There are many cats roaming around my neighborhood. Some are feral, some are just strays people lost or abandoned and others are pets that are left outside. I recognize one or two cats that are the neighborhood scroungers, but it's hard to tell which ones are pets.
This is my question. How can I tell? What if the dinner I serve is a lot tastier than what they get at home or they're just coming by for an extra meal? I used to put food outside all the time, but I never knew if a raccoon was getting to it first. Then I figured raccoons need to eat too, right? Later I stopped, because my new neighbor doesn't want them hanging around. He said they carry disease, but these cats are so skittish that it's very unlikely he or his child will ever have any direct contact with them. I can't even get the cats to come near me with a plate of 9 Lives Seafood Platter. (Boy, does that stuff stink!)
Also, it's just an uneducated guess, but isn't a well fed animal less of a nuisance? (not talking about alligators or other wildlife of course.) I mean, they won't be searching through your garbage cans or chasing after birds if they're full & lounging around after a good meal.
After a week or 2 with no cats, a beautiful black one wandered into my yard and was still under a tree at night, so I offered her a treat. She wouldn't come close to me, but she ate as soon as I went inside. The next evening she was there looking up at my kitchen window. I tried to ignore her, but just before dusk I peeked outside and 2 shiny marbles were staring at me. I couldn't stand it, so I drove to the store and bought more food. The next day she was gone, but after dark she came back with 3 friends, possibly a mate and 2 kittens. So then I had 4. Still, I'm pretty sure they're not all feral cats, even though they run away together. In fact, the black cat seems to be the leader. It's as if she told the other cats where they could find some mighty tasty fixins, and she circles them while they eat.
There is one cat that doesn't eat with the group. He/she is frightened of me, stays under a tree, but doesn't dash away like the others. She looks scrawny to me, unlike the others. When the other cats are eating around the plate of food, this one cat sits & watches from a distance, often hiding under a bush. She'll then run over to lick it, although there's nothing left. So last night I went out with a little more food and shooed the others away. She was able to get several bites before they came back. Is this normal behavior? If the more aggressive cats are getting all the food, I'm really not helping the hungry cat that seems to need some nourishment. Having said that, many household pets are naturally skinny. I can't get close enough to make any sort of evaluation.
I went out back to get my plate about an hour ago and I noticed the 3 gray cats & the black one together on the back screened porch of the house next to me. The owner isn't living there now, but she takes care of it. There was a small screen missing, as if someone purposely made a cat door. Trust me, the owner definitely doesn't have any pets. I've known her for many years. So maybe that's where they've found refuge from the heat and the rain and are camping out temporarily. When they saw me approaching, they ran out of the porch and disappeared through the trees.
I really don't know much about cats and, in fact, I'm really a dog person at heart. I just don't like to see anything go hungry. However, these cats do not look sick or dirty and, except for the one that keeps its distance from the "pack" that eats together (possible a family) I wouldn't be surprised if they're getting fed by others.
Okay - now I've written too much, but I didn't know where to begin or stop! I've read it's probably not a good idea to feed strays unless you plan to adopt them, but I have no intention of taking in these animals. I'm also hoping to move by the end of the year. Maybe I won't see those eyes staring up at my window tonight. It's already 7:30 and there are no kitties in sight!