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What Do Feral Cats Eat in The Wild? Vet Reviewed Facts & FAQ

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	Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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There’s no unilateral definition of what a feral cat is, but in general, it’s said to be a type of feline that’s not domesticated, prefers living outdoors, and often avoids human contact.

These cats are normally considered mesopredators in their ecosystems and are most active after dusk—thus, nocturnal. In addition, owing to the fact that they breed dozens of generations annually, conservationists find them devastating to wildlife.

It seems like the feral cat community has a stable supply of food in the wild, to encourage their rapid growth in population. They will go through garbage and eat rodents amongst other things. Read on below to find out more about what some of those food sources could be.

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The 6 Foods That Feral Cats Eat in The Wild

1. Small Rodents

Feral cats, and all cats, are obligate carnivores—their body metabolism and gastrointestinal tracts are all designed to efficiently digest meat. Of course, they can survive without it, but they won’t be healthy.

Our feral friends love hunting rats, mice, squirrels, and all the other rodents that are of similar appearance and size. This is actually often beneficial to humans, as they can help us manage the rodent population in regions that typically offer optimal conditions for their growth. Rodents have never been considered human-friendly, seeing as they spread diseases and damage crops.

black and white young cat looking at a mouse outdoor
Image Credit: 165106, Pixabay
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2. Birds

It’s no secret that feral cats are opportunistic hunters. That’s why we’re not surprised to learn that they are able to prey on birds. According to the National Audubon Society, we have approximately 60 million feral felines in the U.S.1 According to some research, they are the chief cause of the extinction of more than 33 bird species in the world.

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3. Reptiles & Insects

Besides birds and rodents, feral cats will feed on insects and small reptiles. This includes certain worms, crickets, and even cockroaches. If they come across a snake or lizard they’ll pounce on them, bite the head off, and carry them back to their feeding grounds.

Kitten with a dead cockroach beside
Image Credit: GooseB, Pixabay
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4. Water

All animals need water to survive, including feral cats. In the wild, they’ll drink water from the river, pond, lake, pothole, manhole, etc. Some of those water sources aren’t always clean, and that’s why diseases often get them before they get to old age. The diseases are often caused by fungi, parasites, bacteria, and various viruses.

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5. Vegetables & Fruits

Feral cats don’t really need fruits or vegetables. Even though such foods have great nutritional value, meat is almost always a preferred option. But they’ll snack on grasses and plants occasionally.

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Image Credit: Iriska Ira, Shutterstock
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6. Garbage

We’ve all been woken up in the middle of the night by the noises made by raccoons and feral cats rummaging through our dumpsters or trash cans. They usually survive on our leftovers, especially during winter when the temperatures are too low and prey is scarce.

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Why Are Feral Cats Not Considered Apex Predators?

An apex predator should be at the top of the food chain. In other words, apex predators don’t have any known enemies in their ecosystems. But in the case of feral cats, they could be hunted, killed, and fed upon by owls, hawks, coyotes, and foxes to name but a few.

Can You Domesticate a Feral Cat?

Domesticating a wild or feral cat is a tall order. Some would even say it’s impossible, given they are not used to human contact. If you desperately want to tame one, a kitten is the easiest route. Teaching it how to be friendly towards other pets or people is not going to be easy, but your chances of succeeding are higher compared to those of an adult.

Are Feral Cats Nocturnal?

For the most part—these free-roaming cats have nocturnal tendencies. Any astute observer will be able to tell they prefer coming out at night when everybody’s gone to bed to sleep. They mostly rest during the day to avoid interacting with humans. If you see a feral cat out in the middle of the day, it’s either running away from a predator or too hungry to wait for dusk.

feral cats resting outdoor
Image Credit: Dimitris Vetsikas, Pixabay

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It’s okay to leave some food out for your feral guests, but just know they’ll keep coming back. And when they do, their present colony will be larger than the previous one. While it’s natural to want to help these cats by feeding them, in most cases, they are pretty adept at finding food on their own, even though it may not be as easy as the food consumed by domestic cats.

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Featured Image Credit: Krishna777, Shutterstock