When was the last time you saw a common domestic cat living in the wild? Did you have an opportunity to observe what his food was? Feral colonies do not count, because their food choice is highly influenced by people.
However, even if true wild cats are rarely seen, learning about their diet gives us extremely valuable information because this is what, okay, similar stuff is what our household cats must eat. So, what would a wild cat eat, again?
Wild cat’s diet consists of…
Most common diet of wild cats are:
- smaller rodents like mice, shrews, rats… and even rabbits or hares.
- smaller birds like sparrows or robins;
- insects and reptiles, like spiders, grasshoppers, lizards and snakes.
The latter one, even though small, must still be considered an essential part of a wild cat’s diet, as it, first, provides nutrients not present in any other food type, and second, they are easier to catch, thus, sometimes may be consumed in large quantities.
Additionally, cats are reported feeding on squirrels, weasels bats, moles and other larger animals, but this happens infrequently. However, the above list gives us an approximate picture of what a wild cat would eat.
But the diet of a wild cat depends on…
In general, cats prey any animal which is smaller than themselves, and in certain situations, some that are even slighlty larger.
Studies, however, show that cat’s hunting success decreases gradually as the size of his prey increases. This can be explained by three things: first, larger animals are harder to tackle; second, larger animals tend to be more intelligent; thus, they will avoid better; and third, cats are more cautious when attacking larger prey; thus retreat earlier.
Additionally, not all cats eat everything as the diet of a wild cat depends on different factors:
- Prey availability. Like, if a region is rich in rabbits, like Australia or New Zealand, the diet would consist mainly of those. In Europe and North America, though, the main part of the cat’s diet mainly consists of mice and rats. Additionally, cats attacking squirrels is observed more often in the United States as grey North American squirrel is more attractive to cats rather than red European one.
- Seasonal changes. For example, plenty of easier to catch juvenile rabbits are available at spring, while in winter birds are extremely vulnerable and many rodents hibernate.
- Skills of an individual cat. Some cats may specialize in one sort of prey. For example, birds. Catching a bird requires high skills, and, in order to maintain them, a cat would choose to hunt birds as often as possible.
- Social structure in which cats live. Cats live in different social structures, such as individual animals, and colonies where cats provide each other with the food. Sometimes it may have an impact on the choice of prey. For example, while exceedingly rare occasion, a group of cats may besiege a pack of rabbits in order to hunt down as many of them as possible.
- The sex of the cat. Some studies show that female cats are likely to attack larger prey, like rabbits, more often than males do. This is explained by the time availability of females who must care for kittens frequently; therefore, they choose to go for larger prey, because it gives more food, with fewer time spent gathering it.
The diet of a wild cat teaches us what house cats must eat
If we talk about the nutrition, it’s not only important what cats eat, but also how they eat.
Cats usually consume the whole prey – including muscle meat, organs, bones and feathers. Only small parts, if any are left after the meal; thus, if someone converts a cat to a raw diet, feeding meat exclusively will do a lot more damage than sticking to well balanced dry food. You can read more about comparison of raw and dry cat foods here.
Also, as you may have noticed, the diet of cats do not consist of plant products, like grain, fruits or vegetables. Only grain that wild cats are reported to eat, is what’s in the stomach of a rodent they catch. However, in such case they are already in a predigested state, and nutritionists still have no evidence that it provides a significant nutritional benefit to a cat.
So, here’s a task for you. Go to the nearest pet store and take a look at ingredients listed on the label? How many of them contain grain? Why do you think it is so, even though the diet of a wild cat consists of no grain? We will talk about it the next week.