Best Cat Food for Outdoor Cats

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Have you ever wondered what’s the best way to help those furry feline friends who roam our neighborhoods?

best cat food for outdoor cats

Outdoor and feral cats are often overlooked, but with the right nutrition, we can make a significant difference in their lives. After extensive research, we’ve identified the 8 best cat food for outdoor cats.

Our journey to this discovery involved countless hours of online research, consultations with cat experts, and conversations with cat lovers who have been feeding community cats for years.

While our top pick is Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Cat Food, it’s crucial to recognize that one size doesn’t fit all. That’s why we’ve put together a diverse list of the best outdoor cat food to suit various scenarios.

So, are you ready to explore the best food for outdoor cats? Let’s dive in!

A Glance at Our Picks for the Best Food for Feral Cats

Quickly, here’s a sneak peek at our top choices for feeding outdoor and feral cats:

Top 8 Best Cat Food for Outdoor Cats

If you’re caring for a feral colony or some neighborhood strays, this list has the best outdoor cat food options for you.

Most of the foods on our list are dry options, as we aim to recommend cost-effective choices for those kind-hearted folks without stretching their budget.

Let’s explore together.

Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Cat Food – Best Overall

wellness complete dry cat food

  • Top 5 Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Rice, Barley, Oats
  • Guaranteed Analysis: Protein (min) 38%, Fat (min) 18%, Fiber (max) 3%, Moisture (max) 10%
  • Calories: 3,952 kcal/kg
  • Cost: $3.18/lb ($15.92 for 5-pound)

Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Cat Food hits the mark for outdoor cats. The high-quality protein from deboned chicken and chicken meal is exactly what they need to maintain muscle strength in their active lives.

But what about their energy needs? The grains like rice, barley, and oats in this food provide that sustained energy, without causing digestive issues.

The addition of ground flaxseed is a smart move. It’s a source of omega fatty acids, which are great for keeping their coat shiny and skin healthy.

And let’s not forget the cranberries – a natural way to support urinary health, which is so important for cats in the wild.

Taurine is also added to guarantee eye health, vital for cats who rely on their vision in the outdoor environment.

Plus, the kibble’s texture helps maintain dental health, aiding in keeping those teeth clean.

However, some cats may find the new formula slightly less palatable, as noted in customer reviews.

What We LikeWhat We Don’t Like
Supports urinary, eye, and dental healthLow in moisture
High-quality protein sources

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food – Premium Choice

blue buffalo wilderness cat food

  • Top 5 Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Pea Protein, Tapioca Starch, Peas
  • Guaranteed Analysis: Protein (min) 40%, Fat (min) 18%, Fiber (max) 4%, Moisture (max) 9%
  • Calories: 3,832 kcal/kg
  • Cost: $3.79/lb ($35.98 for 9.5-pound)

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food is a premium choice for outdoor cats. Packed with real chicken, this high-protein recipe is just what they need to keep those muscles lean and strong for all their adventures.

This grain-free goodness is loaded with healthy carbs like sweet potatoes and peas, giving your feline friend all the energy, they need to explore, climb, and maybe even do some occasional mischief.

The addition of omega-3 and 6 fatty acids is key for maintaining healthy skin and coat, especially important for feral cats.

Plus, Blue Buffalo includes something special called LifeSource Bits. These are not just any bits; they’re a carefully selected blend of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Think of them as the secret sauce that keeps your cat thriving at every stage of their life.

However, some cat enthusiasts have noted in their feedback that, despite the high-quality ingredients, their cats faced digestive issues.

What We LikeWhat We Don’t Like
Animal protein from real chickenLow in moisture
Grain-freeHigher in price
LifeSource Bits for a nutritional boost

Purina Cat Chow Complete Dry Cat Food – Best Dry Food

purina cat chow complete cat food
  • Top 5 Ingredients: Chicken By-Product Meal, Ground Yellow Corn, Corn Gluten Meal, Whole Grain Wheat, Rice
  • Guaranteed Analysis: Protein (min) 32%, Fat (min) 12%, Fiber (max) 3%, Moisture (max) 12%
  • Calories: 3,801 kcal/kg
  • Cost: $1.99/lb ($25.04 for  4*3.5-pound)

Purina Cat Chow Complete Dry Cat Food offers a practical solution for feeding outdoor cats, but it’s important to delve into the details.

