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I have 5 stray cats that have been visiting my house over the last 2-3 months sporadically (1-2 times a week). Of late, I have started setting out adult cat food for them and I see that their frequency of visits has increased.

Now they follow a set time-table. Cat 1 visits between 9-9.30am and eats all the food! I set more food out at 9.30am and Cat 2 visits at around 11.00am and eats about half of it. Cat 1 and Cat 3 visit between noon-3pm and feed on the leftovers. Then I put food out again at around 6pm again and Cat 1 visits at around 6.30-7pm. Cat 4 and Cat 5 are only sporadic visiters.

Given that background, my questions are:

  • How do I ensure that Cat 2 doesn't go hungry since from next week I start work and will be in my office between 9am-7pm. I'm on vacation right now and hence it isn't difficult for me to put food out in the middle of the day since I am home. I would rather not resort to some fancy battery operated, timing gadget since I cannot quite afford anything beyond $10-15.

  • Also, do cats "learn" if I time my feeding and restrict it to setting out food at 8am (before I head to work) and 7pm (after I return from work)? Will I be losing some of my frequent visiters if they perceive that I don't put food out any more in the middle of the day?

  • I plan on traveling out of the country for a month - is there some feeding strategy I can use to ensure they have food when I am gone? I can't quite ask my neighbors.

More info

I checked with my the building syndicat. They have no problem with me feeding stray cats.

  • @surfmadpig thank you for your answer. Is there anything I can do when I am out of town for a "long duration" (~ 1 month) – dearN Aug 30 '14 at 14:02
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In my experience, a cat, even strays, will certainly learn and adapt to the time you give them food. To do so, you will have to follow a strict policy.

Right now, they all know they will be fed, so each one comes and goes as it pleases. Resist the urge to give each one food as soon as it comes, and stick to the schedule. If they realize food is only available at a set time, they will all start coming together. It's ok if one of them misses feeding time once or twice, they'll survive. Leave out the empty food bowl so it will realize it came late, and it will start coming earlier.

Twice a day is fine for feeding - most household cats get fed three times a day, but twice is fine as well.

In general, strays tend to be OK with being fed altogether, and a hungry stray will tolerate others during feeding even if it's a loner.

Unfortunately, I can't think of a feeding strategy if you're going to be away for a whole month, since you mentioned the neighbors are uncooperative. Even if you left out a big quantity of food, it's likely that just more cats or other stray animals will come once, eat it and leave. Just leave 2-3 days' worth of food, then hope for the best. Don't be too worried, either, most strays tend to survive without people giving them food directly (there could also already be other people in your area feeding them).

  • Thank you for your answer. My concern is that the cat(s) will get into a routine and then when I am gone for a long duration, they may leave me :(... Unfort. my apartment doesn't allow pets indoors or I would have taken them to the vet and adopted them. – dearN Aug 31 '14 at 15:55
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    @drN please consider taking them to the vet anyway and having them spayed/neutered, otherwise your colony will grow exponentially! – Zaralynda Aug 31 '14 at 17:20
  • @Zaralynda Yes, I know! Thank you. Will do that in the next 1-2 weeks after I get some information. – dearN Aug 31 '14 at 17:23

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