What to Feed Stray Cats

A white and black cat lying on a wood
Photo via Helena Jacoba (CC BY 2.0)

Many cat lovers wish they had a whole building to shelter all cats in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, the real world doesn’t allow that. However, what you can do is to make sure they spend the night happily with a full belly. 

Still, you should make sure that you don’t turn your good intentions into bad influences on the stray cats by accidentally feeding them something that harms their sensitive stomachs. So, what to feed stray cats? 

Cat food is always a great option. You may also feed them cooked, unseasoned chicken or beef. You can even get away with feeding them some Tuna (with some precautions).

Stray cats will accept most outdoor cat foods you give them, but for their health, you need to know what shouldn’t you feed them as well. Stick around to know more!

What Can You Feed to Stray Cats?

When it comes to feeding stray cats, it’s essential to provide them with nutritious options that cater to their dietary needs.

Stray cats can benefit from various food sources, including some human foods. Let’s explore the options to nourish these feline friends and promote their health and happiness.

Cat Food

Cat food, whether wet or dry food, is a suitable option for feeding stray cats. Commercial cat foods are formulated to provide the necessary nutrients for feline health. Dry kibble and wet food combined offer a balanced diet with essential vitamins, animal protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and omega-6 fatty acids.

They are designed to meet the nutritional needs of cats and can be a convenient and nutritious food source for stray felines. Always ensure clean water is available alongside the cats’ food to keep them hydrated. Cats can only survive for about 3 days without water, vs about one week without food. So water is even more essential!


Feeding stray cats chicken or beef is a good option, but it’s essential to offer them cooked meat without bones. Cooked boneless chicken or beef provides a protein-rich source of nutrition.

Also, avoid feeding them raw meat, as it may carry potential health risks. It’s best to offer them small portions of cooked chicken or beef to avoid stomach upset and ensure a balanced diet.


Feeding stray cats tuna can be an occasional treat, but it should not be a regular part of their diet. Tuna lacks essential nutrients that cats need for optimal health.

Additionally, avoid feeding them canned tuna meant for human consumption, as it contains additives and high levels of sodium that can be harmful to cats. Instead, offer them canned tuna specially formulated for cats, and only in small amounts to avoid potential health issues.


Eggs can be a nutritious addition to a stray cat’s diet. Cooked eggs, such as scrambled or boiled, provide a good source of protein and essential vitamins. However, avoid feeding them raw eggs, as they may contain harmful bacteria like Salmonella.

Offering eggs as an occasional treat can provide variety to their diet and offer essential nutrients. Remember to serve the eggs in small portions and consult a veterinarian if you have any concerns about their dietary needs.

Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes can be a safe and nutritious addition to a stray cat’s diet. Cooked sweet potatoes offer vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. However, it’s essential to mash or puree them to make them easier for cats to digest.

A white cat sitting on a street plant pot
Photo via @dobby2013_daily

Avoid adding any seasoning, butter, or oils. Sweet potatoes should only be given in small amounts occasionally, alongside their regular balanced cat food. As with any new food, observe how the cat responds, and consult a veterinarian if you have any concerns about its nutritional needs.


While oatmeal is safe for cats to eat occasionally, it should not be a significant part of their diet. Oatmeal can provide some dietary fiber and nutrients, but it lacks the essential amino acids that cats need.

If you choose to offer oatmeal to a stray cat, make sure it is plain and cooked with water, not milk or sugar. Small amounts of oatmeal can be mixed with their regular cat food as an occasional treat, but it should not replace their balanced diet.

Canned Fish

Canned fish, such as tuna or salmon, can be a tempting treat for stray cats. While it’s okay to offer them canned fish occasionally, it should not be their main food source.

Offer canned fish as an occasional supplement to their regular diet of cat food and other protein sources to ensure a balanced and healthy diet. As mentioned above, canned fish is sodium-laden and spiced, and not fit for a cat’s diet.

