Most people associate cats with milk, so when a stray cat appears around their home, they believe they are helping by placing a bowl of milk outside. What most do not realize is that although cats might like milk, it is not necessarily good for them – particularly as they grow into adulthood.
Before elaborating on this topic, know this:
The best thing to offer a stray cat to drink is a bowl of water. In winter, warm the water a little as this way it will take longer for it to freeze in colder weather. Although cats will lap up milk if it is given to them, milk is not really good for them, so avoid it if possible.
Should You Give Stray Cats Milk?
The image of cats drinking milk is one that most of us have seen in cartoons, books, or in movies, but while milk may be more appropriate for kittens, it can be upsetting for the stomachs of adult cats. The reason for this is that as they grown, cats lose their ability to digest the lactose found in milk. This is due to their intestinal lactase decreases dramatically.
In fact, many adult cats are lactose intolerant so if they drink milk will suffer with problems such as vomiting or diarrhea within around eight to twelve hours of doing so. In light of this then, what should, or what do stray cats drink?
It is much better to give a stray cat water instead of milk. If you do place a bowl of milk for a stray, do not be surprised to see it lap it up eagerly as it will undoubtedly like the taste. But as mentioned above, milk is not good for adult cats. If truth be told though, it is not really the ideal drink for stray kittens either.
While kittens do drink milk when young, it is milk from their mother. Cats milk contains far less lactose than cow or goat milk, so is easier for kittens to digest. And even though kittens have much higher levels of lactase in their stomachs than adults do, they too can be affected by diarrhea when given cow’s milk.
If you find a stray kitten(s) near to your home and believe they have become separated from their mother, you can help them to grow by providing cat milk, which can be bought quite widely nowadays. For adult stray cats, a bowl of water is by far the best choice for a drink.
How Else Can You Help Stray Cats?
Stray cats differ from feral cats in that strays are typically previously domesticated cats, whereas ferals are wild. It may be that the stray has been lost or abandoned. They are typically used to human contact and will therefore be friendlier than feral cats, who, as they have been born and raised in the wild, have had little to no contact with humans.
If you notice a cat hanging about your home, it is likely that it is a stray looking for food. There are several ways you can help a stray cat. The first would be to provide some food and water. As you now know from above, although cats might like to drink milk, water is a kinder and healthier option.
But what do stray cats eat? The obvious choice would be cat food, but unless you already own a cat, you are unlikely to have a tin of cat food lying about. So what else can you feed a hungry cat who has found its way to your door?
There is likely to be plenty of food in your home that a stray would enjoy – many of which might never occur to you. For example, did you know that cats eat eggs? Or that it is okay to give them plain rice or sweet potato?
It is best to feed cats meat though as they are obligate carnivores. This means that they need meat to survive. For cats, eating meat is not a choice, it is a necessity. If you have meat such as chicken, lamb, or beef in your house, a bit of this is ideal. You can also give tuna and cheese to a stray cat as these are good sources of protein, which cats need.
It is important to know though that there are certain foods that you should not give to stray cats. In fact, some foods can be toxic to cats and could potentially cause issues such as sudden kidney failure. Food that should not be given includes grapes and raisins. Foods such as garlic, onions, chives, raw potatoes, avocados, and green tomatoes should also be avoided as they can all make cats ill.
While you may have seen stray cats eating from a dog’s bowl before, feeding dog food to cats is not recommended. A small amount will not harm a starving cat, but it would be unwise to use this as a main source of food as it will not meet the nutritional needs of the cat.
Pet food is designed for the animal in question, and dog food is not nutritionally sufficient for cats as it does not have the required protein, vitamins, or fatty acids the cat needs.
Reuniting Stray Cats with Owners
Not all stray cats have been abandoned; some might just have strayed too far from home and are unable to find their way back. Many will have anxious owners searching for them, praying for their safe return.
In the first instance, the best thing to do with a stray (after providing it with food and water), is to contact a local vet. Some cat owners get their pets microchipped so that if they ever get lost, it will be easier to trace them. If you have a way of taking the cat to a local vet, it could be scanned and checked for a microchip.
You may also want to place posters in the surrounding area advising that you have found a stray cat and leaving your contact details. Social media is also be great for getting the word out.
What to Do with Abandoned Strays
Not all cats are lost and unable to find their way home. Unfortunately, there are some individuals who abandon their pets. This is tragic as the cats are then forced to fend for themselves in an environment that they are just not used to.
While feral cats have been born and raised in the wild, a domesticated cat will have no experience of surviving in the wild or fending for itself. Instinct will kick in and the cat will hunt for food, but a domesticated animal will find it difficult to survive without human intervention. It is for this reason that many stray cats find their way to neighborhoods and homes, in the hopes of being given a tasty meal.
You have a couple of choices when it comes to abandoned strays. You can feed them and offer them a home if you are that way inclined, or you could contact your local rescue center.
Rehoming a Stray Cat
If you do decide to take on the stray cat, it is important to learn more about its requirements. In general, cats need love, shelter, and food; if you can provide this, you will be in a great position to give a cat a happy home.
You do not need much equipment for a cat; if you are keeping the cat indoors, you will need to buy a litter tray and litter. You will also need feeding a bowl, but you may have plastic containers already that will be suitable.
Cats do not require special beds as they are adept at finding a warm spot, but there are special cat beds that you can buy if you wish. You can even go to your nearest pet shop or look online for toys and scratching poles; the cat will love you even more if you do this!
Remember, all a stray cat is looking for is love and attention and someone to take care of its basic needs.