It’s that time of year again… The daylight hours are dwindling, and the nights are getting colder.  Snowy weather is just around the corner—that is, if it hasn’t already found you yet.  Despite the changing seasons, stray and feral cats always continue their hunt for food.  So, if one of these “trick-or-treating” kitties visits your home, should you leave out some treats for them?

Despite our best efforts to control their population, stray and feral cats will always be around.  While a few roaming neighborhood cats can be helpful for rodent control, it doesn’t take long for a few cats to turn into many cats.  Many cats, of course, have many mouths to feed.  But, again, should you be the one feeding them?

The short answer is “No.”  Now, this may seem unkind, but actually, leaving food out for stray cats can lead to cruel, unintentional consequences.  Here are just a few of the main reasons you shouldn’t be setting out food for these feline guests:

  1. More than just cats are attracted to cat food! While it may start out as cats visiting your free food bowl, other critters are sure to follow.  For very good reason, raccoons are the main concern.  Raccoons will gladly prey upon stray cats that get in their way, and on top of that, they will happily move into your home.  If they have a steady food supply delivered nightly, you may find yourself with extra uninvited guests!
  2. You may inadvertently sicken the cats. Some cats react poorly to a change in diet, and a well-intentioned meal can cause symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea.  In some cases, a malnourished cat can die after gorging themselves on a meal.  This is known as “refeeding syndrome.”
  3. If you have cats of your own, they may start exhibiting behavior problems. Your cats might see or smell an influx of stray cats around their home, and this could trigger defensive, territorial behaviors.  They might become visibly anxious and start marking their territory around your home.

If feeding stray cats isn’t a good idea, then what should you do?  The best option is to find an organization or professional that specializes in Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) for feral cats.  This will control feline overpopulation in their hunting grounds, and it may net a few cats appropriate for rehoming.  In the long run, this will be healthier for your home and even your neighborhood.

We hope you’ve found this information to be helpful.  Should you have any questions about stray or feral cats around your home, we can certainly point you in the right direction.  Just give us a call at 406-728-0022 to see how we can help you!