When my wife and I moved into our current house, we wanted to attract a stray cat to keep mice and other vermin away. We cannot have a cat in the house because it is very small and my wife is allergic to cats. After we got settled in, we stopped by our closest neighbors house to visit. They have several cats. During our conversation, the subject of a stray cat came up. They said that they were feeding a feral cat that came around (as well as the three cats that lived with them). It was very skittish about people and would bolt at the first sign that someone was getting close. They suggested that if we would start feeding it, they would stop feeding it and it would very quickly start spending more time around our place. That sounded good to us, so the deal was struck.
So, we started feeding the cat by putting food out on our back porch. We saw it from time to time, but it was truly as skittish as our neighbors had said. If it even saw us watching it out the window in our kitchen door, off it went. Then one night after about a month or so, my wife calls me on the cellphone from our driveway (she gets home from work later than I do). She tells me to come right down, there is something I have to see. It turns out that one of our neighbors’ cats had decided to come over and sample our food. My wife was afraid of scaring him off, which is why she called me on the phone rather than coming in and getting me. She need not have worried, the cat (an orange tabby) was perfectly happy to have people around. As soon as I came down he rubbed up against my legs and demanded my attention. After a couple more months we caught yet another of our neighbors’ cats eating out of the bowl we put out for the feral cat. My wife was worried that the feral cat was not getting any to eat and wanted to put out more food. I, on the other hand, did not want to make our neighbors’ cats fat. We compromised by increasing the amount of food slightly.
On several mornings we came out to see the food bowl tipped up on its side against the chair on the porch. My wife was convinced the feral cat was threatening us, “Give me more food, or that will be you one of these nights.” All that being said, we decided that now that we had a pretty good idea how much cat food we were going through, we should buy less expensive food in larger quantities. So, we did. We got the new food and put it out one night. The next morning the bowl was tipped over completely and the food was scattered on the porch. It did not look like the cats had eaten any of it. We put the food back in the bowl and added just a little bit more. I figured once the feral cat got hungry enough it would eat the food.
After two days with the food remaining untouched, my wife wanted to buy “better” cat food but I was convinced that sooner or later the feral cat would give in and eat the food we provided. After a week I had to admit that either it was getting food somewhere else, or it was just that stubborn and would not eat the food for any reason. We decided to get some “better” food and mix it with the cheap stuff we had. The first night we did this, the next morning it appeared that the cat had picked the “good” stuff out and left most of the other food. We continued to mix the food and just did not put out as much. This appeared to work, sometimes it took a couple of days but all of the food got eaten.
Then I got lazy. Instead of mixing the two, I just put the “good” stuff on the bottom. The next morning, the bowl was tipped and the cheap stuff was scattered on the porch. Then I had an inspiration, we had a little bit of meat stock left over from a meal we made, so I put some of it over the cheap cat food. The next morning, not only was the cat bowl knocked over, it was knocked completely off the porch. But all the food was gone. That has been the procedure since then. When we prepare a meal, we keep the meat drippings or the excess stock that we will not be able to use up before it goes bad and put a little bit over the cheap cat food. We can always tell how well the offering was received. Some mornings only a little bit of the food is eaten, other mornings it is all eaten. But we can tell when we have a home run when the bowl has been knocked off the porch and all of the food is gone.