Whether you’re helping take care of a whole colony of feral cats or are just seeking to feed a couple of strays in your backyard, choosing food can be a bit complicated. After all, the cat food that you choose for your feline isn’t necessarily the same food that you should choose for the local feral cats.
Feral cats require a slightly different diet and often have different tastes from domesticated cats. Given that most cat foods on the market are for domestic housecats, these factors can make finding a food a bit difficult.
You also have to consider the cost of the food. When you’re feeding multiple feral cats, you don’t want something expensive!
We created reviews of the best cat foods for feral cats currently available. You should be able to find something to feed your wild friends here.
A Quick Look at Our Favorites of 2023
|Best Overall||Diamond Naturals Active Cat Food||
|Best Value||Cat Chow Naturals Dry Cat Food||
|Premium Choice||American Journey Dry Cat Food||
|Instinct Original Dry Cat Food||
|Rachael Ray Nutrish Health Cat Food||
The 10 Best Cat Foods for Feral Cats
1. Diamond Naturals Chicken & Rice Cat Food — Best Overall
|First Five Ingredients:||Chicken meal, ground white rice, chicken fat, natural flavor, flaxseed|
Diamond Naturals Active Chicken Meal & Rice Formula Cat Food is a moderately priced cat food that offers maximum nutrition for feral cats. It includes chicken meal as the first ingredient, followed by white rice. While rice isn’t the best option for most cats, you can’t beat this price, especially when you’re feeding strays.
Furthermore, this food includes things that the feral cats won’t be getting elsewhere, such as probiotics. It is also great for all life stages, including pregnant and nursing cats. You never know what kind of cats you’re going to be feeding, so it’s always best to cover all your bases.
This food also includes a natural source of DHA and taurine, which are essential for a cat’s overall health. Each serving also includes various antioxidants to fight oxidative stress, therefore preventing a variety of health problems.
This food is manufactured in the U.S.A., though it does use ingredients from other countries. We love that this food contains a large amount of protein, which is exactly what most cats need to thrive.
With all these benefits, this recipe is easily the overall best cat food for feral cats available.
2. Cat Chow Naturals Original Dry Cat Food — Best Value
|First Five Ingredients:||Chicken, corn gluten meal, chicken by-product meal, rice, soybean meal|
Out of all the cat foods on the market, Cat Chow Naturals Original Dry Cat Food is the best cat food for feral cats for the money. It contains chicken as the first ingredient, which is great considering the price point. However, it does have less-than-stellar ingredients in it too.
For instance, corn gluten and soybean meal are both high on the ingredient list. These contain plenty of protein, but it is plant-based — not the best option for your feral friends. These ingredients may not have all the necessary amino acids for the feral cats to thrive.
Chicken by-product meal is also included. This is all the leftovers after the chicken has been processed for human consumption. Therefore, it isn’t high-quality.
That said, this food doesn’t contain any artificial flavors or preservatives. It is also decently high in protein, which is exactly what cats need in their diet.
Omega fatty acids are included too. Cats likely won’t get these important amino acids anywhere but in quality cat food.
3. American Journey Turkey & Chicken Dry Cat Food — Premium Choice
|First Five Ingredients:||Deboned turkey, turkey meal, chicken meal, tapioca starch, dried egg product|
If you’re not on a strict budget or are only feeding one feral cat, you may want to consider American Journey Turkey & Chicken Recipe Dry Cat Food. This recipe is high in a variety of different animal products.
For instance, it has deboned turkey as the first ingredient, which is then followed by turkey meal and chicken meal. All these ingredients are high-quality choices for most cats. They provide all the amino acids and protein that cats need to thrive.
Eggs are also included in this recipe. Since they are packed full of protein and nutrients, they are a great choice for cat food.
This recipe is also extremely high in protein, more so than most other options on the market. It is also quite high in fat, most of which likely comes from the included animal products.
On top of this, this recipe includes antioxidants, taurine, and omega fatty acids. All these added nutrients are essential for a cat’s overall wellbeing. Plus, they are difficult for a feral cat to come across by normal means.
We also like that this food is completely free from corn, wheat, or soy.
4. Instinct Original Recipe With Real Chicken Dry Cat Food
|First Five Ingredients:||Chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, menhaden fish meal, peas|
Overall, Instinct Original Recipe With Real Chicken is a great cat food. However, it is also extremely expensive, especially compared to many others. It also doesn’t provide that many extra benefits for the cost.
