Feeding ferals and discouraging intruders

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Feeding ferals and discouraging intruders

Updated Dec 21, 2021

Dear Cathy,

I have two feral cats. Pigeons are trying to take the cat food. I have to bring it in before the cats can finish. Also, do you have any suggestions for better food? I give them “complete” dry food twice a day. When I give them canned food, the cats suck out the juice and leave the rest. Sometimes, they will eat chicken. I have had them for seven years so far, but they are much too thin.

– Mary, Las Vegas

Dear Mary,

Food left outside will attract other animals, but there are a few things you can do to protect it from interlopers.

First, set up a bird feeder. When given a choice between cat food and seeds, fingers crossed, the pigeons will choose the seeds.

Second, if these feral cats are in your backyard or if these are the only feral cats you feed daily, then feed at the same time every day and stick around and watch them eat, so you can pick up the food when they are done. It may take a few weeks, but the cats should learn to show up as soon as you arrive and to eat before you go.

Finally, put the food bowls in a small dog house or use a large upside-down plastic container with an entry hole cut into the side that is large enough for a cat to enter.  Most birds will not feel safe venturing into such a closed space, so it will give cats a private area to eat. You can leave the food out longer if it’s protected, but don’t leave it out all night as that might attract rodents to your yard.

As for food, feed feral cats the best dry and wet foods you can afford. Break up the wet food, so they don’t just suck out the juices and will actually eat some of it. You can offer them human grade tuna fish and Mackerel, boiled chicken, and turkey as an occasional treat, but don’t feed it to them all the time. They need nutrients, especially taurine, which are found in commercial cat foods.

If they look sickly though, you may want to trap them and take them to the vet. Many illnesses could make them lose weight and look malnourished. 

Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, children’s author, syndicated pet columnist, and pet expert with more than 30 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to cathy@petpundit.com. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal

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Cathy Rosenthal, CHES, CFE
Animal Welfare Communications Specialist

Cathy brings more than 25 years' experience in the animal welfare field. She is a sought-after speaker, Certified Humane Education Specialist, a syndicated pet advice columnist, an author, a publisher, and of course - a loving pet parent.

Read more about Cathy here or check out her Non-Profit's page to see more ways she can help you and your organization.

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