What is Semi-Feral Cat Behavior?

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If you ever come across an unknown cat walking through the streets or your boundary walls, what is the best way to react in this situation? Should you panic and try to shoo it away? Or should you let the cat go on its way and get back to your activities once the coast is clear? The key is to understand whether it is a feral cat or a semi-feral cat. To do this, you need to notice their behavior and act accordingly.


Let us understand the basic difference between feral and semi-feral cats.


Semi-Feral Cats

Semi-feral cats are also known as stray cats. They have the past experience of socialization as a pet. However, for some unfortunate reason, they might have been neglected or lost from their original home. Given that strays don’t originally have the habit of living on their own, it can be difficult for them to survive.


Depending on their experience interacting with human beings, semi-feral cats can be frightened and anxious or friendly. These felines can be rehabilitated and rescued successfully when provided with a suitable environment and home conditions. With some patience and encouragement, semi-feral cats can revert to their domesticated habits.


However, if the semi-feral cat is deprived of human interaction for a long time, they might become completely feral in behavior.


Feral Cats

Feral cats are considered felines that have never had the chance to interact with human beings. They might also have lost human contact completely when living in the wild for a long time. These cats are born typically from stray or feral cats. They can easily survive outdoors & can be fearful of people that attempt to touch or approach them.



Ferals don’t trust humans and can feel threatened when approached by one. They often become aggressive & attack the one approaching them. As per experts, it is wise not to adopt feral cats. They aren’t easy to domesticate and are better left in their natural habitat.


However, you can surely domesticate kittens that are born to such cats. But, these cats should be younger than 4 months to ensure a safe and easy transition from the wild to a home environment.


So, if you wish to tame and domesticate a semi-feral cat, here are some behavioral traits you need to take note of.


Hiding Around The House

If you have just brought a semi-feral cat home, you might notice that they are trying to hide in a location that is farthest from you. If the cat is in a cage, it might scoop to the corner of the cage. This is their way of adapting to the new environment. While semi-feral cats have been domesticated in the past, the sudden change might startle them.


Let them have their time and look for signs that suggest that they are warming up to you. If the cat has constantly been interacting with a human or is being fed occasionally by someone, it might be much more friendly. So, you might notice that they familiarize themselves with you pretty fast.


Walking Towards You With Tail Waving High

Before you bring home a semi-feral cat, you should start by confirming if it is friendly or not. Taming a friendly cat is easier than taming one that isn’t. If you are someone who is up for some challenges, sure, go ahead and bring one home. However, if you aren’t looking for a drastic struggle and emotional roller-coaster, make sure you confirm if the cat is friendly towards you.


To do that, notice your cat’s tail. If it is high in the air and waving lightly, it means the cat is showing signs of trust and affection towards you. This is similar to the way dogs wave their tails when they see you, only with cats, the pace is a bit on the slower side.


Vocalization Such As Meow Or Purr

If a semi-feral cat approaches you and starts to purr or meow in a gentle tone, it probably suggests that they are looking for food. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they like you. Rather, it suggests that they find you approachable. A semi-feral cat might not trust you right away. So, you can start by giving them food from afar while slowly increasing the interaction.


So, if you notice a stray cat purring or meowing gently, it can be a sign that they are warming up to you.



When studying a semi-feral cat’s behavior, it is important that you notice its activities. For example, a stray cat rarely comes out during the night and would be seen active mostly when the sun is up. As strays have never been a part of any pack, they haven’t learned their ancestor’s way of hunting at night. So, they fend for themselves by looking for shelter and food during the day.


This is why there is a good chance that the cat you saw in your garden or the corner of the street is a stray rather than feral. A great way to interact with a feral cat is to get some great toys for them to play with. Cats are curious by nature, and doing this will help them familiarize themselves with your locality. A great toy for the cat in this situation would be the Potaroma Flopping Fish. This moving kicker toy for cats wiggles and looks very similar to real fish, making it very interesting for semi-feral felines.




Some other behavioral traits of a semi-feral cat include:

Raised Hairs This behavior is similar to the way we experience goosebumps. Semi-feral or even feral cats do this when any other cat enters their territory. This is how they show their dominance.
Gazing Semi-feral cats do this when they are observing something that has caught their attention. If you have been trying to interact with the cat, they will gaze at you.
Scratching Walls & Tree Barks Semi-feral cats, like any other cat, love to keep their claws sharp for hunting purposes. Although they won’t necessarily hunt like feral cats, it is a habit by nature.




Understanding these behavioral traits will help you understand semi-feral cats better before you plan on adopting them. Even if you have brought them home, you can connect with them better and help them ease into the new environment better.

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