The main selling point of this cat food is that it has freeze-dried, raw bits of chicken in it. While many cats find these tasty, there isn’t any evidence that raw food is actually helpful for felines. Plus, if you’re feeding feral cats, they’re probably already getting plenty of raw food in their usual diet.
This food also includes chicken and other animal-based ingredients. Fish meal is included, which is high in DHA and omega fatty acids. Most neighborhood feral cats are not catching fish, so this ingredient can fill in a few nutritional gaps.
Furthermore, this food has many probiotics, which are essential for a cat’s overall wellbeing. Omega fatty acids and antioxidants are included too.
5. Rachael Ray Nutrish Inner Health Turkey Dry Cat Food
|First Five Ingredients:||Turkey, chicken meal, brewers rice, dried peas, corn protein concentrate|
At first glance, Rachael Ray Nutrish Inner Health Turkey Recipe Dry Cat Food seems like high-quality cat food. However, its ingredient list is less than stellar, especially for the price.
For instance, it has turkey and chicken meals as the first two ingredients. These options are high-quality protein sources for any cat. They provide plenty of lean protein and amino acids.
That said, brewer’s rice and dried peas take up the next two slots. These aren’t the best ingredients for feral felines. Still, they do provide a certain amount of nutrition. They are just not as great as some other options out there.
Corn protein concentrate is also included. This is concentrated protein from corn, which beefs up the protein content substantially. However, since this protein isn’t meat-based, it may not include all the amino acids that felines need to thrive.
Probiotics are included in this recipe, along with antioxidants.
6. Purina One True Instinct Ocean Whitefish Dry Cat Food
|First Five Ingredients:||Ocean Whitefish, chicken meal, pea starch, cassava root flour, soy protein isolate|
Purina is known for being a budget cat food brand. However, its ONE line is considered its higher quality option. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the best choice on the market, however. Some of the ingredients are high quality, but others are not.
The first ingredient is ocean whitefish, followed by chicken meal. Both these ingredients are high quality. They provide the protein and nutrients that the feral cats need to thrive.
However, those are the only two high-quality ingredients in this food. Pea starch and soy protein isolate are both included high on the ingredient list. Not only are these not necessary for cats, but they also push out higher-quality ingredients.
That said, this recipe is a complete meal. It is high in protein, even if much of that protein comes from soy. Many quality vitamins and minerals are added, including vitamins A and E. However, this can be said for most cat foods out there.
7. Purina Beyond Simply Wild Whitefish & Egg Dry Cat Food
|First Five Ingredients:||Hake, chicken meal, cassava root flour, dried egg product, pea starch|
While Purina Beyond Simply Wild Caught Whitefish & Egg Dry Cat Food is higher-quality than most other options that Purina makes, that doesn’t mean it is worth the extra money.
As the name suggests, this recipe starts with hake and chicken meal. Both these protein sources are great options for most cats, including feral felines.
However, there are many low-quality ingredients too. This recipe seems to take part in a practice known as “ingredient splitting.” Here, both pea starch and pea protein are included, and if those ingredients were put together as just “peas,” they would be fairly high on the ingredient list.
By splitting them up, the company can make it seem like there are fewer peas when this isn’t really the case.
8. Hill’s Science Diet Adult Chicken & Rice Dry Cat Food
|First Five Ingredients:||Chicken, brewers rice, corn gluten meal, whole grain corn, chicken fat|
Hill’s Science Diet is often considered one of the higher-quality options on the market. However, this isn’t necessarily always the case. Hill’s Science Diet Adult Chicken & Rice Recipe Dry Cat Food doesn’t have the benefits that make it worth the extra cost.
Given that it is so expensive, you probably don’t want to feed it to a colony of feral cats.
The first ingredient is chicken, which is a good start. However, the other ingredients are subpar at best. For instance, brewer’s rice is the second ingredient. Corn gluten meal and whole grain corn are also both high on the list.
That said, this formula is specifically built for cats with sensitive stomachs and skin. Of course, you likely won’t know if feral cats are affected by these things. However, it is often better to play it safe than sorry!
Like most cat foods, this one includes omega fatty acids and probiotics. Since this is the only food where feral cats will likely get these nutrients, they are essential.
