by Barbara George
Tellington Ttouch Behaviourist
While all our small cats are descendent from the Wild Cat and therefore share many characteristics, there are definite groups of cats defined by their environment and circumstances. Within each of these groups there are sub-groups, and there is overlap between groups.
Wild Cats are genetically perfect cats, solitary, territorial, and expert predators. They typically live in human-free environments, are shy and seldom seen. These cats lave large territories and coat colours to blend in with their surroundings. They understand their territory, are alert and react quickly to any change or disturbance. Wild cats adapt to live in any environment, grassland, forests and deserts.
Feral Cats are born outside a human environment with at least one feral parent. The mortality rate of kittens is high; those that reach alduthood are usually healthy. Kittens found early may possibly be tamed but have feral instincts and are likely to distrust and fear most humans. They are transient, moving around to find the best source of food and shelter. They spend most of their days hunting for food, often encroaching on human establishments; some are encouraged to keep rodent populations down on farms, factories and other businesses. These cats may live alone or form colonies where there are sufficient resources, typically around human settlements. Feral cats are often more aggressive than wild cats when encountering humans. They are less healthy than wild cats, more exposed to contagious diseases with less chance of overcoming them. Fights are more common and injuries can be severe.
Stray Cats are cats that were born and raised by people but are now not living with people. There are many reasons, including cats becoming lost, abandoned, stolen, or leaving home of their own accord. Pregnant females and entire (not neutered) toms are often abandoned. These cats tend to stay around human environments as this is what they know. Finding adequate food is a problem for these cats and they are often very under-nourished, surviving off what they can scrounge. They may join feral colonies, especially managed colonies, to have access to resources such as food and shelter. Strays may be re-habilitated, depending on how long they have been out of a home, and their personality.
Domestic Cats live with humans and have access to many resources. Most of these cats can easily be handled, eat well, don’t have to hunt, and are social to humans and other animals, but not always to other cats. Free-ranging domestic cats may be considered strays if they cannot be identified. As a sub-group of domestic cats, Purebreed cats have the specific looks and personality traits of their breed.
While there is an overlap between Domestic, Stray and Feral cats, Wild cats are seen as a separate group. Sadly, many Wild cat populations are being infiltrated by feral and/stray cats, thus reducing the genetic integrity of the perfect Wild cat. Both Feral and Stray cats are often persecuted by those who do not see the benefit of cats.