black and white stray cat looking for food

What To Feed A Stray Cat

If you’ve noticed a hungry stray cat in your area you’re probably looking through your cupboards wondering what you can offer them to eat.

The chances are you don’t have any cat food on hand so if that’s the case you can put out a bowl of fresh water and a bowl of tuna, cooked chicken, plain rice or scrambled egg for the stray to enjoy.

Use this article as a guide to check what food is good and what’s not so you can make sure you are helping the stray.  

Good Options

Feeding a stray is kind and thoughtful, just be aware that this may cause the cat to return to you for food and care time and time again.

Cats are obligate carnivores meaning it is biologically essential for them to eat meat. This is because they require taurine from meat as they cannot make it themselves and due to this their diet should be meat-based.

Keep this in mind when deciding what food to offer the stray cat. 

Cat Food 

If you don’t own cats then you likely won’t have cat food in the cupboard but if you do, feed the stray a small amount and offer them fresh water too.

If you don’t have any cat biscuits or tinned food, the following foods can be offered as a once-off or short-term solution until you can get in some quality cat food (if you plan on supporting the stray long term):


This is a great go-to option. A tin of tuna is perfect as one-off food for a stray. Most cats love tuna and the strong smell can help entice the stray (who may be nervous or weak) to the bowl to eat.

While tuna can be fed to cats, it should not be the main part of their diet. It can be fed as a treat (a one-off meal for a hungry stray cat is fine) but make sure that:

  • The tuna is not in oil or brine
  • If you feed them longer-term their main protein source needs to be from a land-based animal (e.g chicken).
  • The tuna is not raw

The tuna should be in its natural form and it is important to avoid feeding tuna with added salt and flavours.

Boneless Cooked Meat – Chicken, Lamb, Beef

stray cats eating

Feeding a cat cooked meat is also a great option. You can either feed the meat on its own or add some scrambled eggs or a small amount of plain boiled rice. 

Do not feed raw meat as it has much more bacteria and the stray might not be in great health or could have a sensitive stomach so it is a lot safer to cook the meat before offering it. 

Plain Rice and Eggs

Cats can eat rice and they can also eat eggs, so plain rice and plain cooked, scrambled eggs are a good option for a stray cat.

Eggs are a great source of protein and should be cooked due to the bacteria and to prevent the avidin in the egg from having a negative effect on the cat. 

Do NOT Feed

As you may not have any cat food in your home, there are some foods you may be tempted to reach for that are actually not good for cats.

We’ve listed key foods to avoid below but for more information check out this article on what cats can eat.

Foods not to feed a stray include:

1. Milk and Dairy 

It is often believed that cats love milk but the truth is dairy is not good for them.

Cats struggle to digest dairy and many cats develop an intolerance to lactose once they have been weaned off milk. It is far better to offer them a bowl of water and some other food.

can my cat drink milk?

Stray kittens that are so young they require milk need specialized care and food so they should be taken to a professional as soon as possible. 

2. Dog Food 

It’s quite common for people to assume the next best thing to feed a cat is dog food but do not do this.

It’s okay to feed a small amount in a desperate situation but it is by no means ideal.

Dog food and cat food are very different as they have been formulated specifically for the animals they are made for, they offer very different levels of amino acids, fatty acids, proteins, vitamins etc.

Dog food is formulated to offer dogs a balanced diet and are not well suited to cats. 

3. Fruit & Vegetables 

While it is okay for cats to consume some fruit and veg including bananas, sweet potato and cooked carrots, most can cause health issues.

Onion, garlic and chives are toxic to cats, green or raw potatoes and green tomatoes can cause gastrointestinal problems and avocados can cause vomiting and diarrhoea.

Grapes and raisins are also problematic as they can cause acute kidney failure.

As cats may struggle to digest some fruits and vegetables and can suffer health implications as a result, it is better to offer them meat, rice or eggs instead.

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