Feral Cat vs. Stray Cat: What’s the Difference?
Learn the tell-tale signs that distinguish a wild cat from a stray
If you’ve spotted a strange cat in your neighborhood, you may be wondering if it’s a feral cat versus a stray cat. How can you tell the difference between the two, especially if your contact is limited or only from a difference? There are telltale signs that make it evident whether you’re dealing with a feral cat or a stray cat, but you’ll need to be observant and perceptive.
It’s important to know the difference between a feral cat versus a stray cat since the behavior can vary widely between the two. If you have your own feline friend with access to the outdoors, understanding whether you have a feral cat or simply a stray cat on the prowl is an important piece of information to keeping your kitty safe and healthy.
Feral Cat vs. Stray Cat
It’s important to first establish what defines a feral cat versus stray cat. The two share a common denominator in that they are living outdoors with no consistent human care, but there is an important distinction.
A feral cat has had little or no interaction with humans. Typically, feral cats are born in a feral litter or to stray cats.
A stray cat at one time lived with or around humans it regularly interacted with. It may have been a house cat at one time or an outdoor cat with an owner. Due to becoming lost or abandoned, the cat has lost its connection to its owner and is considered a stray.
Both feral and stray kitties are considered domesticated cats, not wild animals. However, the personality and behavior of a feral cat may be very different from a stray cat.
How to Identify a Feral vs. Stray Cat
There are both physical characteristics and behavioral tendencies that can help you to distinguish a feral cat from a stray cat. If a new cat is on the prowl in your neighborhood, check out the following identifiers as a first step to determine if it’s a stray cat or a feral cat.
Feral cats may have a ‘tipped ear,’ meaning that the pointy part has been clipped. This is done in routine trap-neuter-return procedures to indicate that a cat has been sterilized.
Stray cats may look especially skinny and unkept. Often inexperienced hunters, they may have a more difficult time scavenging for food. Additionally, they’re frequently rejected by feral cat colonies and may be involved in frequent altercations.
Feral cats, on the other hand, are experts in the way of the wild. They generally look healthy, thanks to their aptitude to outdoor living and expert hunting skills.