The primary protein source is chicken by-product meal, which, while providing essential protein, may not be as high-quality as whole meat sources.

Despite this, the food does offer a blend of nutrients beneficial for outdoor cats. The inclusion of healthy carbs provides vital energy, and omega-6 fatty acids contribute to skin and coat health.

This food also includes natural prebiotics to help encourage healthy digestion and is free from artificial dyes, flavors, or preservatives.

While Purina Cat Chow is popular for being affordable and nutritionally complete, some cat owners have raised concerns in their reviews. They’ve mentioned issues like digestive sensitivities and their cats not being attracted to its taste or texture.

What We LikeWhat We Don’t Like
Affordable for feeding multiple catsLow in moisture
No artificial additivesContains grains
Contains 25 essential vitamins and minerals

Diamond Naturals Active Chicken Meal & Rice Formula Dry Cat Food – Budget Dry Food

diamond naturals cat food

  • Top 5 Ingredients: Chicken Meal, Ground White Rice, Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Natural Flavor, Flaxseed
  • Guaranteed Analysis: Protein (min) 40%, Fat (min) 20%, Fiber (max) 3%, Moisture (max) 10%
  • Calories: 4,000 kcal/kg
  • Cost: $1.89/lb ($33.99 for 18-pound)

Diamond Naturals Active Chicken Meal & Rice Formula Dry Cat Food is a robust choice for stray cats. The high protein content, primarily from chicken meal, is essential for maintaining strong muscles.

Ground white rice, though less nutritionally valuable, still provides a source of digestible carbohydrates, offering the necessary energy for their daily activities. Chicken fat contributes to the high-fat content, crucial for energy and maintaining a healthy coat.

This formula also includes superfoods and probiotics, enhancing its nutritional value and aiding in digestion.

For many stray cat caregivers, a worth-mention advantage is that it’s available in large 18-pound bags.

What We LikeWhat We Don’t Like
Animal-based protein and fat contentLow in moisture
Includes superfoods and probioticsContains grains
High in carbs

Kirkland Signature Super Premium Maintenance Cat Food – Ultra Budget Dry Food

kirkland signature cat food

  • Top 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Whole Grain Brown Rice, Ground White Rice, Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols)
  • Guaranteed Analysis: Protein (min) 30%, Fat (min) 20%, Fiber (max) 3%, Moisture (max) 10%
  • Calories: 4,008 kcal/kg
  • Cost: $1.48/lb ($36.99 for 25-pound)

Kirkland Signature Super Premium Maintenance Cat Food is a top pick for those caring for outdoor or feral cat colonies, especially with budget in mind.

It’s very affordable, at under $0.10 per ounce, making it a practical choice for feeding multiple cats. The cost to feed a 10-pound cat is about $0.16 per day, and it’s sold in convenient 25-pound bags.

The main ingredient is fresh chicken, providing high-quality protein vital for the muscle health of active outdoor cats. Chicken meal boosts the protein content, aiding overall health and energy.

It also includes whole grain brown rice and ground white rice for digestible carbs, essential for the active lifestyle of outdoor cats.

Moreover, chicken fat ensures a high-fat content, crucial for energy and maintaining a shiny, healthy coat. This is quite important for outdoor cats who face various environmental challenges, especially in winter.

This cat food also has probiotics for digestive health and omega fatty acids for a robust immune system and skin health.

Many cat caregivers, including those on Reddit, praise Kirkland Signature for its balance of affordability and quality.

