What would a cat eat in the wild?

a cat and a mouse

As you might know, mice are not the only food choice for cats living in the wild. Photo by Michael Himbeault.

The best way to find a proper nutrition for a domestic cat is to take a look at what cats eat in the wild. After all, this is the food that has been there tens of thousands years before any commercial cat food, before any human made cat food and cats appear to pretty successful on it.

In this article you are going to learn what animals do wild cats eat and what does it tell us about the diet of domesticated cats.

A wild cat’s diet consists of…

The most common foods for wild cats are

  • small rodents, such as mice, shrews, rats, and even rabbits or hares;
  • small birds, such as sparrows or robins;
  • insects and reptiles, such as spiders, grasshoppers, lizards, and snakes.

The latter may seem insignificant at the first glance, but cats can easily hunt large quantities of those and most of them provide nutrients not available elsewhere.

In addition, cats are also reported to feed on squirrels, weasels, bats, moles, and other animals, including ones larger than the cat itself. But this happens infrequently and should not be a general answer to what do cats eat.

But here are additional things to note:

  • Wild cats do not eat plants of any kind. There are no grain, no vegetables or fruits and no salad. What it means for you? Your cat’s food should also contain no (or at least almost no) plant materials, such as rice, corn, soy, potato and other. See here for a list of other properties of a good cat food.
  • Cats consume the whole prey, including the muscle meat, organs, bones, skin and feathers. Therefore, as luxury as it sounds, feeding a cat pure meat may be as harmful as not providing any meat to cats.

Here’s a task for you. Go to the nearest pet store and take a look at the ingredients listed on the label. How many of them contain grain? Why do you think this is, even though the diet of a wild cat includes no grain?

The diet of a wild cat depends on…

In addition not all cats eat everything, as the diet of a wild cat depends on a variety of factors:

  • Prey availability. For example, if a region is rich in rabbits, such as Australia or New Zealand, most cast prey on rabbits. In Europe and North America, though, the main part of a cat’s diet consists of mice and rats. In addition, cats attacking squirrels has been observed more often in the United States, as grey North American squirrels are more attractive to cats than red European ones.
  • Seasonal changes. For example, plenty inattentive juvenile rabbits are available in the spring. During winter most rodent hibernate deep in their caves, but birds become extremely defenseless.
  • Skills of an individual cat. Some cats may specialize in catching specific type of prey. For example, birds. It takes a high skill to catch one, and once it is mastered, a cat must repeat it as often as possible to maintain it.
  • Social structure in which cats live. Cats live in different social structures, such as individual animals and colonies, where cats provide each other with food. Sometimes this may have an impact on the choice of prey. For example, while exceedingly rare, a group of cats may besiege a pack of rabbits in order to hunt down as many as possible.
  • The sex of the cat. Some studies show that female cats are more likely to attack larger prey. Most likely this happens because female cats are busy taking care for kittens and must bring down larger animals to get more food in shorter time.

In general, cats prey on animal that are smaller than themselves and, in certain situations, some that are even slightly larger.

Cats rarely hunt animals that are significantly larger than themselves. Studies show that hunting success gradually decreases as the size of his prey increases. Seems only logical to us: larger animals are harder to tackle; larger animals tend to be more intelligent in avoiding cats; larger animals pose more danger and cats tend to retreat when things do not follow a plan.

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