Stray and Feral Cats—What Is the Difference?

stray or feral cats

Stray, feral, and indoor cats all fall under the umbrella of domestic pet cats. However, stray and feral felines are different from each other in a vital way—connecting to and communicating with people.

Whether you are a sanctuary employee, vet, or feral cat advocate, knowing how to discriminate will help you decide that course of action to take when met with either type.

In today’s blog, we will discuss terms and what it means to each type:

What is socialization?

We use the term “socialized” to imply cats that are friendly to people. They are cats who appreciate friendship with us in our homes.

Of course, this is achieved by interacting with people—being held, spoken to, and had fun with—from an early age. When a kitten is not accustomed to people holding or cuddling her, the tendency is that she will grow up worried about people and will not be suited to or satisfied living in homes.

Feral vs. Stray Cats


Feral felines are not socialized to people. While they are associated with their swarm members and adhered to every other, they do not have that same relationship with humans.


Stray cats are those that have been socialized to people at some point in their lives. However, for some reason, they lost his/her domestic house. Over time, a stray pet cat can come to be feral as her contact with humans diminishes.

Nevertheless, under the best situations, a stray cat can easily be a family pet once again. Stray cats re-introduced to a home after living outdoors may need some time to re-acclimate. They may be frightened and wary after hanging around outside, far from people.

Why does it matter?

Stray cats can readjust to dealing with individuals and can be adopted as buddies. However, grown-up feral cats are not mingled to individuals, which indicates they can not be taken on. They are likely to be exterminated if gotten by animal control or sanctuaries. Because of this, it is in their best interest to continue living outdoors.

Stray and feral cats can be hard to differentiate, particularly when they are caught or scared. Terrified homeless felines often need time to reveal their degree of socializing. Feral cats are returned to the outdoors after being neutered. Socialized cats and kitties can be adopted right into houses.

How can I tell if I see them in the wild?

Considering that it is hard to identify each feline’s socializing during a stressful event such as capturing, it’s a good idea to observe cats on their own home, making use of the guidelines listed below. Bear in mind that these standards are not hard and fast regulations, which merely among these attributes is probably not enough to attract a conclusion.

If you can touch her, she is most likely not feral. Not all stray pet cats will do this, however, especially initially–each feline will certainly act differently in a selection of situations. More monitoring using these guidelines might be required to establish if the cat is mingled.