What We LikeWhat We Don’t Like
Affordable priceLow in moisture
Animal-based protein contentHigh in carbs
Contains probiotics and omega-fatty acids
Free from artificial additives

9Lives Daily Essentials Dry Cat Food – Cheapest Food

9lives daily essential cat food
  • Top 5 Ingredients: Whole Ground Corn, Chicken By-Product Meal, Soybean Meal, Corn Gluten Meal, Beef Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols)
  • Guaranteed Analysis: Protein (min) 28%, Fat (min) 9%, Fiber (max) 3%, Moisture (max) 12%
  • Calories: 3,400 kcal/kg
  • Cost: $1.11/lb ($13.29 for 12-pound)

9Lives Daily Essentials Dry Cat Food is a budget-friendly option that doesn’t skimp on the essentials needed for the health of outdoor cats.

The chicken and beef flavors in this food are likely to appeal to most feline palates, making it a hit among outdoor dwellers.

The protein in this food, coming from chicken by-product meal and soybean meal, which is not that high quality, still boosts muscle health.

It also includes whole ground corn and corn gluten meal, providing the carbs they need for continuous energy, essential for cats that are active and love exploring outdoors.

The addition of taurine is a major plus, particularly important for outdoor cats who depend on their vision for nighttime activities.

However, this food contains artificial dyes like Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1, and Blue 2, which could link to adverse health effects. It contains BHA as a preservative, which is considered a potential human carcinogen.

All in all, many cat lovers appreciate 9Lives Daily Essentials for its affordability, especially when feeding a group of outdoor cats. A Quora user pointed out that buying bigger bags, such as the 28-pound option from Walmart, can be even more cost-effective.

It’s important to remember that while this food provides a substantial supplement to an outdoor cat’s diet, they also fulfill some of their dietary needs naturally through hunting.

What We LikeWhat We Don’t Like
Affordable priceLow in moisture
Taurine for enhanced visionContains by-products and grains
Chicken and beef flavorsContains artificial colors
Contains BHA

Nulo Freestyle Turkey & Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Canned Cat Food – Best Wet Food

nulo freestyle wet cat food

  • Top 5 Ingredients: Turkey, Chicken, Turkey Liver, Turkey Broth, Tuna
  • Guaranteed Analysis: Protein (min) 11%, Fat (min) 6.5%, Fiber (max) 0.75%, Moisture (max) 78%
  • Calories: 1,239 kcal/kg
  • Cost: $0.30/oz ($39.85 for a 24*5.5-ounce)

Nulo Freestyle Turkey & Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Canned Cat Food is an excellent choice for outdoor cats, particularly because of its high moisture content. Outdoor cats often lack access to clean water, making the hydration provided by this wet food especially beneficial.

The blend of turkey, chicken, and tuna offers high-quality animal-sourced protein, essential for maintaining muscle health in active cats.

The recipe’s grain-free nature, featuring digestible ingredients like cranberries and pumpkin, caters to cats with sensitivities and aids in easy digestion.

However, it’s worth noting that some cats may experience loose stools, particularly due to the inclusion of guar gum as a thickening agent.

While the high moisture content is a hit for many cats, concerns about the cost are notable, especially for those feeding several outdoor cats.

What We LikeWhat We Don’t Like
High moisture contentHigh in price
Quality protein sourcesGuar gum included

Kirkland Signature Variety Pack Paté Wet Cat Food – Budget Wet Food

kirkland signature wet cat food

  • Top 5 Ingredients: Turkey, Poultry Broth, Poultry Liver, Poultry Hearts, Natural Flavor
  • Guaranteed Analysis: Protein (min) 8%, Fat (min) 4.5%, Fiber (max)1.5%, Moisture (max) 80%
  • Calories: 961 kcal/kg
  • Cost: $0.22/oz ($34.99 for 45*3.5-ounce on Costco)

Kirkland Signature Variety Pack Paté Wet Cat Food is a smart choice for those feeding feral cats, especially when purchased in bulk.

This variety pack, available at Costco, is both convenient and budget-friendly. With 45 cans featuring chicken, turkey, and salmon flavors, it’s priced as low as $1.29 per can.

The high moisture content in this food is great for keeping feral cats hydrated, contributing to their overall health.

While it’s fairly high in carbohydrates, it also offers a good amount of protein and fat.

