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Spot the difference – domestic, stray or feral?

October 21st 2019

Author: Sarah Butler

If you saw a cat walking down your street, or in your garden, would you be able to identify it as a domestic, stray, or feral cat?

Many people can often recognise a domestic cat by its collar, friendly personality, or its well-fed body. However, when it comes to a stray or a feral, the differences can be
harder to spot. Here’s how you can tell which is which.

Stray
A stray cat is one that has become lost, abandoned, or separated from its family. In essence, it once had an owner, and regular meals, but now lives amongst a cat population. It relies on rubbish bins and the generosity of strangers to survive, and will usually look a little thin and dirty.

Some stray cats can be anxious and standoffish, but it’s not uncommon for them to warm up quite quickly to people once they receive a regular source of food from them. If you come across a stray, try to catch it and take it to your local animal shelter for care, treatment, and possible adoption.

Feral
A feral cat, by definition, is a cat that has avoided human contact and is not friendly. They are born to wild parents, and rely on their own hunting and scavenging skills to survive. They are tough, lightning quick, often disease-ridden, and can elude capture well.

According to the Australian Veterinary Society feral cats are responsible for the extinction of
seven types of mainland mammals
.

While owners can keep tabs on domestic cats, and limit their destruction on native wildlife and habitat, it’s not as easy with stray and feral cats. If you find yourself in a position to help trap or catch these cats, then get in touch with your local animal shelter to see what help they require.