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What is the difference between feral cats and stray cats?
Stray cats are usually cats which have at some stage been domestic pets but for some reason have had to fend for themselves, whether they have become lost or been abandoned. These cats can often be rehabilitated into being pets.
Feral cats are cats which have never been domesticated and are truly wild animals. These cats will have nothing to do with humans and have no reliance on humans, living wild, killing wildlife and scavenging. A true feral cat does not rely on humans at all, obtaining its food and shelter from the natural environment.
Semi wild cats are cats which have possibly once been pet cats or may be offspring of pet cats which have not had socialization with humans. These cats will often domicile around rubbish dumps, industrial areas or where ever there is a food source. Often they are less inclined to hunt, but are opportunistic when it comes to food. They will probably be a pest where there are caged birds or food left out for pet animals.
One pair of undesexed cats can exponentially be responsible for 420,000 kittens, over a 7 year period.
Breeding instincts are triggered by increasing length of daylight hours - litters are less frequent in winter.
Cats usually have 2 litters a season but may have more if there is a long period of warmer weather.
Average litter size is 4 kittens but up to 6-7 kittens is not unusual, especially early in the breeding season.
The female’s ability to breed does not diminish with age so she can continue reproduction for her entire life. Female kittens can become pregnant as young as 16 weeks.
Taming feral kittens may be possible however many will never tame no matter how much time, effort and love are spent on the kitten. Some behaviours are genetically influenced. It may not be until the cat reaches maturity that behavioural problems are evident.
Some people think it is unkind to take feral and semi wild cats to a shelter where they will most likely be humanely euthanized however the alternatives are often a violent, slow or painful death by starvation, disease, road kill or abuse or as prey for another predator.
Some people decide to feed a “stray” cat to be kind and then find themselves feeding many cats. Cats develop a way of networking by marking the area with a particular type of scent indicating a “safe” source of food can be found. The group can then gradually grow to establish what is referred to as a colony of cats.