Dundas Euclid Animal Hospital 416-362-9696

Feral, Stray, or Outdoor Cat?

If you see a cat wondering about on the street or in the backyard, what would you do? The first thing is to identify if it is a stray, outdoor cat, or a feral cat. Here are some signs that you can use to tell the differences.

Overall Appearance

Outdoor cats are cats that are owned by someone and go home regularly. Their coat should be neat, clean and well kept. They also normally have a collar. A stray is a cat that is lost or ran away from home so they normally have unkept or grungy coats compared to feral cats They should also be thinner since they don’t know or aren’t used to hunting for themselves. Feral cats are used to being on their own so they are better to groom themselves. If you are able to get close to the cat, you can check if they’re footpads are calloused or soft; Indoor cats or cats that are not outside often will have soft paw pads.


Outdoor cats would most likely be friendly and approachable, or it would come towards people to be pet. Feral cats normally would be very scared and will run away from people, and they can also be hostile if you approach it too quickly. Stray cats can be both scared and or approachable depending on the situation or the personality of the cat. All cats can be weary of people so take some time and observe their behaviour before you approach them.

Time of Day

If you see a cat late at night when the outdoor cats should go home, or you see fresh paw prints from in the snow or ground in the early morning, that is most likely a stray cat. Feral cats tend to keep their distances from view or they stay within their home range in the outskirts.

Once you identify what type of cat you are dealing with, you can go ahead with the appropriate actions safely.