Feral cat diet requirements includes mainly meat sources. They are most strictly carnivores, however, they have been know to feast on a blade of grass or two (2). While the diet of the Feral cat does not directly translate to the reasons why they are garden pests, it can help in understanding how to deal with the cats if they are venturing into your yard.
Feral Cat Diet-Food
Feral cats will diet on most small rodents. This includes, mice, voles, and rabbits as well as birds. To supplement their diet they will scavenge food from garbage cans and dumpsters if necessary. Some feral cats will eat food provided for them from tender hearted humans. Occasionally you may see a cat eating grass blades. This practice is done to help with digestion of hard to digest bones, fur and feathers of their prey.
Feral Cat Diet-Physical Attributes
Cats are designed to hunt. They kill their prey with a bite to the back of the neck. They hunt by sneaking up and pouncing on their prey, Most people who have cats in their neighborhood or homes recognize this familiar pounce stance. There are many physical attributes of the Felis domesticus that allow for the animals ability to take to the wild so easily. These include enhanced eyesight, exceptional hearing, sheathed claws and their fifth toe.
Feral cats have excellent night vision. As a mainly nocturnal animal this plays an essential role in their diet. It has been determined that cats can see up to 10 % more in the dark than humans. This allows for the felines to find prey in the darkness. Their vision is what is considered stereoscopic. Despite the fact that they cannot focus well on objects in the distance, they are able to measure the distance most precisely. And for those felines who hunt in the daytime, they area assisted by their ability to see 25 shades of gray; not surprisingly their favorite foods tend to be gray in color (mice, voles, rabbits, etc.).
An excellent sense of hearing is essential for the feline hunter and the Feral cat's hearing is superior to humans in that they can hear sounds at both the lower ranges of Hz (as sound is measured) and ranges higher than humans can detect. The design of their ear canals most definitely assists in their excellent hearing in that they draw the sound into the ear canal allowing them to hear sounds from further away.
Cats have sheathed, or retractable claws. This allows for the claws to remain sharp when not in use. Their fifth two is quite helpful as well by helping to grip prey.
Feral Cat Diet-Seasonal Variances
In colder climates, Feral cats may be more apt to scavenging food from dumpsters and garbage cans during the winter months.
Feral Cat Diet-Benefits and Detriments to Humans and the Ecosystem
Many consider cats as beneficial in keep populations of unwanted pests from residential and commercial establishments. However, Feral cats have had an adverse effect on the populations of marine birds in island communities in the north Atlantic ocean and many hypothesize they are affecting the song bird populations in the United States as well.
In Australia, where the Feral Cat population is estimated at 18 million, they are having a serious impact on the native fauna. They are even blamed in helping in the extinction of several native birds and small mammals.
While cats are often used to control rodent populations, due to the large populations of Feral cats there are many not only that benefit but many detriments to the Feral Cat diet.