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What Is the Difference Between Stray and Feral Cats?
Difference Between Stray And Feral Cats

What Is the Difference Between Stray and Feral Cats?

You may notice cats wandering around your neighborhood if you look closely enough. You may wonder where they came from, if they belong to anyone, and how you can help them. This article will help you understand the difference between stray and feral cats and how you can help them.

What Is A Feral Cat?

In recent years, the word “feral” has become a harsh sounding word when describing an outdoor cat. While feral cats aren’t socialized, that doesn’t mean that they are vicious or rabid. Unfortunately, people sometimes gather that from the word “feral” & give the word a negative connotation. A “feral” cat is simply one that has had very little if any contact with humans. Usually, they were born outside and grew up outdoors without much human interaction while they were young. Cats in the outside world are both the prey and predators. So, their comfort levels will center around this & they’ll be defensive if they see something bigger than them. Not being around humans when they were young will make them seem not so friendly. Most people assume that every cat living outside is a feral cat, but that is not at all the case.

How Can You Help A Feral Cat?

While feral cats may not show you any love, they still deserve to be loved and respected. Many people overlook feral cats but there are many ways that you can help them. The difference between stray and feral cats really is minimal but the help that they need varies.

  • Make Sure Feral Cats Are In A Safe Area
  • Trap, Neuter, And Return Feral Cats
  • Provide Food And Water For Feral Cats
  • Educate Your Neighbors

Make Sure Feral Cats Are In A Safe Area

If cats can not acclimate to life indoors, the best thing that you can do is help manage their outdoor colony. First, make sure that the colony is in a safe location. In a perfect world, this would mean that the area is free from large predators, heavy traffic, and people who don’t want the cats around (it’s unfortunate but they exist). Providing shelter for outdoor cats like a catio ot shed that they can come and go from as they please is a great way to help them.

If the location is not safe for one reason or another, you can try to organize a mass trapping and relocate the colony. This is a major undertaking though and should only be done as a last resort. When you relocate a cat, you have to keep the cat confined for a few weeks at the new location. So, the cat will need to be in a catio, or somewhere that it can’t escape from for those few weeks. It takes time for a cat to adjust to its new environment. If you just release an outdoor cat into a new outdoor location it will try to get back to its previous home. As you could imagine, this is very dangerous for the cat for many reasons.

Trap, Neuter, And Return Feral Cats

We all wish that every cat in the world could be loved and have a safe shelter to call home. Many feral cats will never adjust to life with humans though and will do best in a safe and well-managed outdoor colony. Feral cats should be trapped, neutered, and returned to their colonies to stop the overpopulation of cats. This is commonly referred to as “TNR”. There are many clinics that will spay and neuter feral cats for free or barely any money and will give them shots. After this simple surgery, they are released to their original location. They get an ear tip to show that this procedure has already been done. Cats can reproduce insanely fast and just a few cats can turn into hundreds of cats in no time. That is why TNR is so important in preventing the suffering of often unwanted outdoor cats.

Provide Food And Water For Feral Cats

While you may never get a thank you rub on the leg, feral cats will still appreciate being offered food and water. This will prevent them from killing the local wildlife which can lead to people wanting the cats removed. A well-managed outdoor colony of cats can life a safe and happy life when neutered and fed in a safe environment.

Educate Your Neighbors

Many people are uneducated when it comes to outdoor cats. They may think that calling animal control is a good option for dealing with outdoor cats and may think they can just be relocated. If the opportunity arises, it’s best to speak with neighbors and let them know that the cats are cared for. It can be easy to get upset or frustrated with people who seem to have it out for these poor creatures but sometimes you catch more flies with honey. Let neighbors know to contact you if they have an issue with any of the cats.


What Is A Stray Cat?

