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I find myself unexpectedly catsitting in Beijing, and I'm out of cat food (I'm brand new to this). Yesterday, I assumed I could just go to a random store and buy some cat food, but it doesn't seem that simple here---I think I'd need to go to a specialty store (I still don't really know). So I bought some online, but it might take a day or two to arrive. But in the meantime...

I'm trying to figure out a temporary "hack" to keep them fed until their food arrives (or until I figure out how to buy cat food in person here). They're fairly young (they were tiny kittens about 2 months ago) and they don't eat much. My best guess at this point is to buy some Chinese-style kebabs (meat on a stick) or the meat from any human dish.

Question: How can I temporarily feed two cats in Beijing before their food arrives by post?

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  • I managed tonight's dinner with beef jerky and a can of tuna---they ate it very quickly and don't seem hungry anymore. I'm not sure if I'm doing the right thing, but it's better than no food. Jan 2 at 10:04
  • When catsitting, it's a good rule of thumb to be able to contact the owner in case there's some emergency. If you have their contact info, then try to ask them. If you don't, next time arrange to have some way to contact them.
    – Kai
    Jan 4 at 20:43
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    I know what they need to eat [it's in the photo], but at the time, I didn't have any and wasn't sure where to buy it (or even how to say "cat food" in Chinese [it's 猫粮, by the way]). It's now arrived from online, I found a shop with Whiskers, and their owner returned home [who had also bought some online]. Now there's too much 猫粮. Anyway, the cats seem fine and we're back to normal now. Jan 5 at 0:40
  • I am sure OP's problem has long passed, but for any future readers, an easy solution is human foods like eggs, baby food, rice. Just check caloric requirements and the animal to be sure you are not over/under feeding by much.
    – Yogesch
    May 2 at 5:45
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Beef jerky should be avoided, it is high in sodium and can dehydrate, so you'll want to make sure there is enough fluid intake.


I'd go with plain boneless chicken meat, boiled in plain water (you can add just the tiniest pinch of salt to the water). You can feed them the meat, as well as the resulting broth.

When we cook chicken meat for our cats, we use just enough water to consider it boiling instead of steaming, think 1-2 fingers at the bottom of the pot, this gives a nice broth.

Let it cool until it is just lukewarm, and check as you would with preparing food for a human infant, i.e. put your finger in there to check the temperature before serving.

The advantage of chicken is that the majority of cats will accept it without too much of a fuss, and it is easily digestible, so less likely to cause digestive trouble from a sudden change of diet.

If only chicken with bone is available, make sure to carefully remove the bone, e.g. pull meat you feed from the bones and sieve the broth, as cooked bone tends to splinter and thus is extremely hazardous if ingested.


Canned tuna for human consumption is also possible, but again you'll want to get the "natural" or "in own juice" kind, when in doubt check the list of ingredients, it should just be the plain fish and water.

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If you are just bridging a couple of days, you fortunately don’t have to worry too much about a balanced diet (pure meat is not suitable long-term).

If you can be reasonably sure that it’s not pathogen-ridden, raw, unseasoned meat is a good choice and should be easy enough to obtain. I would suggest chicken or beef, but please don’t feed raw pork, it could cause pseudorabies, which is rare but fatal.

If you are unsure about the meat quality, you can also quickly steam it to be on the safe side, however, in my experience cats will usually prefer raw meat over cooked. Do not add any other ingredients, especially no salt, spices or onions/garlic. Never feed cooked bones to animals.

The sudden change may cause slight gastrointestinal discomfort, as all diet changes can do, but it should not be serious.

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There are several human foods you can use as emergency cat foods. Please note that all the listed options are meant to be temporary only and cannot provide a balanced diet long term.

Despite what comics and TV shows portrait, cats shouldn't be fed any milk or cream. They become lactose intolerant early in their life (soon after the mother cat stops feeding them milk) and after that time milk causes discomfort, bloating and diarrhea. Having diarrhea can severely dehydrate the body and lead to even more loss of essential nutrients.

Other options to temporarily feed the cat (according to this post and personal experience) include:

  • Raw meat like chicken, lamb or fish (no raw pork)
  • Unseasoned cooked meat or fish
  • Cooked or raw eggs (only feed raw eggs if you're sure they don't have salmonella)
  • Small quantities of plain yogurt that must not contain xylitol
  • Unseasoned cooked grains like rice, oats, couscous, polenta, millet and even breadcrumbs
  • Unseasoned cooked potatoes or potato mash. You can use instant powder, but you must read the list of ingredients first and make sure it doesn't contain any onion or garlic at all.
  • Small amounts of finely cut, microwaved, steamed or boiled carrots, peas, green beans, broccoli, asparagus, pumpkin, squash and spinach. Please be aware that there vegetables like onions, garlic, leek and avocados that are poisonous to cats. See the Pet Poison Helpline for more details.

Unseasoned broth is a good emergency food for all cats that are unable to eat solid food. The broth should be as thick as possible (use less water for the same amount of meat) and can be made from chicken or other poultry, any bones, pig's or calf's feet, fish heads and fins or any cutoffs you can buy cheap. You should also try to cut some meat very small and add it to the broth. A small amount of instant potato mash, cooked potato mashed finely, flour or starch also adds more nutrients to the broth. (If you add flour or starch to the broth, dissolve it in a little cold water first and then add it to the boiling broth and cook for 2 minutes. That gives the broth a gravy or sauce-like consistency.)

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