Community Cat Information
Pet, Stray or Feral? What are the differences?
These are from personal experience and observation and are in no way represented as officially correct.
Pet (socialized cat that is indoor/outdoor): Cats that have homes close to us, that they return to every day, and are just visiting. These cats are usually more comfortable being outside and do not find it a stressful or fearful experience and are more likely to respond to a human voice or presence. They may well respond with caution and fear, but not necessarily have the full “terror flight” response. They will generally allow for approach and physical contact right away, or quite easily over a short period of time, if approached correctly. A pet’s physical response to humans is also usually different as well. Quite often
when they do run away, they will stop not far away, turn back and look at you, even sitting down, and will quite often vocalize by meowing at you. They also don’t usually feed at the feeding stations multiple times a day or on any regular basis.
Stray/Semi Feral: (Cat that has been socialized as a pet, but is lost/abandoned probably sometime in the last year or so.) These cats exhibit much the same behaviors as a pet, however, they usually exhibit a faster reactive flight instinct, are harder and take longer to allow approach and physical contact. They will also feed regularly when they find a safe, steady food source. They usually stay close by, finding a place to shelter within a pretty close range of this food source. They are also usually, but not always, physically unkempt, having stopped grooming and self-care due to fear and anxiety. With time and the proper approach, these cats can be re-socialized and live happily indoors again.
Feral: (Cat that was born outside and has never had human contact or was once socialized with humans but has been outside and on its own for years) Feral cats do not generally openly show themselves during the day. They come out mostly at dawn, dusk and night. They will avoid any human activity or presence. If they do cross with a human they will run without any hesitation to a safe hiding place. Although over time they may become accustomed to a regular human caretaker, the chances of them ever becoming lap cats is almost non-existent. People will quite often say they reformed a feral cat to a house cat, but in actual fact, they have reformed a stray/semi-feral cat. True feral, adult cats, born and living their lives outside without human contact can rarely adapt to becoming a happy, indoor or indoor/outdoor pet. Kittens born of a feral cat that are caught young can most definitely be socialized and make wonderful indoor pets.
If you’re interested, here is a good link to an article by Alley Cat Allies about this topic.
Shelter in Cold, Wet Weather is Vital
Putting together shelters and feeding stations can be a very simple, quick and inexpensive thing to do, but can save lives in cold temperatures. It never ceases to amaze me how illusive free roaming cats are. Remember, we may not ‘see’ them, but they are there. Go ahead, put together a shelter, the worst thing that can happen is no one moves in, best thing that can happen, a life is given shelter.
For step by step instructions, please visit the eRubbermaid site linked below.