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Best way to determine stray or feral?

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
We've started feeding a stray or feral kitty. We're pretty sure she's stray, most likely a foreclosure dump - there's been a ton of them in our neighborhood, sadly. We went and talked to one of the best "no-kill" shelters in the area, and they told us that if she is truly feral most all shelters, including them, would euthanize. So before I take her anywhere, even to a spay clinic, I want to know if she's feral or just scared. If she's feral, there are still a couple of options, including a feral S/N clinic monthly that can cost as little as $10, but it's really only for ferals (don't want to take a spot needed for a feral if she's stray).

What methods have you used to determine the difference? I was thinking of putting food out, and then just sitting quietly outside a distance away from the food. But I don't want to scare her away from our place - as far as it goes she's in a pretty good spot now.

Or should we just get a trap, get her spayed (check to see if she already is), and evaluate while she recovers?
post #2 of 8
technically a feral cat is born in the wild and never had the feline-human socialization housecats get. so they never really 'get' humans. still i've seen a number of ferals who do come around, and i've seen 'hand raised' cats who seem more distant like you'd expect from a feral.

what's her demeanor like? i've found most feral females to be way more wary of people than males, who take more risks. but it seems there are no absolute rules. i would get her spayed as soon as you can, that ordeal should reveal her true nature, one way or the other!
post #3 of 8
Do the last one - Trap and spay, evaluate during recovery. For all you know, she's spay already (wouldn't that be nice?) ...

Sadly we've seen that in our area too - dump and move, dump and foreclose and move...

post #4 of 8
It's hard to explain my technigue, but I look them directly into their eyes and judge their reaction. A true feral is going to be constantly trying to find escape paths while a scared "dumpster" will show fear, but not shear terror. If that doesn't do it for me, I use the slow eye-blink on them. While a lot of cats respond to this, a feral cat, who knows no other language, sometimes is surprised by it (like, how is it that this big scary human knows my language?). Lastly I use body posture. Similar to the eye stare, a true feral usually takes on the "flee" stance while a stray will crouch and just try to hide.

It's easier to tell this if they are confined in your home and you can observe them for a while. My vet has asked me to do feral versus stray assessments at her clinic (she runs the Humane Society in the back) after they are caught to determine if they euthanize or not. I've yet to find any of the adult cats that were truly feral. The first big clue is that the person who brought them in simply picked them up and put them in a carrier. A feral usually doesn't let you do that. She has had kittens that were feral, but those they try to socialize and adopt out.

I hope this helps.
post #5 of 8
Thread Starter 
She seems to be getting bolder; I’m pretty sure she came out in the daylight (morning hours, between 7:20 and 9:00) and ate some dry food. Up until now she’s been coming out only at night when most of the noise and people-traffic has died down.

I’m saying “her” because my husband saw her dart behind our neighbor’s bush and said she’s a tortie. When we saw her come wolf down some wet food at night but with the porch light on, she looked to me to be a young tortie or torbie with a white muzzle and toes. She did make eye contact with me through the window and blinds. She held the gaze for a second and apparently determined I wasn’t going to eat her (I was perfectly still) and went back to eating. This happened a couple times. When she was eating, she would take a couple of bites and then check over both shoulders, then go back to eating.

I have so much theoretical knowledge about ferals and strays, and I’ve socialized a feral kitten as well as helped people though socializing…but because of where we live this is the first cat I’ve/we’ve found outside that needed our help.
post #6 of 8
I agree that you probably will need to observe her in isolation for a bit to see what her true nature is. Obviously, those that are dumped soon allow their wild animal instincts to take over, but I have heard so many stories from people who think they have a feral only to reach in to a cage and give a purring cat a rub after a good feed! A true feral would not allow that, obviously!

How old do you think she is?
post #7 of 8
I've taken in ferals after they were trapped and spayed. I kept them in the barn (where I spend a LOT of time), in large crates. I kept them in the crates for 2 weeks. I'd spend a lot of time just sitting there talking to them. When it was time for me to release them, they ran off and I didn't see them for almost 24 hrs. They did come back as they had learned where the food and water was. i've had them almost 3 years, and one loves to be picked up and loved on. The other one can't be picked up, but I have taught her to stand on her back legs and give me a kiss. I had another feral move into the barn. The whole process of Gray Cat getting used to me took almost 5 months. After that time, I could touch her, then I got her comfortable with both hands on her, then I started lifting her front end off the ground, then I started picking her up. she is now so spoiled it isn't funny. She doesn't want me to do any work in the barn without her sitting beside me. She is a cutie tho.
post #8 of 8
jeez i can't even pick up some of my house cats good job!
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