9. IAMS Proactive Health Digestion & Skin Dry Cat Food
|First Five Ingredients:||Turkey, chicken by-product meal, ground whole grain corn, brewers rice, chicken meal|
IAMS is a budget cat food that tends to cut corners on ingredients. The IAMS Proactive Health Sensitive Digestion & Skin Dry Cat Food is no different. This formula starts with turkey, which is a decently high-quality option. However, the other ingredients are quite low-quality. For instance, by-products, corn, and brewers’ rice are all included high on the ingredient list.
This formula is only moderately high in protein, and much of this likely doesn’t even come from animal-based ingredients.
This formula does contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, though. It also has a blend of prebiotics, as well as beet pulp, to help with a cat’s digestive health.
10. 9 Lives Protein Plus Dry Cat Food
|First Five Ingredients:||Whole grain corn, chicken by-product meal, soybean meal, corn gluten meal, animal fat|
When you’re trying to feed a bunch of feral cats, you’re likely primarily concerned with cost. After all, it can be extremely expensive to feed a bunch of cats.
9 Lives Protein Plus Dry Cat Food is one of the cheapest cat foods on the market, so you might be tempted to feed it to the felines. However, it is cheap for a reason. The ingredients are low-quality, which typically translates into subpar nutrition.
For instance, the first ingredient is whole-grain corn. The only meat source in the first five ingredients is chicken by-product meal, which is a low-quality option itself.
The protein content is only moderately high, while the fat content is exceedingly low. When you’re trying to feed outside cats, both of these metrics need to be rather high.
The only thing that this food has going for it is its cheapness.
Buyer’s Guide: Finding The Best Cat Foods for Feral Cats
There are two primary concerns that you should be aware of when you are planning on feeding feral cats. Generally, you need something that’s decently healthy but cheap. After all, feeding so many cats can get expensive!
Luckily, we’ve done the legwork for you. In this section, we help you figure out exactly what to pay attention to when choosing cat food for feral cats.
Cat Food Cost
How concerned you are with cost will vary. After all, you don’t want to choose something that is extremely expensive if you’re feeding a whole colony. Cat food can easily add up to hundreds a month if you’re feeding multiple cats.
Fortunately, there are quite a few cheap options available on the market. However, almost all foods are cheap for a reason. To keep costs down, most companies use low-quality ingredients, which can make deciding which food to get even more complicated.
If you’re feeding one feral cat, you can probably afford more expensive food. However, if you’re feeding a whole colony, you probably don’t want to spend tons of money on a single bag.
Cat Food Ingredients
Even if you’re trying to spend as little money as possible, you should aim for a food to have meat as the first ingredient. What exactly this meat ingredient is doesn’t matter, though it is best to avoid by-products because they are lower quality.
Preferably, you should select a food that is mostly made of animal products, such as meats and eggs. However, this isn’t always possible if you’re also on a budget. Therefore, just choose a product that includes as much meat as you can afford.
Beware of products that are expensive and include low-quality ingredients. Cost does not always mean that more meat is included.
Cat Food Macronutrients
Macronutrients are extremely important. Cats thrive on a diet high in proteins and fats, which typically come from animal meats. However, some plants are high in protein too. That said, plant-based protein is often not as high-quality as meat-based protein.
Meat protein is always complete, which means it includes all the amino acids that cats need to thrive. Plant-based protein does not contain all the amino acids that cats need, so a cat can sometimes develop nutritional deficiencies if they aren’t eating enough meat.
When you’re feeding feral cats, you should aim to choose a food with as much protein as possible that you can reasonably afford.
- Want to know how various cat foods stack up against one an other? Read the Best Cat Foods (Updated)
For most feral cats, we highly recommend Diamond Naturals Active Chicken Meal & Rice Formula. It is inexpensive but contains high-quality ingredients. It also has many different added nutrients, like antioxidants, taurine, and DHA.
However, if you’re on a strict budget, you may want to consider Cat Chow Naturals Original Dry Cat Food. It is quite affordable and includes meat protein as the first ingredient. Furthermore, it has omega fatty acids to improve coat and skin health.
If you aren’t on a budget at all, consider American Journey Turkey & Chicken Recipe Dry Cat Food. It is high in antioxidants, taurine, and omega fatty acids. It also has high-quality ingredients like eggs and deboned turkey.
We hope that our article and reviews can help you choose the best option for your feral friends.
Featured Image Credit: Lumi Studio, Shutterstock