What’s the difference between stray, feral, and pet cats?

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Stray cats are socialized to people and can be adopted into homes, but feral cats are not socialized to people and are happy living outdoors.

A stray cat:

  • Is a cat who has been socialized to people at some point in her life, but has left or lost her indoor home, as well as most human contact and dependence.
  • Can become a feral cat as her contact with people dwindles.
  • Can under the right circumstances become a pet cat once again. Stray cats who are re-introduced to a home after living outdoors may require a period of time to re-acclimate; they may be frightened and wary after spending time outside away from people.

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 community cats are not likely to ever become lap cats or enjoy living indoors.
  • Can have kittens who can be socialized at an early age and adopted into homes.

Find out how to tell the difference between stray and feral cats using our illustrated guide: Feral and Stray CatsAn Important Difference.

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