A stray cat is a cat that is friendly and is comfortable around humans. Many stray cats lived in a home for a while and are now living outdoors for one reason or another. They can be a little nervous around people at first, depending on how long they have been outside. Your proximity around them while they’re eating or lounging is usually welcome as well. They may even be all over you for pets and attention!

Unfortunately, cats are sometimes abandoned by their previous owners. A cat that once lived indoors may be surviving outside but will have a difficult time. They aren’t used to having to hunt for food and tend to be bullied by the territorial feral cats. They also tend to have a hard time keeping up with all of the extra grooming that comes with outdoor life. A stray cat could also be a lost cat that somebody is missing. Sometimes though, stray cats could even be cats that were born outside but have been around humans their whole lives and are used to being around them.

How Can You Help A Stray Cat?

Stray cats usually aren’t living their best lives outdoors. Between hunting for food, fighting other animals, and dealing with humans who don’t respect them, their lives can be tough. A stray cat will probably be on its own as well, and not part of a community as feral cats will often fight with them. Stray cats will respond more vocally, either answering when you talk to them or meowing in general. Depending on the area you live in, it is usually better for these friendly cats to be inside. If you live in an urban area, indoor life is definitely the best-case scenario for a stray cat that is seeking human attention. An outdoor cat that looks like it got into a fight, is malnourished, or looks dirty, is definitely in need of some help as well!

First, Trap The Cat
Take The Cat To A Vet
Contact Rescues
Contact Rescues & Offer To Foster

First, Trap The Cat

If you want to help a friendly stray cat, you will first have to get it in a carrier or trap. Some cats are friendly enough that you can pick them up but some may be a little skittish. If they’re too skittish to be picked up, call a local rescue or shelter to borrow a trap. You vcan also buy a drop trap. Using a drop trap is a humane way of catching a cat since it is triggered when the cat steps fully inside and the door closes. These should not be set and left unattended though since they can capture any animal that is heavy enough to set them off.

Once caught, the trapped cat is vulnerable to other animals as well as humans and will be very frightened. It’s best to set a drop trap in a discrete area, like inside some bushes, and cover it with a sheet or towel. Then, watch the trap from afar and wait for the cat to enter it. You can also line it carefully with newspaper or a towel to make it more comfortable and inviting.

Take The Cat To A Vet

Once you’ve got a hold of the stray cat you’re trying to help, you’ll want to make sure it is healthy before introducing it to other pets. If you can’t get the cat to a vet right away, you can keep it in a spare bathroom until you have a plan in place. When you take the cat to a vet, you should have it scanned for a microchip to see if anyone is missing it. If the cat doesn’t have a microchip, you should take some photos and search for an owner. Post the photos online and hang up some flyers before assuming that the cat is not being missed.

Contact Rescues & Offer To Foster

If no owner is found and you can’t keep the cat yourself, reach out to rescues and shelters for help. With a small donation, they will usually be able to help get a friendly cat vetted and find it a home. It helps them out a lot too if you’re able to foster the cat in the meantime. You’ll also want to spend time with the cat and make sure that it is socialized. Doing this before putting it up for adoption will make it easier to find an adopter.

Some cats end up acclimating to indoor life better than others. Give the cat a few weeks to adapt to indoor life and start using the litter box. Some cats who are not very socialized can take months to acclimate. If the cat never seems to adapt and is miserable indoors, it may be best to find it an indoor/outdoor home. A good location would be at a barn or somewhere with a safe indoor & outdoor space to roam.

Related: How To Help An Outdoor Cat Adjust to Life Indoors

All Cats Deserve Love And Respect

Whether stray or feral, many outdoor cats have people who care, check on them daily, and provide food and water. The word “feral” is often used incorrectly to describe all cats living outside. However, there are also other words you can use instead. “Community cats” is a broader term that usually refers to all cats living outside. Free-roaming and undersocialized cats are other terms you can use as well that have less of a negative connotation. Hopefully, this article will help you understand the difference between stray and feral cats. It should also guide you in the right direction to help them.


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