Domestic cats are a species of cats which includes a pet, stray, and feral cats. Within this classification, there is also a unique difference between the feral and stray cats. This difference is noticeable in the way they interact and relate to human beings.
As an individual, learning how to relate to different animals is important. It doesn’t matter if you are just a person in a neighborhood overrun with feral cats or a shelter worker. Deciding on the best form of interaction becomes easy when you learn the behavior unique to each type of cat. In this article, we shall be learning the difference between feral and stray cats.
What is socialization?
If a cat loves being around people and is generally friendly towards all individuals, then this is a cat which has been socialized.
There are different means through which a kitten can be socialized. This includes various forms of interaction with people such as being played with, held, and spoken to from the early development stages. Any kitten which does not get this form of care during this stage, it is possible that it will become impossible for such a kitten to live in a human home.
Differentiating between a stray cat and a feral cat
Any cat which is a pet or one which is considered a stray cat have a similarity which is the fact that they have been socialized.
On the other hand, a feral cat is not socialized. Since they live in colonies, they are usually socialized to the members of the colony. The relationship which they share with members of their colony does not exist when it comes to humans.
- Any cat which has once lived under the constant care of humans and is socialized is a stray cat
- A stray cat is also one which was once domestic but strayed or was abandoned at one point
- Leaving or losing its source of human care, contact, dependence, as well as home is what makes a stray cat
- It is possible for a stray cat to become feral
- A stray cat can still be domesticated to become a pet
- Any cat which lives outdoors without the help of humans is a feral cat
- These cats live in fear of humans
- Most feral cats have not enjoyed any form of human interaction in their lifetime
- It is possible to find feral cats that have once experienced human care but have totally lost the feeling of this interaction
- If a feral cat has kittens, it is possible to make these kittens socialized
- Making an adult feral cat an indoor cat is a very rare occurrence
What are the noticeable differences?
Careful observation of cat behaviors and interactions with other cats will teach you a lot. Here are a few things you may learn;
- Initiating contact with a feral cat will cause it to flee
- The behavior of a stray cat is similar to that of a house cat.
- When talking to a stray cat, you may get a vocal reply
- There is no vocal communication from a feral cat i.e. don’t expect a meow
- The opportunity to touch is available with a stray cat since there is a possibility of it approaching you
- Crouching low to the ground is a common behavior in feral cats
- Most stray cats live on their own
- There is a feral colony in which a feral cat may be a part of
- It is very rare for a feral cat to make eye contact
Why is this important?
- It is possible for a stray cat to adapt to staying around people which makes it a common practice to adopt stray cats as pets
- Adult feral cats are impossible to adopt since they are not socialized. In most cases where animal control picks up such a cat, they are killed.
- The degree of socialization is important in applying the Trap-Neuter-Return technique in cats. Stray cats often get adopted while feral cats are released outdoors.
- If a cat is frightened or trapped, it will be impossible to identify accurately if it is a feral or stray cat. socialization in cats is only noticeable if they are relaxed
Helping feral cats around your neighborhood
Using the Trap, Neuter, Return program
Do not assume a cat is feral simply because it lives outdoors. The behavior of a cat is the best way to identify a possible feral cat.
Is it safe to approach any cat I find outdoor?
Like every other animal, cats will bite if they feel threatened. This is why you need to be extra careful anytime you decide to approach a cat you find outdoor. Cat bites and scratches can be harmful. Follow the lead of the cat and if it is friendly to you, take your time and get to know it to build up trust. Stray cats may tolerate touching while feral cats will not – not even by a caretaker who feeds it. As you get to know a stray it will relax over time while a feral cat will remain tense. If they feel threatened, a stray will hiss while a feral cat could lash out aggressively.
It is common to find feral cats living in colonies. These colonies usually have a territory. Defending the territory is the duty of every member of the colony. In most cases, their territory is usually in a location where they can access shelter and food.
Common places where you can find these colonies include areas near a restaurant dumpster and abandoned buildings. Although there is no form of physical interaction, feral cats often take refuge under the porch of an individual who provides food for them.
What help can I provide?
· The first step to take when trying to help a stray cat is to provide food. Leave the food outdoor at the same location and time every day. Gradually, it will become easier to interact with the cat. the cat will also begin to trust you as you interact. This becomes visible when it allows you to pet it. Getting the cat the necessary shots at the vet is important if you decide to take it into your home. This is the first step to take. In addition to a health checkup, the vet will also give flea treatment and neutering. Another great idea will be a visit to the groomer.
