When was the last time you saw cats in the wild? Have you had a chance to watch them eat?
Wild stray colonies don’t count, because their food is largely dependent on humans.
Nevertheless, even if it’s true that feral cats are rarely seen in the wild, knowing about their diet will give us extremely important information, because that’s what our pets should be eating. So, what do cats eat in the wild?
A cat’s diet in the wild
The most common diet of wild cats is:
- Small rodents such as mice, shrews, rats, and even rabbits or hares;
- small birds like sparrows or robins;
- insects and reptiles such as spiders, grasshoppers, lizards, and snakes.
The latter type of prey, although small in size, should still be considered an integral part of a wild cat’s diet because, firstly, it provides the cat with nutrients like any other prey and, secondly, they are the easiest to catch and, sometimes, the cat consumes them in large quantities.
Cats can also eat squirrels, bats, moles, and other large animals, but this is not common. Nevertheless, the above list gives us a rough idea of what a feral cat eats.
What does a cat’s diet in the wild depend on?
In general, a cat’s prey is any animal that is smaller than its size, or in some cases even larger.
Studies, however, show that a cat’s hunting success gradually decreases with increasing prey size. This can be explained for three reasons: firstly, larger animals are harder to capture, secondly, larger animals tend to be smarter and harder to fool, and thirdly, cats are more cautious when attacking larger games.
Also, not all cats eat everything, a cat’s diet depends on different factors:
Availability of prey. If the region is rich in rabbits, as in Australia and New Zealand, the cat’s diet will consist mostly of rabbits. In Europe and North America, cats eat mice and rats. Also, cats attack squirrels more often in the United States because the gray North American squirrels are more attractive to cats than the red European squirrels.
Seasonal changes. For example, it is much easier to catch baby rabbits in the spring, most birds are vulnerable and easier to catch in the winter, and rodents are hibernating in the winter.
A cat’s abilities and personality. Some cats specialize in one type of prey. For example, birds. Catching birds requires high skill and to maintain it, the cat goes out hunting birds as often as possible.
The social structure in which cats live. Cats live in a variety of social structures, such as free-standing cats or colonies where cats share food with each other. Sometimes this can affect the choice of prey. For example, to chase rabbits, cats are grouped and the more cats in the group, the better.
Cat gender. Some studies show that she-cats attack larger prey, such as rabbits, more often than he-cats. This is because the cat has free time to raise kittens and does not have time to hunt often, so they choose large prey because it provides more food and does not need to go out to hunt often.
The feral cat’s diet teaches us how domestic cats should eat
When it comes to nutrition, it’s not just what cats eat that matters, but how they eat.
Cats usually eat their prey whole, including muscle tissue, internal organs, bones, and feathers. So, if you feed your cat only raw meat, you will do more harm than well-balanced dry food.
Also, as you may have noticed, there are no plant foods such as fruits and vegetables in a feral cat’s diet, only grains, which cats eat along with their rodent stomachs. And it is already in a ready-to-eat state, and nutritionists still have no evidence that grains have any nutritional value for the cat.