How to tell if a cat is stray or feral

What’s the difference between stray and feral cats?

According to recent figures, 44% of UK households are home to at least one pet. And with around 8 million of those pets being felines, most of us are used to seeing domestic cats out and about in the local area.

But every so often a cat will start showing up that you don’t recognise. When this happens, your instinct may be to want to help return the cat to their owner, but it is important to first recognise if the cat is stray or feral.

To the untrained eye it can be difficult to tell the difference, but there are some key things which you can take into consideration.

How to tell them apart

Feral Cat Ear Tipped - Feral or Stray Cat - Tipped Ear CatA stray cat is a domesticated cat who no longer seems to have an owner. They will often appear lost and alone, but may also be friendly and socialised. Usually found near houses and gardens, given time a stray cat could even approach you or try to enter your home.

A feral cat in comparison is not domesticated and does not live with an owner. They will often be fearful of humans, and will behave much more like wild animals. Though they will also be seen alone, they may live in a colony with other cats. Ferals will often be harder to spot and will likely avoid making contact with you, even with encouragement.

Another sign that a cat is feral rather than stray is that they may have had their ear ‘tipped’. This is when the top of one of their ears has been removed after they have been neutered by a vet.

If you are unsure about whether the cat is stray or feral, you can call the Cats Protection National Information Line on 03000 12 12 12.