Feral Cats and Stray Cats



Although feral cats are not socialized to people, we can help to improve their lives with the right plan and the proper equipment. Can we also help stray cats who are not feral?  What differentiates a feral cat from a stray cat?  For the answers to these questions, please read on...


Feral Cats

A feral cat is a cat who has either never had any contact with people or her contact with people has diminished over time. She is not socialized to people and survives on her own outdoors. Most feral cats are not likely to ever become lap cats or enjoy living indoors. Outdoor cats have existed alongside humans for 10,000 years. They are not a new phenomenon. Feral cats are members of the same species as domesticated cats, and are therefore protected under state animal anti-cruelty laws. The difference between feral cats and your cat companion is that they have had little or no contact with people, and so they are wary of us, and cannot be adopted. They have a home, which is outdoors. They live and thrive in every landscape, from the inner city to rural farmland. Since feral cats are not adoptable, they should not be brought to animal pounds and shelters, because they will likely be killed there.

You can improve the lives of outdoor cats with Trap-Neuter-Return, the humane and effective approach for feral cats. To successfully trap, neuter, vaccinate, eartip, and return feral cats, you need a plan. Alley Cat Allies, the organization that helped introduce TNR to the United States, has guidelines for humane trapping on its website, to get you on your way!


Stray Cats

A stray cat is a cat who has been socialized to people at some point in her life, but has left or lost her domestic home, as well as most human contact and dependence.

It is not a good idea to let your cat outdoors unless you have a safe enclosure or are walking him or her on a harness and leash.  Even companion cats who are spayed or neutered may cause conflicts between neighbors and injure or kill wildlife.

When outside, cats face dangers such as injury or death from being hit by a car, being harmed by another animal or person, and diseases and parasites.

Approximately 65 percent of the estimated 80 million pet cats in the U.S. are kept indoors. More people with cats are realizing that indoor cats are safer and can lead happy lives indoors.  But millions of cat companions are still allowed outside, often without collars and identification including microchipping*, that would help reunite them with their human caretakers should the cats be picked up by a neighbor or animal control.  

Of course, the spaying or neutering of any type of cat -- feral, stray or companion -- is highly recommended so as to control the cat population.

*For more information about microchipping a companion animal, please see the "How Microchipping Works" link and information at the bottom of this page.


Want to Learn More?

Check out the following links for further information about feral and stray cats.

Feral Cat FOCUS of WNY

This local nonprofit organization is dedicated to help solve Western New York’s feral and free-roaming community cat overpopulation crisis and is committed to humanely reducing the feral and free-roaming cat overpopulation in Western New York through the use of Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return (TNVR) as a long-term solution.

Neighborhood Cats

Based in New York City, Neighborhood Cats is an organization that has guided the development of one of the most comprehensive community TNR programs in operation today. This organization also has created award-winning educational materials, including books, videos and online courses.

Alley Cat Allies

This is the organization mentioned in the above article about ferals. Alley Cat Allies is the only national advocacy organization dedicated to the protection and humane treatment of cats.

Stray Cat Alliance

From their Mission Statement: "Stray Cat Alliance educates and empowers the community to advocate for every cat’s right to be safe, healthy and valued. We are building a no kill nation, one stray at a time."


How Microchipping Works (from Home Again® website)

Cat and dog microchipping is a simple procedure in which a veterinarian simply injects a microchip, about the size of a grain of rice, beneath the surface of your companion animal's skin between the shoulder blades. The process takes a few seconds and no anesthetic is required.  The microchip is read by passing a microchip scanner over the animal's shoulder blades. The scanner emits a low radio frequency that provides the power necessary to transmit the microchip's unique cat or dog ID code and positively identify a strat cat or dog.

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated" ~ Mahatma Gandhi

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