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What's the difference between a stray cat and a feral cat?

One of the top questions that we receive on our social media pages and via our National Information Line is what to do if you have found a feral cat or a stray cat. But what’s the difference between the two and how can you tell which is which?

Identifying a stray cat

A stray cat is a socialised domestic cat who doesn’t (or doesn’t appear to) have an owner. Although they may look a little disorientated they may be friendly and will likely be alone. If you have found a stray cat and need advice on what to do, visit our stray cats page.

Identifying a feral cat

A feral cat is the same species of cat as our pet cats but is not socialised to people or the domestic environment. This means they will be fearful of humans and behave like a wild animal. A feral lives alone – or in a group called a colony – and will be found in towns, cities and rural areas. If you’ve found a feral cat, find out what to do on our feral cats page.

The following visual guide will help you quickly spot the difference between a stray and a feral.


Stray or feral cat guide


If you have found an injured cat, the quickest course of action is to take the cat to a vet for any emergency treatment necessary. Carefully cover them in a blanket before picking them up. This keeps the cat safe as well as shielding you from claws!

The RSPCA has an agreement with the British Veterinary Association (BVA) to provide initial emergency assessment and care of sick and injured animals. To allow funds to be released from the RSPCA for emergency care, you must phone the RSPCA before you arrive at the vets with the cat.

If taking the cat to a vet surgery this isn't possible, contain the cat if you can and contact the RSPCA (England & Wales), SSPCA (Scotland) on 03000 999 999 or USPCA (Northern Ireland) – find contact details at

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