Ever wondered why we feel more appetite in the winter months? That is because our body burns more calories to keep us warm. The same thing goes on in the cat’s body.
In winter months, cats require more calories to keep themselves warm and healthy.
For pet cats, pet parents keep checks on what they eat and if their diet is appropriate or not. On the other hand, feral cats are on their own and they work to feed themselves and their diet is not supervised.
As human beings, even when we set up feeding shelters, not all of us take the brunt of educating ourselves on the fact about foods that could provide more sustenance to cats or keep them warm in winter.
Instead, we even feed them food that could be very harmful to them, like milk.
To find out more about all the essential and harmful foods that you could be feeding your friendly neighborhood cat, keep reading the article.
- Cats require more calories in the winter to keep themselves warm and healthy.
- Feral cats may hunt small animals or scavenge for food in dumpsters.
- Wet food is easier for cats to digest and provides more warmth than dry food.
- Cooked rice with scrambled eggs or sweet potatoes can be fed to cats as a quick meal.
- Some foods should be avoided, including those containing xylitol, chocolate, grapes or raisins, fatty foods, macadamia nuts and walnuts, bones, alcohol, raw dough, seeds and pits from fruits, caffeinated products, avocado, onions, and garlic.
- Instead of sharing holiday meals with cats, it is safer to offer them small amounts of skinless chicken or turkey breast.
What Do Feral Cats Eat In Winter?
Feral cats face the worst as the weather progresses to get cold. They try to find shelter near places where they can get a steady supply of food. You can do the bare minimum by feeding these cats.
This could lessen the burden stray cats have to bear, and it would save a lot of their energy too.
Feral cats generally eat whatever they find around in places like dumpsters or hunt small animals like mice, rodents, etc.
According to Dr. Nicole Frey, Extension Assistant Professor, Utah State University Extension,
“Cats are very efficient predators, eating a variety of species of animals, including frogs, salamanders, snakes, and small mammals such as mice, and birds.
Predation on native species is not limited to strays and feral cats; even house cats that are fed a healthy diet will kill wildlife,”Dr. Nicole Frey, Extension Assistant Professor, Utah State University Extension.
Hunting is a leisurely activity for them, and it also serves as a form of exercise. Cats are known to do it more for the fun of it rather than seeing it as a method of food gathering.
Apart from hunting, feral cats use the feeding stations people set up in their homes or that are set up by animal shelters.
Must Read: Do Cats Eat More In The Winter?
What Can I Give My Stray Cat In Winter?
You can feed the feral cats canned wet food, which is known to digest easily and requires less energy to digest than dry food. Wet food also feels warmer than dry food.
In addition, for a quick meal, combine plain cooked rice with scrambled eggs or sweet potatoes. These foods aren’t harmful to the cat, and they would also help it keep warm in winter.
Dr. Lori Teller, a clinical associate professor of telehealth at the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, says that some foods should be avoided altogether, especially those containing xylitol.
Winter months have lots of holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. The meals prepared for these holidays are quite delicious for humans but could be damaging to the cat’s body
“Traditional holiday cooking and baking ingredients also can be dangerous for pet consumption.
Some such items include chocolate, especially dark or baking chocolate; grapes or raisins; fatty foods; macadamia nuts and walnuts; bones; alcohol; raw dough; seeds and pits from fruits (such as apples, apricots, cherries, peaches); caffeinated products; avocado; and onions and garlic,” says Dr. TellerDr. Lori Teller
She suggests that instead of giving any of these off your plate, if you want to feed your cat some of the food, you could offer it a little skinless chicken or turkey breast cut into portions depending upon your cat.
Chicken or turkey bones could be harmful to cats. The bones may cause cuts or splinters in the cat’s digestive tract.
To avoid that, it is advised to keep those out of reach of your cat in a secure and inaccessible place for your cat.
