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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. So, what do stray cats drink then?
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 decreasing 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.
Lactose-Free Milk: An Alternative Option?
You might be wondering, since adult cats can’t digest the lactose in milk, could lactose-free milk be a potential substitute? The answer isn’t straightforward.
Pros of Lactose-Free Milk
On the surface, lactose-free milk appears to solve the lactose intolerance issue. It’s a form of milk where lactase, the enzyme cats lack, is added to break down lactose into simpler sugars. As such, your feline friend wouldn’t experience the usual stomach discomfort or diarrhea that regular milk might cause.
Cons of Lactose-Free Milk
However, providing lactose-free milk as a hydration source is not without its drawbacks. The primary concern here is that milk — even lactose-free varieties — can still contribute to obesity in cats due to its high-caloric content compared to water. Cats, especially strays, can quickly become accustomed to the sweet taste of milk and may start rejecting plain water, causing inadequate hydration.
A Balanced View
Lactose-free milk, in small amounts and as an occasional treat, could be okay for cats, but it should not replace fresh water as their main source of hydration. Cats have evolved to get most of their water needs from their diet, primarily from prey in the wild. In a domestic setting, this translates to canned wet cat food being a good source of hydration.
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.
Looking for Food
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.
Avoid Dog Food
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 cat’s nutrition needs.
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.
Potential Health Risks of Feeding Stray Cats
While the act of feeding stray cats is undoubtedly a gesture of kindness, it’s important to be aware of the potential health risks associated with this practice. Stray cats, unlike pets, have limited access to veterinary care and as such, may carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans and other animals.
One such disease is Toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease caused by the protozoan Toxoplasma gondii. It is commonly transmitted through feces, so indirect contact (for example, while cleaning a litter box or gardening) can lead to infection. Most people infected show no symptoms, but it can cause severe complications in pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems. Cats, especially those that hunt, are common hosts, though many won’t show any signs of being infected.
Feline Diseases and their Risks to Other Pets
Rabies is a virus that affects the nervous system and is deadly to both humans and animals. It’s rare for a human to contract rabies from a cat in countries where rabies in dogs is controlled, but it’s still a possibility, especially when dealing with stray cats.
Two diseases specific to cats but transmissible between them are Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV). FIV weakens the cat’s immune system, making it difficult for them to fight off other infections. FeLV, on the other hand, can result in cancer, immune system disorders, and anemia. Both diseases can be fatal to cats and can easily spread among a population of strays.
How to Minimize Health Risks
Despite the potential risks, it’s still possible to care for stray cats safely. A few simple precautions can greatly reduce these risks. Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling a stray cat, and take care not to be scratched or bitten. Regular vet visits for your own pets and keeping their vaccinations up to date can help prevent diseases from spreading. If you’re considering taking in a stray, it’s recommended to have them checked and treated by a veterinarian before introducing them to your home and other pets.
Remember, understanding the potential health risks doesn’t mean turning a blind eye to a stray in need. Rather, it equips us with the knowledge to care for these animals in a safer and more responsible way.
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.
The Role of Animal Shelters and Rescue Groups
Animal shelters and rescue groups play an incredibly vital role in ensuring the welfare of stray cats. These organizations offer a safe haven, providing care and rehabilitation for these often neglected animals, who have ended up on the streets due to various circumstances.
Services Provided by Shelters and Rescue Groups
These establishments offer an array of services that extend beyond just shelter. One of the most crucial services they provide is spaying or neutering. This procedure helps control the cat population by preventing the birth of more kittens who may end up homeless. Moreover, they provide vaccinations that protect cats from various diseases like FeLV, FIV, and rabies. Additionally, they also treat any existing health issues and injuries, nourishing the cats back to health.
In addition to these medical services, shelters and rescue groups work tirelessly to socialize and train cats, preparing them for potential adoption. These organizations work to match cats with suitable families, providing them with a second chance at life in a loving home.
Approaching Shelters and Rescue Groups for Help
If you come across a stray cat, approaching a local animal shelter or rescue group is a commendable first step. Typically, these organizations will advise you on how to safely capture the cat, if necessary. Alternatively, they might offer a trapping service. They are also likely to provide you with information on how to care for the cat, should you choose to provide temporary shelter.
In contacting these organizations, you are not only ensuring that the cat receives necessary medical attention, but also helping to increase the chances that the cat will find a loving home. Remember, these institutions are typically non-profit and rely on community support, so any help, be it volunteering, donations, or simply spreading the word, can have a significant impact.
