The Differences Between Feral Cats and Domestic Cats

feral catsPeople seem to know a stray cat when they see one, but it’s harder to pinpoint a feral feline. Certainly, stray cats occupy the space between house cats and feral cats, but to truly understand the differences between your own pet and their wild cousins, we have to look at behavior, cat psychology, and lifespan.

True Definitions

Feral cats are wild. They’re either born feral or their exposure to humans has eroded over time. Once grown, they’re not known to become friendly to people.

Socializing feral kittens is a major component toward their hopeful adoption. Without the development of proper and complete social skills, feral cats are most likely to shun all human contact.

Longevity Comparison

Domesticated indoor cats can live up to two decades! Feral cats, on the other hand, do not have access to wellness care, vaccinations, dental health, and parasite prevention (let alone complete nutrition, warm shelter, and clean water). Indeed, the lives of feral cats can be very difficult, with the average lifespan being just two years.

Some Connections

Perhaps surprisingly, feral cats do form their own colonies. Formed around or adjacent to readily available food, colonies can include over a dozen cats who help each other hunt, scavenge, and raise kittens.

Domesticated house cats are perceived as preferring their own company, but they’re quite capable at making deep connections with other animals. Many cats feel profound loneliness and boredom when left alone for hours at a time.

Respecting Limits

Feral cats do not wittingly place themselves at risk of being touched by humans, or worse, trapped by them. However, over a period of time in which a human caretaker provides food, shelter, and even medicine, feral cats may give in to human attention/affection.

Don’t ever try to forcefully grab a feral cat or chase them. Sudden movements and loud noises are especially frightening and repel feral cats from being tended to.

Feral cats usually crouch low to the ground, protect their bodies with their tails, and do not make eye contact. Typically, they won’t meow or make sounds like other cats.

Spaying and Neutering

The benefits of spaying or neutering are obvious for house cats. While the same virtues exist for feral cats, the procedure greatly reduces overpopulation, breeding fights, and even the spread of disease. Plus, when feral cats are trapped and sterilized, they can also receive the rabies vaccine and an ear clip that signals the care they’ve received.

Psychology of Feral Cats

Left to their own devices, it seems feral cats are top-notch problem solvers. They’ve developed their own abilities to think outside the box instead of relying on humans to meet all their needs. Their contributions to humankind aren’t as plentiful as, say, dogs who helped us hunt, but they are no less intriguing to think about and observe.

Cats of the Wild

Please contact us with any questions or concerns. Most people are aware when feral cats live close by. By assisting programs that trap, spay/neuter, and return feral cats to their colonies, we’re all doing our part for the community.