What Shouldn’t You Feed Stray Cats?

There are certain foods you should avoid giving stray cats. Some human foods can be harmful or even toxic to cats, so it’s essential to be cautious and provide them with safe and nutritious options.

Avoid foods that may upset their stomachs or lead to serious health issues, and always prioritize their well-being when deciding what not to feed them. Here are some examples of foods you shouldn’t feed stray cats:

Most Veggies and Fruits

While some fruits and vegetables may seem like a healthy option, most of them are not suitable for stray cats. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they primarily require animal-based protein for their nutrition.

While small amounts of certain veggies and fruits won’t harm them, too much can lead to an upset stomach. It’s best to stick to a diet rich in animal protein and essential nutrients.

Dog Food

Do not feed stray cats dog food, as it lacks the essential nutrients that cats need for their health. Cats have specific dietary requirements, and dog food doesn’t meet these needs.

Dogs are omnivores, so dog food lacks the proper balance of protein, amino acids, and other nutrients vital for cats.

Feeding them dog food regularly can lead to malnutrition and health issues. It’s crucial to provide cats with a balanced diet specifically designed for their nutritional needs.

So while dog food is out, an important area to keep dogs in mind would be taking active steps to keep dogs out of the cat food you’re providing. The same with ants.


Feeding stray cats milk isn’t recommended as many adult cats are lactose intolerant. The majority of adult cats lack the enzyme lactase needed to digest lactose properly, leading to digestive issues like upset stomach, diarrhea, and bloating.

Offering milk to stray cats can cause discomfort and potential health problems. Again, provide fresh water to keep them properly hydrated and avoid any adverse reactions.

What to Do Before You Approach and Feed a Stray Cat?

Side view of a man holding a cat at street
Source: Catza.net

Before approaching and feeding a stray cat, it’s essential to take some precautions to ensure both the safety of both you and the cat.

Stray cats may be wary of humans and could react defensively if they feel threatened. By following some simple steps and guidelines, you can create a positive and safe environment for both you and the cat. Who knows, this new companion may follow you home, and you can set up an outdoor cat house for him!

Approach Cautiously

When approaching a stray cat, it’s crucial to do so cautiously and calmly. Stray cats may be wary of human interaction and can become frightened easily. Avoid sudden movements or loud noises that could startle the cat.

Instead, approach slowly and speak softly to let the cat know you mean no harm. Give the cat space and time to observe you before attempting to offer any food. Patience and gentleness are key when dealing with stray cats to build trust gradually.

Look for Microchips

Before feeding a stray cat, check for the presence of a microchip. Scanning for a microchip can help identify whether the cat has an owner and is lost rather than a feral cat.

Many stray cats may have been pets at some point and could have a microchip that contains contact information.

If you find a microchip, try contacting the registered owner to reunite them with their lost pet. This step ensures you’re not unintentionally keeping a lost cat away from its home.

Check for Any Injuries

Before feeding a stray cat, check for any signs of injuries or illnesses. Observe the cat from a safe distance and look for limping, visible wounds, or abnormalities in its behavior.

If you notice any injuries, consider seeking assistance from a local animal shelter or a veterinarian. Stray cats are vulnerable to numerous health issues, and addressing their medical needs is essential. Approach with caution and prioritize the cat’s safety while assessing its condition.

The Verdict

In conclusion, feeding stray cats requires careful consideration of their nutritional needs and potential health risks. Providing a balanced diet with appropriate sources of protein, such as wet cat food or cooked meat, will go a long way for them!

Fresh water should always be available to prevent dehydration. Avoiding harmful foods like dog food, milk, and most veggies and fruits is essential to safeguard their health. When approaching and feeding stray cats, be cautious, check for injuries, and look for microchips to help them in the best way possible.

Remember, responsible feeding and compassionate care can make a significant difference in the lives of these furry friends, promoting their optimal health and well-being.

(Featured image: @dobby2013_daily)

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