Understanding Stray Cat Behavior
When approaching the topic of stray cat behavior, it’s crucial to distinguish between stray cats and feral cats. Strays are generally cats that have had human interaction at some point in their lives, whereas feral cats are cats that have been born and lived in the wild with little to no human contact. Their behaviors can vastly differ due to these life experiences.
Stray cats often show a mix of fear and curiosity towards humans. They may be hesitant to approach but might not immediately flee upon seeing you, a behavior that could be mistaken for timidity or aloofness. If a stray has been abandoned or lost, it may exhibit behaviors such as meowing or purring, attempting to make physical contact, or cautiously approaching when called, which are signs of former domestication.
Key Behaviors in Stray Cats
An essential characteristic of stray cats is their nocturnal nature. Like all cats, strays are most active during dawn and dusk, hunting their prey during these times. You may notice a stray cat appearing in your yard at these times looking for food.
Another common behavior among stray cats is spraying or marking territory. Both male and female cats may do this to signal their presence to other cats. This behavior may become more prevalent during mating seasons, when male cats are particularly driven to mark their territory and signal to potential mates.
Interpreting Stray Cat Body Language
Interpreting body language can be particularly helpful in understanding a stray cat’s feelings or intentions. A relaxed, non-puffed tail, half-closed eyes, and slow blinking are generally signs of trust and contentment. On the other hand, a puffed-up tail, flattened ears, and dilated pupils could indicate fear or aggression. Learning to recognize these signs can help you interact more effectively with stray cats, ensuring your safety and the cat’s comfort.
By understanding these behaviors and body languages, anyone willing to assist stray cats can better anticipate their needs, react appropriately to their behaviors, and perhaps even provide a more comfortable environment for them.
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.
The Legal Aspects of Rescuing and Rehoming Stray Cats
Reporting Found Strays
In most regions, it is highly recommended, if not mandatory, to report a found stray cat to your local animal control or local shelter. They often have mechanisms in place to help reunite lost pets with their owners. This includes scanning for microchips, which can be a fast way to locate the pet’s home. Despite the common inclination to immediately take a stray into your own home, the first step should be alerting the relevant authorities.
Ownership and Implications of a Returning Owner
Taking in a stray cat doesn’t immediately make you its legal owner. Ownership laws can vary significantly by region, and it’s important to be aware of your local regulations. In some areas, a pet is considered personal property, and retaining someone else’s pet without their consent could be seen as theft. Therefore, if the cat’s original owner reappears, they may have legal rights to reclaim their pet. It’s essential to keep this in mind when rescuing a stray and to understand that a successful reunion may be the most ideal outcome.
The Process of Official Adoption
If no owner comes forward after a certain period (which varies by jurisdiction), you may have the opportunity to officially adopt the cat. In this case, a formal adoption process typically applies. This process may include a health check, vaccinations, and spaying/neutering if not already completed. Legal adoption generally requires an agreement with an animal shelter or rescue organization, including an adoption fee. It’s worth noting that this fee often goes directly towards supporting the organization’s animal care efforts.
Remember, while rescuing and rehoming a stray cat can be incredibly rewarding, it’s also a serious responsibility with legal implications. For the best outcome for all involved—especially the cat—it’s crucial to stay informed and follow your local regulations.
What Do Stray Cats Drink – Conclusion
To sum up, stray cats need access to fresh water at all times, especially during hotter periods. Providing milk to a stray cat is not recommended because it can cause stomach upset due to their inability to digest lactose. Additionally, stray cats require a balanced diet that meets their nutritional requirements, and feeding them dog food is not ideal for their health. It’s important to keep in mind that not all cats you encounter on the street are lost, and some may be feral or abandoned. In this regard, adopting a stray cat may be suitable as long as a formal adoption process is followed, which includes a health check, vaccinations, and spaying/neutering if applicable.
- Stray cats need a consistent source of fresh water, preferably in a bowl, and especially during colder temperatures.
- Adult cats are often lactose intolerant, which means they should not be given milk as it can lead to digestive problems.
- Stray cats are often looking for food, and the best thing to offer them is a balanced meal that includes meat and avoids human food leftovers.
- Domesticated cats rely on humans for survival and may find it challenging to fend for themselves in the wild.
- Animal shelters and rescue groups play a vital role in ensuring the welfare of stray cats, and they can help reunite lost cats with their owners or provide long-term care for abandoned strays.
- Stray cats are often more active during dawn and dusk, and they may exhibit territorial spraying behavior.
- If no owner comes forward, formal adoption processes may apply, including health checks, vaccinations, and spaying/neutering.
- Overall, providing a consistent source of food and water, along with shelter and veterinary care, can significantly improve a stray cat’s quality of life.
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