I realized that I have not written this essay and this essay will definitely be very helpful to some people. I will discuss feeding cats and kittens based on my training in biology, working with veterinarians, and my personal observations doing field research on house cats, Felis catus or the feline.
First, we have known for decades, possibly half a century, that, contrary to what the cat haters like PBS, Disney, and conservationists teach, better than 70% of a free roaming feral cat's diet is...wait for it...bugs, not cute wittle mousies and birdies, bugs. Better than 70% of what free roaming feral cats consume are those wonderful little things you just love to have in your yard, house, and business like cock roaches, spiders (including black widows), flies, moths, and grasshoppers.
Less than 30% of their diet is everything else, including such things as disease infected rodents, disease infected birds, and poisonous snakes. You should study the diseases that rodents and birds carry that adversely affect and kill humans. The rat carries 75 KNOWN diseases that adversely affect or kill humans, just the rat. Better than 90% of the flu viruses that kill people every year come from birds.
As a side note, I have one small black male who just loves to hunt spiders so I am always having to clean spider webs off his head and I named him Spider Man or Spidy.
Based on my observations, 100% of free roaming feral cats prefer freshly killed prey over processed cat food and most domestic cats won't even know how to begin to eat the fresh kill. I have placed freshly killed mice and other prey next to even good can food for cats and, 100% of the time, the feral cats have taken the fresh kill, without hesitation. As a matter of fact, it was grab it and run type take it.
What should that tell you about processed cat food?
Think about it. It beats nothing and is a good supplement for feral cat diets.
For feeding adult cats, I suggest you vary their diet in a number of ways to give them more nutrients. First, give them both canned and dry cat food and you can mix a little can food in the dry food with a little water to make it taste better and I call it cat salad. It may take them a while to get used to it but they will learn to like it.
Then, at least a few days a week, you can mix in diced or shredded chicken for chicken salad, tuna for tuna salad (they won't know it is the cheap brand), and shredded cheese, can food, and dry food for "cheese burgers", being sure to always add a little water to make it more moist. You can also mix diced ham in with the dry food but not all cats like ham because it is more salty than the other foods. What they don't eat, you can freshen up with some can food later and they will eat it.
You feed them like this twice a day and always leave a bowl full of just dry food and a water bowl but the water bowl should not be too close to the food bowl or they will get dry food in it. Also, you can give them a little special dry food or just meat or cheese as a treat every now and then. This will give them a varied and very nutritious diet.
Note that the feline digestive tract is not very long so they can't digest most vegetation and have to depend on almost only meat for their diet.
BTW, as a side note, I walked up on a female cat about a week ago with a half eaten grey rat that is not indigenous to this area. We don't naturally have grey rats in this area. We now have an invasive rodent species here that was probably brought here by someone moving here from a big city or Europe. This particular species of grey rat could easily be a threat to other local species like the Kangaroo Rat because they are extremely aggressive and I found out about it because of a feral cat eating it.
For probably more than half a century, we have known in biology that better than 90% of the prey taken every year by predators is the young of other species because the young are the easiest kill and all predators will take the easiest kill. In the wild, the actual survival rate of a new born animal living for just one full year is probably no more than 3% to 5%, pending the species, in some cases, much less.
Clue: true wild life ain't like what Disney and the others tell you. There ain't no warm fuzzies out there in the wild. It is eat or be eaten.
I have had a number of different vets tell me, independently of each other, including some friends, that the average survival rate for bottle feeding kittens is less than one out of eight kittens will survive or a mortality rate of better than 87.5%, probably at least 90% will not make it. I have been told that vets hate to bottle feed kittens and many will even refuse to feed kittens because it is so time intensive and the mortality rate is so very high. It is pretty much a waste of their time.
A kitten that is less than 3 to 4 weeks old has to be fed every 2 to 3 hours and it will take you about an hour to hand feed six kittens. After about 4 weeks, they can be fed every 4 hours. After about 6 to 8 weeks, they can be fed kitten replacement milk from a bowl. Do the math on that one.
There are a number of reasons for this pending the age of the kittens when you start. First, we have known for decades that all mothers' milk for all species has antibiotics to prevent infections and diseases because the new born immune systems are not functioning well for the first part of the first year, during early to mid breast feeding.
I have not seen a kitten replacement milk or KRM that has those antibiotics in it so it is not unusual for a kitten to get an infection like a digestive tract infection, stop eating, and die and it can happen within days to a very healthy kitten. That tiny little thing will not live long when it stops eating.
Also, most people either don't have the time or discipline to feed the really small kittens. You have to be very bullheaded and determined to succeed at all.
A number of years ago, Hartz was the best selling KRM on the market and it is still one of the best out there but some biologically ignorant people who lost kittens blamed Hartz (it was either blame Hartz or take the blame themselves because they didn't know reality and they didn't want anyone to think they were not perfect) and used the Internet to start a huge boycott causing many stores to stop selling Hartz, including Walmart. The KRM now sold by Walmart is so bad I have not been able to get one kitten or cat to eat it. I have poured it in cat bowls and they all walk away from it. The stuff is crap.
Know what you are talking about before you start or join a boycott. You can cause more harm than good.
I now have to get my Hartz KRM via Amazon.com, which means I either have to buy a huge quantity or pay shipping and the stuff has a shelf life so buying a huge quantity is not smart unless you are using a lot of it, which, with just one litter of six, can happen.
Know that, with a litter of six, you will start out feeding them one can a week and end up feeding them more than four cans per week before they wean and the stuff is expensive.
I REALLY hate hand feeding kittens but do it all of the time to attempt to save kittens.
Three years ago, four nursing females went missing within a few weeks of each other leaving me with 22 kittens to hand feed, six of them were only 1.5 weeks old. PURELY BY THE GRACE OF GOD, WITH THE HELP OF AN OLD FEMALE TO CLEAN THEM (especially the ones which have not developed the ability to potty by themselves - what a mess), and my bullheadedness, I got 100% of them to one year old. It was a nightmare!
Then I got stupid and thought, "Gee, I is are be bril-lee-yunt", and God said, "Really? Let's see" (I hate when He says that), and my survival rate for last year was 20%, better than twice normal and at least 4 to 5 times better than in the wild and that was with the mother cats still there caring for the kittens. It is absolutely amazing how many things can quickly kill a healthy kitten and even take out entire litters EVEN WITH THE MOTHER CATS IN CHARGE.
I just realized while writing that last paragraph that God and I did 5 times better than the mother cats. That blows my mind but I refuse to take the credit for it because it was God's fault, not mine. He did it through me. There, whew, that was close.
Hold it, does that mean I am mother catus maximus?
I refuse to start licking my butt.
I have seen kittens become depressed, especially after losing their mother, stop eating and quickly die, within days.
You have to understand that, when a cat stops eating, its digestive tract will quickly stop functioning and even force feeding them won't do any good unless you can manage to "jump start" or restart their digestive tract functioning, which, even according to vets, is very rare. You save what you can and God takes the rest.
I pray this helps a few of you.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.