Identifying Stray & Feral Cats


Spring is here and we all know what that means……KITTIES! There are many homeless cats on the prowl and we are often asked how to tell the difference between “feral” cats and “stray” cats in your neighborhood. Knowing how to tell the difference can help inform you how best to interact with a cat or what type of intervention would be in the cat’s best interest.

Stray cats would be categorized as a cat that could have been lost from their home or abandoned by their previous owners. Most stray cats are still very friendly and will approach you to seek attention, love, food and water. Others may appear feral or scared at first, but once you befriend them, you’ll find that they enjoy human touch and companionship. You will come to find that all these cats sometimes need is a little TLC. Keep in mind that many people allow their cats to roam freely and it can be difficult to tell if the cat has a home to call its own. It may take some investigating on your part to determine whether the cat is someones pet or in fact a stray.

Feral cats would be categorized as a cat that a person would be unable to handle at all or “wild”. Unaltered male feral cats tend to fight for their territory & for their unaltered females. Cats become socialized when they have human interaction such as being held, spoken to, and played with from an early age. Since feral cats are not socialized they have a natural aversion to humans and more often than not they cannot adjust to living anywhere but outdoors, many times in colonies with other feral cats. If these cats aren’t spayed or neutered, they produce feral kittens which tends to create a vicious cycle of constant reproducing often starting at their first heat cycle. It is possible to socialize feral kittens if handled from a very early age.

Here at the HSVC we believe that spay and neuter is one of the best ways to curb over-population of animals in our community. One un-spayed female cat and one un-neutered male cat and their offspring can result in 420,000 kittens in as little as 7 years. If you find a cat or kittens and are unsure if they are feral, stray, or someones pet, or have questions about spay and neuter please call the HSVC at 805-646-6505. 

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