Although a cat in your yard could be a neighbor’s cat or a stray, it might very well be a feral cat. What is a feral cat and how is it different from a stray cat? Feral cats typically avoid people and can’t be touched. These cats usually live outdoors in groups known as colonies. While stray cats have had human contact at some point, they have become displaced and may also become feral.
A community cat on the other hand is a cat who has been abandoned but has not necessarily turned feral yet. They are roaming our neighborhoods fending for themselves or being fed by neighbors and may or may not be touchable. They really are the responsibility of the community to look out for them after humans have walked away from their responsibility of adopting a cat for life and not just when it is convenient.
Traditionally, the method of feral cat control has been to trap and euthanize the cats. There is a common misconception that once these cats are trapped and removed from a neighborhood, the cat problem will go away. The reality is that trapping and removing cats won’t resolve the cat problem. This method has proven ineffective because the food source (dumpsters, garbage, rodents, etc.) usually remains. As a result, other cats eventually find their way into your neighborhood and will quickly repopulate the area.
Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) benefits the cats and the community. Cats are spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and eartipped (the universal symbol of a neutered and vaccinated cat), and then returned to their outdoor home. The colony’s population stabilizes—no more kittens! Trap-Neuter-Return improves their lives and improves their relations with the community—the behaviors and stresses associated with mating stop. Trap-Neuter-Return is the humane, effective approach for feral cats.
The links below will give you more information about feral and community cats and how to help them: