The difference between feral and stray cats

Stray Cats

"Stray" is a word used to describe the activity of a cat, regardless of its ownership status.  Generally, when people use the term "stray" they are referring to semi-owned and unowned cats. 

Cat Definitions

Domestic cats


  • Identified with and cared for by a specific person, and are directly dependent on humans.
  • The cats are usually sociable although sociability varies.


  • Fed or provided with other care by people who do not consider they own them.
  • The cats are of varying sociability with many socialised to humans and may be associated with one or more households.


  • Indirectly dependent on humans with some having casual and temporary interactions with humans.
  • The cats are of varying sociability, including some who are unsocialised to humans.
  • Some may live in groups in common aggregation sites (e.g. rubbish tips, food outlets, coastal fishing spots associated with urban environments, etc).

Feral cats


These cats are unowned, unsocialised, have no relationship with or dependence on humans, and reproduce in the wild, independently from the domestic cat population.

Other commonly used terms

“Community cats”

  • The term used to refer to semi-owned or unowned cats.
  • Cats of varying sociability who may have either an indirect dependence on humans, sharing casual and temporary interactions; or a direct dependence on humans, sharing long-term interactions.
  • They live in areas in cities/towns where they can scavenge food or are fed by one or more people

“Stray cats”

A term which is often used to refer to unowned or semi-owned cats, but ‘stray’ refers to the activity of cats that roam, not an ownership status.