A cat walking along the edge of a wall with houses and boats in the background.

Should You Feed Stray Cats?

It is not unusual to come across a wild animal that you take pity on and wish to help in some way, no matter how small. Most people have an innate desire to help their non-human neighbors if they can. This can be evidenced by a number of factors, like the inclusion of bird houses and bird baths alongside food thrown out for birds. By people feeding a stray cat or dog they came across. And by people being so willing to adopt a kitten or a puppy they found by itself.

However, some of you might realize that once you start feeding a stray cat, it will make a habit of paying you a visit nearly every day. Now, this isn’t a bad thing of course, and many people would actually like it a lot. And the stray won’t just be coming over for free food; in most cases, the stray cat will become tamed enough that it would seek your attention and try to cuddle with you for extended periods of time. But, should you be feeding these cute little strays, or are there unforeseen downsides to doing so?

Wild Cats are Perfectly Capable of Hunting for Themselves

Wild Cats are Perfectly Capable of Hunting for Themselves

One of the most motivating factors you may have for feeding a stray cat, if not the most important one, is that you fear the cat may not be able to feed itself without your help. This is actually not true at all. Cats, as you are most likely very well aware of by now, are hunters through and through. They are predators at their core, as this is what they have evolved to be.

If the cute stray outside your door is mewling for attention and looking at you with an innocent, begging face, you would be hard pressed to ignore it. However, just to put you at ease, if you don’t feed the cat, there is a very negligible chance that it would starve. Even household cats that have never had to hunt in their entire lives are quite capable of doing so when left outdoors or abandoned by awful owners. So, if worries of a stray cat not finding food were the main reason you fed it, rest assured that your fears are unnecessary. This is an important thing to understand and consider when deciding to feed a stray cat.

There is No Real Harm in Feeding Stray Cats

There is No Real Harm in Feeding Stray Cats

Now, to move on to the meat of the problem; is there any actual, tangible harm that can result from having fed stray cats. No, no there is not. That is the simple answer of course. Other factors often play into this matter, and can complicate the whole situation. For one, some places actually have laws against feeding wild animals. These laws are usually in place to curtail an ever-growing feral population, but can also feel like a cruel thing to subject the local animals to. Keep in mind though, if you ignore these laws and do feed stray cats, your neighbors might not appreciate it, and you might just get reported for doing so.

Let’s discuss some of the other issues that can possibly arise from feeding stray cats, as these are the things you will need to consider when deciding to feed a stray

You May Get Sick: This is one of the most important things to consider when deciding to feed a stray cat. For the selfless and kind hearted of you out there, this might seem like a non-issue at first. What’s a little fever in return for feeding a helpless stray animal, right? Unfortunately, a mild case of fever is not the only possibility. Feral cats have to live through the muck and filth as they try to survive amongst a variety of problems, not least of which are other, less helpful humans. This means that the stray cat you might be closely interacting with is quite likely to have crawled through spaces that can make you violently ill. Alongside dangerous parasites, there is even the possibility of rabies. Not fun.

Local Wildlife May Suffer: We don’t deny that cats are hunters by nature, and thus need to, and most definitely will, kill smaller animals in the area for sustenance. That is just the unfortunate reality of the world we live. Life has evolved to feed on itself, and the animal kingdom is full of suffering. However, some places around the world didn’t originally have cats, and their inclusion into the ecosystem of that place via pet owners and other immigrants that brought along cats has negatively impacted the local wildlife of the area. It might seem extremely cruel to wish death upon the stray cats in the area to save the local animal population, but some people definitely do, and go out of their way to not help a stray cat survive. Question is then, are you one of those or not? Because this will no doubt influence your desire to feed stray cats.

Stray Cats Breed Fast: Another reason some places have laws against feeding stray cats is because stray cats breed quite fast, and can quickly set up a large population of wild cats. In the past, this “problem” used to be combated by catching these stray cats and euthanizing them. Now however, a better way exists. Wild cats can be taken to be neutered or spayed. This way the cat doesn’t need to be put down, but also does not contribute further to the growing population. Now, if you’re not willing to put in that effort, but are also concerned about the local wildlife and how it might be taking a hit from the cat population in the area, you might not want to feed stray cats. No matter how bad that makes you feel.

You Will Have to Care for It Going Forward: And lastly, if you do decide to start feeding one or more stray cats, you must also get ready to keep feeding it further down the line. Once a stray cat knows it can get fed at your place without the hassle of having to hunt, expect it to come calling every day. There will also be the possibility of more stray cats noticing you feeding one of their own, and for them to start begging for some food as well. If you are okay with taking on this responsibility, go wild. If not, it would be better to refrain from feeding them in the first place.

Conclusion

In the end, it really comes down to the local law, your neighbors, and you yourself. If the law is okay with it and so are your neighbors, then the decision to feed stray cats falls on you. If they are not okay with it however, you may have to make them come around to it or just give up on the whole thing entirely. And of course, the best course of action would be getting stray cats neutered and spayed, while also continuing to feed them, as this will lead to a win-win situation for everybody. If you’re interested in reading about how domestic cats came to be, we’ve got just the article for you. And if you want to know if you’re getting anywhere with that stray cat you’re feeding, take a look at our post on how cats show affection towards humans.