Plus, its grain-free formula is beneficial for cats with sensitivities.

It’s also worth noting that there’s a significant price difference between Amazon and Costco. You’d better buy on Costco.

What We LikeWhat We Don’t Like
High moisture contentHigh in carbs
Variety of flavorsContains carrageenan
Grain-freePlant-based fat content

Cat Food for Feral Cats: Buyer’s Guide

Feeding feral cats involves finding a balance between nutritional value and affordability. It’s crucial to provide a diet that meets their specific needs while being mindful of cost. This guide combines essential aspects to consider when choosing the right cat food for feral cats.

Protein and Fat:

  • High-Quality Protein: Animal-sourced ingredients should be at the top of the ingredient list. Chicken is a cost-effective option, but blends of different proteins can also be beneficial.
  • Essential Fats: Look for foods containing animal-sourced fats like chicken fat and salmon oil, vital for feral cats’ health.
  • Caloric Needs: Feral cats typically need more calories than domestic cats. They are more active and need plenty of energy. On average, most feral cats require around 200 calories per day.

Carbohydrate Content:

  • Cost vs. Nutrition: While higher protein is ideal, budget constraints may require accepting higher carbohydrate content. Aim for carbohydrate content under 10%, but up to 30% may be necessary for affordability.
  • Digestibility: Choose whole grains and low-starch vegetables over less digestible options like peas and legumes.

Moisture Content:

  • High-moisture diets are ideal for cats, especially since they don’t naturally drink much water. Wet food is preferable but tends to be more expensive than dry food.
  • Dry food generally lasts longer than wet food, especially in warmer climates, and is easier to serve outdoors.

Supplements and Additives:

  • Beneficial Supplements: While chelated minerals and probiotics are advantageous, they may not be feasible on a tight budget.
  • Avoid Harmful Additives: Ensure the food doesn’t contain harmful ingredients or excessive additives.

Buying in Bulk for Better Value

  • Online Retailers: Consider purchasing cat food in bulk from online retailers like Chewy, which often offer competitive prices and additional savings for automatic shipments.
  • Big Box Stores: Stores like Costco and Sam’s Club can be good sources for buying quality cat food in bulk, helping to stretch your budget further.

Tips For Feeding and Caring Feral Cats

For cat lovers who are dedicated to helping feral cats, understanding the best practices for feeding and caring for these independent felines is crucial. Here are some practical suggestions, to ensure you’re providing the best care for feral cats in your community.

  • Safe Feeding Station: Select a low-profile area away from busy streets or foot traffic. This ensures the cats feel safe while eating and are protected from potential harm.
  • Consistent Schedule: Feed feral or stray cats at the same time every day. Cats quickly adjust to a feeding schedule, allowing you to monitor the colony effectively.
  • Right Amount: Feed only as much as needed. This approach ensures that cats come for food and leave when full, reducing waste and not attracting unintended wildlife.
  • No Overnight Food: Don’t leave food out overnight or for extended periods. Typically, cats finish eating within half an hour, and it’s best to pick up the food afterward to avoid attracting wildlife.
  • Clean Dishes: Remove dishes after feeding. Use reusable dishes that can be picked up and cleaned. Disposable containers can become litter.
  • Fresh Water: Ensure fresh water is available and replaced regularly in clean containers.
  • Spay/Neuter: Spaying or neutering improves cats’ health and prevents the birth of homeless kittens. It also reduces common neighborhood complaints about cats, such as spraying, fighting, and yowling.
  • Educate Your Neighbors: Inform your neighbors about your efforts to care for the feral cats. This can help alleviate concerns and foster a community approach to caring for these animals.
  • Reducing Street Cats: Help reduce the number of cats living outdoors by finding homes for friendly cats and kittens. Programs like Kitten Caboose can assist in transporting kittens to humane societies for adoption.

How to Care for Outdoor Cats in Winter

Caring for outdoor cats during the colder months requires special attention to their shelter, food, and water needs.

