanced in terms of nutrition, but you might need to forgo pricey supplements like chelated minerals and probiotics. It’s all about balance – choose the highest quality product you can consistently afford.
Another way to maximize your quality-to-price ratio is to buy in bulk. Online pet food retailers like Chewy, offer competitive prices with additional savings for automatic shipments. You can also find decent quality cat food in bulk at big box stores like Costco and Sam’s Club. You may also be able to find quality cat food brands for less at stores like Tractor Supply Co.
The Top 5 Cat Foods to Feed Feral Cats
The best food for feral cats is one that is nutritionally balanced but still affordable. Animal-based proteins and healthy fats should be a priority, and the recipe should be highly digestible as well, to ensure that the cats absorb as much nutrition as possible. Beneficial supplements like chelated minerals and probiotics are a bonus, but if you’re shopping by price, you may need to set them aside.
Here are five excellent cat food options, that offer an ideal combination of quality and price:
If you’re looking for a decent quality cat food you can buy in bulk, try 4Health All Life Stages from Tractor Supply Co. This particular recipe contains animal proteins like chicken, salmon, and eggs with fruits and vegetables for nutritional support. It provides 34% protein and 18% fat, plus it’s supplemented with vitamins, chelated minerals, and probiotics, but manages to be affordable. You can buy an 18-pound bag for $21.99.
Though you’ll need a Costco membership to buy it, this Kirkland Signature Maintenance Cat Chicken & Rice Formula is an affordable option that comes in a 25-pound bag. This recipe contains real chicken as the main ingredient, for a total of 30% protein and 20% fat. It contains digestible whole grains and is supplemented with vitamins. A 25-pound bag costs $19.99.
Available through both Chewy and Amazon, Rachael Ray Nutrish Natural Dry Cat Food offers decent quality at an affordable price point. In addition to this natural recipe, Rachael Ray also offers grain-free formula, peak performance recipes, and specialty diets for longevity and indoor health. Each recipe is made with real animal protein and digestible carbohydrates, plus it is free from corn, wheat, soy, by-products, and fillers. A 14-pound bag runs about $18.99 on Chewy.
If you’re looking for a natural cat food that will provide the protein and energy feral cats need, try this Diamond Naturals Activate Cat Chicken Meal & Rice Formula. This recipe is made with real chicken as the main ingredient and contains fresh fruits and vegetables for nutritional support. It is free from by-products and artificial additives but does contain beneficial vitamin and mineral supplements. Plus, it contains a whopping 40% protein and 20% fat. An 18-pound bag costs $25.99.
This product is available on Chewy, and it is formulated for both adult cats and kittens, which could be a benefit for feral cat colonies. It features high-quality chicken meal as the main ingredient with no by-products or artificial additives, plus it contains vitamin and chelated mineral supplements for nutritional balance, but still manages to stay affordable. Overall, it provides 32% protein and 14% fat. A 15-pound bag costs $16.99.
Caring for a colony of feral cats is no easy task, especially during the winter. By finding the right balance between quality and price, you can provide your colony with a nutritious diet that will sustain them through the cold months, without breaking your budget. Keep up the good work!