· Scanning a cat for a microchip is a very important action. It doesn’t matter if you hope to adopt the cat or not. Why? A lot of these animals usually have owners searching for them. To make things a lot easier, you can pay a visit to the local vets before sending an animal to a shelter. Provide a picture, description, and a flyer if you can. Place the flyers in public places like supermarkets and local vet offices. Going around the neighborhood and asking questions can also be helpful. There are lots of resources at your disposal. Make use of Facebook. It is a very powerful tool in helping owners find their lost pet. You can also find dedicated lost and found pages on Facebook.
· Trying to find an owner may not yield a positive result. Getting in touch with a no-kill shelter will be your best alternative in this situation. Find out if they are accepting animals at the moment. A lot of shelters often receive tons of requests during kitten season. This is why they turn down a lot of requests.
· Do not approach a feral cat! Simply call or go to the local feral clinic. They usually offer a “have-a-heart” trap for rent. This helps in trapping feral cats in a humane manner. When using this trap, you have to get the cat into the trap before the surgery. This is usually the night before so you can stop it from eating. It is important you call the clinic before taking any action. This will be an opportunity for the clinic to inform you about everything you need to know. This includes information on getting a cat neutered/spayed and trapping instructions.
· Before carrying out the trapping phase of a TNR, it is important to schedule an appointment with a clinic. The duration for which you can keep a cat in a trap is for a maximum of 18 hours.
· Assisting with a shelter for feral cats after surgery can be very helpful. If you are short on ideas, a quick internet search will bring up websites that teach you how to build excellent outdoor shelters for cats. Once the shelter is complete, providing food is the next step. The food should come regularly at a specified time and water should also be included.
- The average lifespan of a feral cat is two years. This can be massively improved upon with the right care. This includes regular feeding and shelter. With such care, it is possible for them to live up to ten years. There are some important things to note if you decide to take up the role of a caretaker. One is to avoid any sudden movement in the direction of the cat. You should also avoid grabbing the cat forcefully. Since they fear any stranger, they will run as soon as you start getting close. The best solution to this is to allow them to come to you when they are ready.
- To make a feral cat feel comfortable and safe, there are certain steps you can take. Trap-Neuter-Release is one of the most helpful human interaction for these cats. Assisting in TNR programs is always very helpful to humane societies and animal shelters.
- To reduce the population of feral cats, trapping the feral cats, spaying, and neutering, and then releasing them to their outdoor homes is very helpful. This program does a lot more than reduce the population of these cats. It also enhances the quality of life which cats enjoy – both strays and pets, by reducing the illnesses which feral cats can spread. To identify a cat which has been spayed or neutered, look for a notch in the ear of the cat.
Start a feeding schedule for the cats
All feral cats love a source of food where they can feed regularly. You should avoid placing food outside for too long. A schedule can be very helpful. While the cats may know the time you set the food, they will still wait for you to leave before approaching. You are still a threat to them. Timing is very important. The food should not be left out for more than an hour. This is to prevent it from attracting other unwanted wildlife. Discussing your plans with your neighbors is important. Not everyone loves to see cats near their home like you do.
Provide shelter in a location without people
The internet provides a large collection of DIY cat-house projects which you can easily follow. A great way to show care to a feral cat is by offering shelter. If you have excellent technical skills, you can opt for an insulated shelter for extra protection in harsh weather conditions.
The location of the shelter doesn’t have to be in your home. Places, where feral cats pass through frequently, is an excellent location for the shelter. You will notice a lot of female cats coming with their kittens to seek refuge within the shelter. This is a good opportunity to get the kittens as soon as they are ready to move on their own. Improving the probability of the kittens finding a home is a lot easier once they undergo rehabilitation from this stage.
The way feral cats live makes them quite interesting. Choosing to live in areas with no human presence and taking advantage of minimal intervention from humans. It is possible for a feral cat to live a happy and long life after undergoing a successful TNR program and getting shelter and food from humans. A lot of people may not like the way of living which these cats exhibit but it is much better for them compared to living in homes. Humane societies, shelters, and local rescue organizations can be very helpful to anyone who would like to work with feral cats.
Individuals need to learn the difference between feral and stray cats as this will help them in understanding how to interact with them. This will save a lot of headaches in the long run. The information in this article is certain to be of help to individuals looking to note this difference.