The Difference Between “Stray” and “Feral”
It is important to recognize the distinction between feral and stray cats. Stray cats are friendly animals that once lived with humans but for one reason or another, have lost their home. Stray cats are socialized to humans and usually seek out their company. Stray cats can and should be put up for adoption and placed into loving home environments. Feral cats, on the other hand, are very wild animals.
Like raccoons, coyotes, and opossum they are reclusive and cannot be touched or handled unless trapped. Feral cats, like wild animals, are not adoptable pets. Misguided but kind souls who have attempted to make house pets out of feral cats have ended up with damaged homes, bites and scratches, and extremely stressed and unhappy cats.
Feral kittens under 8 weeks of age can be socialized and will usually tame down into friendly animals. Research and experience in the field have demonstrated that kittens older than 8 weeks are exceedingly difficult to socialize and will usually be happier living in their wild state than in a home.
Some cats fall neatly into one category or another (Stray or Feral) but others are harder to define and may be considered “semi-feral”. Each cat should be assessed individually and a determination made about its appropriateness for placement in a home.
Experience has shown that most semi-feral cats prefer to live outdoors and if forced to be indoor cats will spend the majority of their time hiding reclusively under beds or in basements or behind furniture.