If you are wondering how your local colony of stray cats is surviving, the answer may not lie on the porch stoop of your cat-loving neighbor.
While feral cats are often fed by rescue groups and compassionate neighbors, they also have excellent hunting and survival skills.
Of course, large breeds of wild cats, such as lions and panthers, have never seen a can of cat food. And yet, these felines fare well in the wilderness.
But, what about the smaller supposed-to-be domesticated cats?
Are their options limited to dumpsters and occasional dry cat food? Or do they still possess the hunting and foraging skills of their larger, wilder counterparts?
What Do Cats Eat in the Wild?
Cats are carnivorous, so they will hunt small animals, such as squirrels, rodents, and birds. They’ll also feed on reptiles, and may occasionally eat insects. Surprisingly, feral cats don’t eat much fish but may consume figs or berries. Larger wildcats and bobcats are known to eat bats and rabbits.
Domesticated Cats Maintain Their Hunting Instincts
Domesticated cats have become spoiled. Since their food is provided for them daily, they’ll just lounge around the house contently waiting for their next meal — unless they are allowed to roam outdoors, become lost, or are abandoned by their owners.
Then, their hunting instincts kick in.
Even though they aren’t necessarily hungry, domesticated cats will still hunt small prey, such as mice and lizards, in the house or out in the yard.
Instead of eating their prey, they may leave it on their owners’ doorstep to show appreciation for the food and shelter provided.
Once a previously domesticated cat becomes feral, it may lose its trust in humans and need to brush up on its hunting instincts.
While they may frequent dumpsters or gravitate towards a specific Good Samaritan who feeds them regularly, they’ll have trouble thriving.
Eventually, they may team up with a colony of feral cats and begin to primarily eat small prey, such as squirrels, rodents, and lizards.
What Do Cats Eat in the Wild
Food Type #1: Feral Cats Hunt Small Prey in the Wild
Technically speaking, feral cats are considered to be wildcats — even though they look just like your average housecat.
While they may have previously been domesticated, most often, they were born and raised as strays, so their survival instincts are strong.
Feral cats mainly eat birds and small rodents, such as mice. If they are in a rural environment, wild rabbits are likely a dietary staple.
Surprisingly, domesticated and feral cats rarely eat fish, but would likely enjoy this delicacy if they were near a stream.
So, why do you see so many feral cats crowding around alleyway dumpsters? It’s certainly not because they don’t know how to catch their own food.
The diet of wildcats is dependent upon what food is available in their surroundings.
If they are left roaming around a city, they’ll eat scraps and mice, but if they are near a field or wooded area, they’ll have more opportunities to hunt.
Cats are known to consume anywhere between six to ten birds or mice per day in the wild.
Food Type #2: Cats May Eat Insects and Berries in the Wild
Cats do not prefer insects as part of their diet, but if they are hungry enough, they will resort to consuming insects in the wild. After all, insects are a source of protein – albeit a not very tasty one.
Cats will also occasionally eat carrion, berries, and figs, but if you ever see a cat munching on wild berries, you can bet that they were practically starving.
Although cats are carnivorous, they’ll eat whatever they must in order to survive.
Food Type #3: Larger Wildcats Eat Bats and Rabbits
Yes, there is an actual breed of cats that are known as wildcats, but the term wildcat also encompasses bobcats and smaller feral cats.
When speaking of cats that are bred in the wild, their diets are far more diverse than that of a domesticated or feral cat.
They are known to eat plenty of vegetables, including carrots and pumpkins.
But they are still carnivores with perfectly honed hunting skills.
While they may occasionally eat birds and rodents, they usually go for the larger — more filling — prey, such as bats and wild rabbits.
And, yes, these cats do consume a fair number of fish.
Frequently Asked Questions about What Cats Eat in the Wild
How should your cat’s food be provided?
Ideally, cats should be fed two smaller meals per day, but if you serve dry cat food, free-feeding is fine. Since cats are so independent, it’s natural to assume that they’ll eat whenever they feel like eating.
What food is best for felines?
Cats eat meat, so a diet that consists of either cat food or cooked meats, such as chicken or turkey, is best for cats. However, some people advocate giving domesticated cats a balanced diet that includes vegetables – or at least cat food that contains vegetables.
Can cats drink milk?
Surprisingly, cats are usually lactose-intolerant, so consuming cow’s milk can cause them to have digestive issues. Instead, cats should be given plenty of water. Water is the only drink they need.
Afterword: What Do Cats Eat in the Wild?
Surely, you’ve seen lions and tigers attack and devour unsuspecting antelopes on television — that is if your stomach could handle the image and you didn’t quickly flip the channels.
So, it shouldn’t surprise you that wildcats, such as bobcats and mountain lions do the same.
But the feral cats in your neighborhood and outdoor domesticated cats also have superior hunting skills.
While domesticated cats, like you Siamese cats, will likely kill mice for sport, not hunger, feral cats will hunt and eat small prey in the wild, depending on their environment.
Even though feral cats can hunt for their own food, it’s still only decent to set out a bowl of food for them.
After all, if they are in your neighborhood, they may not have access to much prey, and that bowl of cat food may come as a welcome relief.