Most strays and scavengers are street-smart, so it's important that you feed them only once in a day or they might continue relying on you for food, not bothering to scavenge for it and remain hungry and starve at the end. Dogs and cats have excellent hunting instincts and that will get them out of most loopholes. Also their immunity is much stronger than household pets and that's what sets them apart.
So, here are a few, quick guidelines and tips on how you can go about feeding the strays in your area without it pinching your budget, in spite of the lockdown.
1. Chapati/BreadChapati is made of wheat flour which has gluten. Most dogs are allergic to gluten, hence its advisable to avoid giving them bread or chapati as a meal. Not all dogs however are gluten intolerant and they will be able to digest chapati and bread. If you find your stray having loose motions or vomiting, discontinue giving chapati or bread and connect with a vet. But this is the most common food used by stray feeders all over.
2. Rice and ChickenBuy dalia or broken rice from your local grocery shop. Costs up to Rs 20-30 per kg. Get some leftover meat (chicken feet and goat lungs) from your local chicken shop. Should not cost you more than Rs. 50 per kg. Cook together in a pressure cooker upto three whistles. When you open the cooker, it is boiling hot, break two eggs in the mixture and let it cook. The eggy smell is loved by dogs and cats and this can be a slight variation for them. Serve once it cools down.
3. Rice and Dry Food GravyA mixture of boiled rice mixed with puppy dog food and water makes it gravy-like in texture and easier to digest. Make small packets of this food and feed them. Buy the 20kg pack and this should suffice for one and a half month along with the additions mixed in proportion.
4. EggsYou can give them boiled eggs too. Another tip is to clean the leftover egg shells, bask them in sunlight for 2-3 hours, crush them in the mixer and grind into a powder; this is the best form of natural calcium for them. Add one teaspoon of this powder in their food.
5. Local Restaurant LeftoversRice, meat pieces without bones, fish without bones, even eggs can be given from the leftovers of the kitchen. However, it is very important that spicy gravy, oily food, ginger garlic spiced food, and uncooked meat should not be given to them. Dogs might suffer from GI upset or even serious illnesses like pancreatitis.
6. Rice and FishLeftover fish can be gotten from the local fish shop. Make sure the fish chunks do not have any bones at all as there are chances of the bone getting lodged in the throat. Do not feed raw fish or they might get affected by salmonella or listeria. Just boil the fish and do not add salt or any masala. Add boiled rice to it and lots of water. This makes for a wholesome meal.
Most street cats love to eat soft food and will be unable to eat bones.
7. Poha or (Flattened Rice)Take the flattened rice, soak in water, mix with dog food and serve it to them. Adding poha to the dog food, increases the quantity and this will also help feed a lot more of them, thus adding volume and quantity.
8. Dal, Vegetables & RiceBoiled rice and tur dal are a good mixture of carbs and protein. Instead of Udid/UradDal, you can feed them moong or masoor. Avoid Urad dal completely. If you use (jaade tandul) as they are commonly called in Marathi, this type of rice absorbs more water, increases the volume and makes for a wholesome meal. Tur dal and rice (ampti bhat) as commonly known in Marathi mixed with veggies is a very good option for them.
9. BiscuitsBiscuits or any other baked goods contain xylitol (a form of sugar alcohol used to sweeten products). Xylitol is highly toxic to dogs, leading to hypoglycemia and liver failure. However, when you see a lot of strays around the roadside chai stalls in and around your city, you would wonder that the whole world is feeding strays biscuits and they are surviving fine. Yes, that’s true. Most strays live on biscuits and stale bread. Whatever is fed and whatever is available is how it goes for most of them, because eating something is better than dying of hunger. Biscuit packets come cheap at about Rs. 20 a small pack and most feeders find it feasible to buy in bulk and feed them.
Finally it is a question of volume and not about feeding them something fancy. If you have 15 strays who are looking up to you for some kind of food, biscuits should be the last resort. Please feed them; something is better than nothing!
Safety Measures to be followed for Feeders
You should not face any issues if you are feeding strays with the right guidelines in place
1. Leave food and water outside the place that they usually frequent or the place where they stay.
2. If you want, you can also donate to NGOs, animal activists or feeders and they will do it for you.
3. If you are feeding strays in your society, feed them at their regular spot and don’t venture out of the society.
4. If you are feeding a large number of dogs, carry plastic bags or bowls on which you can pour the food. Do not place the food on newspapers as the newsprint ink is toxic and poisonous to pets.
5. Carry water and pour in mud bowls or plastic bowls. Carrying extra water is recommended.
6. Do wear a mask and gloves. Carry a sanitizer and sanitize your hands before and after feeding.
7. Fix one time in the day for feeding.
8. During the lockdown, you will not require a pass if you are feeding strays in your society, however you might require one if you are travelling a certain distance to feed them. Register yourself on this link: https://covid19.mhpolice.in/ and and get an E-PASS. This is an online Curfew Pass applicable only in Maharashtra. You may receive the pass after 2-3 days.
At the end of the day, it is the survival of the fittest. The one who remains strong and calm and knows how to survive all the storms will be the one staying afloat. It is our appeal to all you kind souls out there. Be it stray cattle, goats, dogs, cats, birds etc- everyone deserves a chance to live and the one who feeds with love is only second to God.