Not much to report today as in no dramatic change in behavior with Rupert and that’s a good thing, so I wanted to talk a little bit about food.
Food is a hotly debated subject in the cat world, but what we do know to be fact is that cats are meat eaters and they suffer terribly when fed grain-based diets, mostly notably they get diabetes and obesity, which leads to a host of other illnesses.
Feeding feral cats is a bit different from feeding housecats. Feral cats are opportunists. They do what they need to do to survive and so they will eat pretty much anything if they need to. My cat colony showed up to eat the cheap dog food I was putting out to keep the raccoons out of my bird feeders. That said, it’s not healthy for cats to be eating crap food, including dog food, but in wild cats this really isn’t a problem as they are just supplementing their real diet in the lean times, and by real diet, I mean MEAT: mice, birds, rabbits, frogs, snakes, and my Moon loved to eat those huge crunchy crickets.
When you bring a cat indoors, they no longer have access to the all-important MEAT part of their diet, so it’s monumentally important that we feed them a grain-free, meat-based diet that is low in carbohydrates: 4% or less.
The shit that makes us fat also makes cats fat because carbs are addictive.
- A cat on a high carb diet will be hungry all the time.
- A cat on a high carb diet will gorge themselves.
- A cat on a high carb diet will get fat.
- A cat on a high carb diet will have insulin issues.
So when deciding to take in a feral cat, you’ll want to be sure that they are eating good and proper food. Grocery store food is out. Sorry. But trust me, spending now on good food will save you later in medical bills. That goes for humans too.
And this is where things get a bit tricky because if you’ve had a cat, you know that they are notoriously difficult when you try to change their food. The unknown might be poison. This is instinctual behavior. I’ve seen many feral cat rescues end with the cat being let go because they went on a hunger strike as soon as they came into the house. It can happen, but there are ways to prevent this sort of thing. Please keep in mind though that the cat will probably not eat on trap day, or vet day. It’s just too stressful, and the vaccines generally knock them down for a day anyway. But you don’t want the hunger strike to go more than a few days. So how can you mitigate the issue?
- Make sure that what they were eating outside is exactly what you are offering inside.
- Free Feed, which means leaving food available all day and all night in the room, as initially, trapped cats will only want to eat when you aren’t around and they should be allowed to do that in the beginning.
We fed our ferals any old cheap food. This isn’t something to feel guilty about. It’s expensive and we don’t want to pay $50 for a bag of food only to have it scarfed up by raccoons and skunks and opossum, who love cat food by the way. However, we don’t want our rescue cat eating crap/cheap food indoors.
The best way to go about this transition is to start outside 6 months or more in advance. It’s easier to transition them to the new food that way as they can still catch meat when they need it. Winter and early spring are the easiest times to do a transition because the cats need more supplementation during cold weather.
Feed them the food you’ll be feeding them on the regular, and you’ll want canned and dry. Moon does not like canned food no matter the price tag, and most canned food has too high of a mineral content for him due to his stone making thing. I free feed Young Again Mature and supplement that with Friskies special diet. Canned food is enormously helpful in administering meds. If they get put off the canned food because of the meds, they’ll still eat the dry. Only mix meds with one type of food so that you have a backup if they refuse it.
And don’t worry about leaving food out all the time. If you feed a meat-based diet, they won’t over eat. I know this from experience.
Being proactive like this means that when you bring your feral kitty into the house there will be something in the room that is familiar and comforting to him. Instinct is how cats survive. They will not generally eat something foreign no matter how desperate they are. You don’t need to deal with a hunger strike on top of everything else.
Water is also an issue with feral cats, but I’ll talk about that tomorrow.
Need to know the Protein, Fat, and Carb ratio of most major cat foods, use this chart. It also gives you Phosphorous content for those cats that produce crystals and stones. Go with a high protein low carb diet that is grain-free and you’ll be ok. And don’t concern yourself with the dry versus canned debate. Don’t make yourself mental. You need them to eat, so do both.