Providing Shelter

Feral and stray cats need shelters that are warm, dry, well-insulated, and appropriately sized. A smaller shelter is better as it can trap the cats’ body heat to warm its interior.

Building your shelter can be cost-effective. You can use materials like storage bins, scrap lumber, or even modified used dog houses. Remember to elevate the shelter off the ground.

Preventing Freezing

In winter, keeping the cats’ food and water from freezing is crucial. Using thick plastic containers for water helps insulate it better. A solar-heated water bowl can also be effective.

What to Feed Feral Cats: Do’s and Don’ts

If you’re not keen on buying commercial cat food, we’ve put together a list of common foods that are safe or unsafe to feed outdoor cats.


  1. Tuna: A simple and appealing option for feral cats.
  2. Chicken and Beef: Cooked, boneless chicken and beef are great choices. Enhance its appeal by adding plain boiled rice or unseasoned scrambled eggs.
  3. Plain Rice: It is good for a starving feral cat as it aids in digestion. Always ensure the food is fresh to avoid any harm.


  1. Dog Food: It’s not suitable for cats due to different dietary needs between species.
  2. Most Fruits and Veggies: Cats are carnivores, and certain fruits and vegetables can cause gastrointestinal problems. It’s best to avoid feeding human foods to cats.


1. What is the best food to feed an outdoor cat?

The best food for outdoor cats should be nutritionally balanced and high in animal-based proteins and fats. Look for cat food with meat as the primary ingredient. However, food with animal-based ingredients can be expensive.

2. What is the healthiest cat food for outdoor cats?

The healthiest cat food for outdoor cats is one that is high in animal-based proteins and fats, with limited carbohydrate content. It should also be easily digestible and free from harmful additives. Brands that offer “complete and balanced” nutrition are typically a good choice.

3. Do outdoor cats need different food?

Outdoor cats generally require more calories compared to indoor cats due to their higher activity levels. Foods high in protein and fat are ideal to meet their energy needs.

4. Should outdoor cats eat wet or dry food?

Both wet and dry foods have their benefits. Wet food provides extra hydration, which is beneficial, but it can break the bank. Dry food is more practical for outdoor feeding and less likely to attract pests.

5. Why is feeding stray cats illegal?

In some areas, feeding stray or feral cats is discouraged or illegal due to concerns about overpopulation and potential nuisance to the community. However, responsible feeding, along with TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) programs, can help manage feral cat colonies effectively.

6. How many times a day should you feed outside cats?

Outdoor cats should ideally be fed twice a day with a consistent schedule. This helps in monitoring their health and keeping track of the cats in the colony.

7. What happens when you stop feeding outside cats?

If you stop feeding outside cats, they may seek food elsewhere, which could lead to them venturing into dangerous areas or becoming a nuisance to others. It’s important to provide consistent food sources for outdoor cats.

8. How do you feed feral cats on a budget?

Feeding feral cats on a budget can be managed by choosing affordable yet nutritious options like the cheap cat foods recommended above. Additionally, consider reaching out to your community for support. Online platforms such as local buy-nothing pages or neighborhood Facebook groups can be valuable resources. Often, people are willing to donate cat food that their pets don’t like or have left over. Furthermore, local humane societies often give away free cat and dog food monthly to those in need.

9. How do you feed outdoor cats and not raccoons?

Feeding outdoor cats without attracting raccoons requires some strategy. Feed the cats at a specific time each day and remove any leftover food promptly. Additionally, feeding during the day when raccoons are less active can help.

Final Words

In summary, when it comes to feeding outdoor cats, the Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Cat Food emerges as our top pick. It offers the ideal blend of high-quality protein, essential nutrients, and energy, tailored for the active lifestyle of outdoor cats.

However, we understand that each cat is unique, and what works for one might not work for another. That’s why we encourage you to consider the specific needs of the outdoor cats you’re caring for.

Remember, by choosing the best cat food for outdoor cats, you’re not just feeding these feral friends; you’re giving them a chance at a healthier, happier life.

Your efforts in caring for these independent spirits are truly admirable.

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