What's a community cat?  Are they stray or feral?

Community cat is a term to include all free-roaming cats, whether they are friendly and approachable or completely afraid of interactions with people…and everything in between.

Community cats that are unsocialized with people and fearful are often referred to as "feral", while cats that interact with people are usually called "stray".

Stray Cats:

  • A stray cat has been socialized to people at some point in her life but has lost her domestic home as well as most human contact and dependency;
  • Over time, a stray cat can become feral as her interaction with humans diminishes;
  • Under the right circumstances, a stray cat can become a pet again. However, after living outdoors this may require a period of time to re-acclimate;
  • Another definition is "A stray cat is a domestic cat that has been abandoned or has 'strayed' from home and become lost. Strays were once pets and they can usually be successfully rescued and place in homes" (Stray Cat Handbook).

Feral Cats:

  • A feral cat is a cat who has either never had any contact with humans or her contact with humans has diminished over time. She is fearful of people and survives on her own outdoors. It is unlikely a feral cat will adapt to living indoors.
  • Kittens born to feral cats can be socialized at and early age and successfully adopted into homes.

These differences matter because:

  • Stray cats can readjust to living with people and be adopted as companions.
  • Adult feral cats are not socialized to people and cannot be adopted. Therefore they are likely to be killed if taken to an animal shelter and it is best for them to allow them to continue living outdoors.
  • Stray and feral cats can be hard to tell apart, especially when they are trapped or frightened. Frightened stray cats need time to relax to show their level of socialization.
  • TNVR takes into account each cats socialization level to determine the best environment for them- adoption or return to the colony. Feral cats are trapped, neutered and returned to to their outdoor home Socialized cats and all young kittens can be adopted into homes.

This information is taken from the Alley Cat Allies website. For more complete information, visit Alley Cat Allies/stray and feral cats.