Foods to feed feral cats in winter
|Canned wet food||Easier to digest than dry food and feels warmer to eat.|
|Plain cooked rice with scrambled eggs or sweet potatoes||A quick meal that is not harmful to the cat and helps it keep warm in winter.|
|Skinless chicken or turkey breast||Can be cut into portions and offered as an alternative to harmful foods. Does not contain bones that could be harmful to cats.|
Foods to avoid feeding cats in winter
|Chocolate, especially dark or baked chocolate; |
grapes or raisins;
macadamia nuts and walnuts; bones;
seeds and pits from fruits (such as apples, apricots, cherries, and peaches);
onions and garlic
|These foods can be dangerous for pet consumption and can cause health problems for cats.|
|Traditional holiday cooking and baking ingredients||These ingredients, often used in dishes prepared for holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, can be dangerous for pet consumption and can cause health problems for cats.|
|Ham||Contains high levels of salt and fat that can be harmful to cats.|
Interesting Read: How Do Stray Cats Survive Winter?
How To Keep Feral Cats Food From Freezing?
If you decide to feed stray cats in your neighborhood in winter, you may face the issues of frozen food and water.
In winter, food kept outside in feeding stations for cats or other stray animals generally freezes. A person’s efforts are wasted if they keep food that does not even serve the purpose.
To prevent any of these, here are a few tips to keep food in the feeding stations from freezing for your cats:
- Use a microwaveable heating pad. This makes the job seem effortless, as all you need to do is put the heating pad in the microwave. This keeps the food additionally warm and unfrozen.
- Try to set up feeding stations in sunny areas. If the stray cats accept the feeding station, try to set it up in sunny areas. The heat from the sun, if it does not keep food warm, would be enough to keep the food from freezing.
- In feeding stations, feed dry food because it does not freeze. But dry foods take too much of the cat’s energy to be digested. But if there is no alternative, you can feed the stray cats dry food.
- Give the cats enough food, but only what they’ll consume within about half an hour. Leftover food may draw pests and complaints, so clean up whatever the cats don’t eat.
How To Keep Water From Freezing For Feral Cats?
Along with food, water in feeding stations freezes too quickly. Even more than food, it is required to keep the water unfrozen.
Here are a few things that could help keep the water from freezing
Electrically Heated Bowls:
Water bowls that could be electrically heated are available on the market. These bowls will heat the water and keep it warm and unfrozen.
All you need is an electrical source to plug these bowls into. These may seem like the best options, but they are electrically operated, which is never a good option if involving an animal, especially unsupervised ones. There are just so many things that could go wrong.
These are good options to keep the water from freezing. Styrofoam is known to retain heat and is also used to build cat shelters.
It is a fact that moving water is hard to freeze, so if it is possible to make an arrangement that ensures that the water keeps moving like a dripping tap, it could prevent the water from freezing.
You could use a rubber ball that floats on the water to keep the movement going.
Keep Warm Water Nearby
If you are keeping water for cats, keep warm water in the first place, it would take some time to cool off, and if possible, check on it and keep changing the water twice a day.
Changing the water frequently also prevents the deposition of algae and does not attract diseases.
Interesting Read: How Cold Can Cats Survive Outside?
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you feed your cats milk?
Contrary to general belief, cats are lactose intolerant. Milk is not good for them. Even though they like drinking it, it is not good for their health and causes digestive issues for them.
Can you feed chicken to stray cats?
In small amounts. Boneless chicken can be fed to cats. Bones inside their bodies can cause splinters or cuts inside their bodies, which could be fatal for them.
Are heating pads necessary for feeding stations for cats?
No, heating pads are not necessary for feeding stations You can use other alternatives for warm food in your feeding station, like styrofoam containers.
The diet of feral cats is made up of whatever they find in the dumpster or the occasional small animal, regardless of what it could mean for their health they eat for survival.
Even we human beings do not educate ourselves before setting up feeding stations for cats and feeding them whatever we think is best for them. If you decide to set up a feeding station, you should keep some things in mind.
In terms of feeding, it is easy to procure cat food from your nearest pet store. You can even get variety in the types; it can either be wet food or dry food. If you don’t want to buy something easy foods like rice, oatmeal, pumpkin, etc.
What you should not be giving your cat is milk, chocolate, chicken with bones, etc. whatever tastes good to you does not mean it tastes good to your cat.
It is also noticed that in extremely cold places, the feeding stations’ set-up doors cannot prevent the food and water from freezing. To prevent that, you can use methods like solar warmers, heating pads, microwaveable bowls, etc.
When people get pets, they educate themselves about their feeding habits and other things, but when it’s about feral animals, they don’t bother much. What type of person are you?
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