What is the difference between a stray cat and a feral cat?
Pet and stray cats are socialized to people.
Feral cats are not socialized to people. While they are socialized to their feline family members and bonded to each other, they do not have that same relationship with people.
“Community cat” is an umbrella term that refers to any member of the Felis catus species who is unowned and lives outdoors. Both feral and stray cats are community cats. Community cats have a wide range of behaviors and degrees of socialization, but they generally do not want to live indoors and are unadoptable.
- A stray cat is a cat who lived indoors and was socialized to people at some point in her life, but has left or lost her home, or was abandoned, and no longer has regular human contact.
- Over time, a stray cat can become feral as her contact with humans dwindles.
- A stray cat may be socialized enough to allow people to touch her, but she will become less socialized—or even feral—if she spends too much time without positive interaction with humans.
- Under the right circumstances, a stray cat can also become a pet cat once again. Stray cats that are re-introduced to an indoor home after living outdoors may require a period of time to re-acclimate; they may be frightened and wary after spending time outside away from people.
- A feral cat is an unsocialized outdoor cat who has either never had any physical contact with humans, or human contact has diminished over enough time that she is no longer accustomed to it. Most feral cats are fearful of people and are not likely to ever become a lap cat or enjoy living indoors.
- Kittens born to feral cats can be socialized at an early age and adopted into indoor homes. Some have feral DNA and can’t be socialized.
- LCHS does not, in general, recommend trying to socialize a feral kitten over 4 months of age. Socializing is time consuming, especially for older kittens, and results are not guaranteed.