Feeding a colony of feral cats is not easy when money is limited. I gathered a few ideas on how to feed feral cats cheap for you all, as it is definitely one of the most asked questions that I get.
None of us are made of money. Most of us who feed feral cats or barn cats or friendly neighborhood cats are paying quite the cat food bill every week.
I have found a few tricks, though! Some of these I personally use or I have heard others use. But remember folks, if you feed them, it is your responsibility to get them spayed and neutered!
*Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. This simply means I make a small commission on qualifying purchases. See Affiliate Disclosure for details. Thanks for supporting the kitties!*
#1: Stop Being Food Snobs
If you feed only one or two feral cats, definitely grab the best food you possibly can! But if you’re feeding twenty or more cats, you need to stop being so picky and lower your standards to what you can actually afford. NO cat food on the market today is actually all that great anyway, expensive OR cheap. Raw diets, properly prepared by experts, not at home, are probably the best cat food for your cats.
I highly recommend feeding both wet and dry, even if it is more expensive. Yes, without wet food you could probably afford better dry food, but trust me, wet food is necessary for moisture intake and it tends to be more nutritious anyway.
That said, buy the best cat food you can consistently afford. If you feed a small colony and can afford high end-food, that is amazing, and you should definitely buy that. If you are feeding over a hundred cats, Purina Pro Plan or Freeze-Dried Raw is probably not an option unless you are independently wealthy.
I personally feed Friskies. I have 16 cats I regularly feed, morning and night. Both wet and dry food. I spend about $60 a week on cat food alone. The reason I buy Friskies is that it’s well-tolerated, cats love the taste, and it is inexpensive. I buy both the dry and wet of this brand.
The ONLY thing I caution you about is to pay attention to your cats. Feral and semi-feral cats living outside are hard to observe carefully for health issues. They will hide any vomiting or diarrhea, especially if they are skittish or feral. I have YET to see the feral cat in my colony poop. I have no clue if he tolerates the food. He is very wild and inconsistent. So pay as close attention as you can.
If they end up not agreeing with your cheap cat food choice you should most definitely switch brands. There are many to choose from: 9 Lives, Meow Mix, Friskies, and Purina.
If none of them work for your cats, trade up to something else.
Crap food is better than starvation, hands down. Just saying. But get the best you can afford, definitely.
They DO come in handy to save a few bucks (or more!).
The first place I suggest you start is cat food websites. Friskies, Purina, etc. have their own mailing list that sends out promotions. You can also email these companies and explain that you care for however many feral cats or feral colonies and they will often send you coupons for free bags of cat food in the mail too. I do know that Purina does.
My favorite coupon site is Coupons.com. It has an app too, which is what I use exclusively. I don’t print out coupons. No time or inclination, but if they are running a coupon on a certain brand of cat food, you can receive cash back from Walmart receipts or taken off with your loyalty cards at other places. Plus, it will have coupons for cat litter and other grocery items of course.
Just link a PayPal account and you receive it back within a couple of days. You can even sometimes combine offers with my next suggestion!
Recommended: Check out Coupons.com!
The Ibotta app is my favorite way to save a few bucks on cat food! From a TON of stores as well, including Walmart.
How it works is you pick the items you wish to buy from the retailer of your choice in the app. There’s a lot, by the way!
Then you go shopping!
Once you are finished, just scan your receipt.
Once your cash back amount reaches $20 you can then cash out with PayPal or Venmo or whatever gift card you’re looking for.
There is often a lot of coupons on 9 Lives, Purina, Rachel Rays, Meow Mix, and more. Plus cat litter and other grocery items. You can use in-app purchasing at places like Walmart, or scanning receipts at over 275 retailers! (They’ve also started adding a lot of non-grocery stuff.)
Just be sure to only buy something you’d be purchasing anyway and don’t get TOO carried away buying things you wouldn’t use.
You ALSO get a sign-up bonus with Ibotta once you reach cash out for the first time or a bonus if you refer friends!
My referral code is TTXBQTP.
Recommended: Ibotta App
#4: Food Banks
If times are really hard and you can’t afford it, you can always try your local food bank. I personally don’t use this option, but only for one reason: I have an income. But if you’re elderly, disabled or just lost your job and need to feed the kitties, many food banks across the United States are starting to take pet food donations!
This is useful for those on Social Security or disability or unemployed to get some help. Or even if you’ve fallen on tough times!
#5: Buy in Bulk and Online!
If you buy large amounts of cat food every single month or whatever, I HIGHLY suggest you use Chewy or Amazon and buy in bulk and enroll in their auto-ship options. You get a discount for Autoship at Chewy AND the Amazon equivalent Subscribe and Save.
In fact, you can get 30% off your order for enrolling in your first Autoship at Chewy! Chewy has free shipping for all orders over $49 as well.
I personally love Chewy for most everything cat medication-related, as their selection of non-prescription stuff is better than Amazon. That said, both Chewy and Amazon have about the same types of cat food available, so pick your retailer.
#6: Scheduled Feeding and Portion Control
This is for all of us free-feeders. Cats don’t need to eat all day and night. Twice a day feeding is plenty and helps you keep an eye on your cats as they will know to come to you at feed times.
If you don’t leave food unattended, you aren’t wasting so much feeding wildlife (which is BAD, folks) or letting ants contaminate it or other issues.
I’m not talking about putting the cats on a diet here by talking about portion control. You want to give the cat(s) enough to eat, but take away anything they don’t finish after about 30 minutes. If there is a lot left, feed less next time. If they all finish before 15 minutes is up, feed more.
By controlling the feeding and limiting the amount to what they actually eat, you won’t be wasting as much.
I have a confession to make. I free-feed during the day inside the barn. Never at night, though. Just during the day. I remove all uneaten food at dusk. This is simply because of wildlife at night and during the day, I have it protected from other pests.
#7: Ask for Donations!
Another option is to ask for donations, create a wishlist on Amazon, share it with your family and friends. Tell people you want cat food instead of gifts. Create an Instagram account for your colony, link to your Amazon wishlist in your bio. Have fun taking some awesome pictures of your cats. Your followers might appreciate your generosity in caring for feral felines and toss a bag or two at you occasionally. Just don’t be greedy.
If you feed neighborhood cats, maybe ask some neighbors or businesses near there. Hold a fundraiser or a bake sale, or a number of other options to earn you some cat food!
Feed Them? Fix Them!
Remember, cat colony caretakers, if you feed those cats, it is ABSOLUTELY your responsibility to fix those cats. Once you start feeding them, you are enabling more of them to survive and reproduce.
Do NOT be that person who makes feral cat feeding illegal in your area! FIX THEM! It’s called Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) and it will help improve their lives and reduce their population!
Do you have any tips or tricks on how to affordably feed your community cats? Share them with me below!