Stray Cats & Feral Cat Advice: What to Do if You've Found a Stray


Stray and feral cats can be found in cities, towns, and rural areas across Canada. Although, they both live outdoors, there are important distinctions between them.

What’s the Difference Between Stray and Feral Cats?

Stray cats are usually abandoned, or lost domestic cats, which may seem aggressive at first, but once befriended will enjoy human touch and companionship. Some will even approach a human for attention. In contrast, a feral cat will likely remain aggressive, and only if removed from the wild as kittens, will very rarely warm up to the loving gesture of an open human hand. Often, fully grown feral cats were once the kittens of a stray cat, but never having been close to a human, became feral.

How Feral Cats Live

Feral cats usually live with other cats in a wild or semi-wild state, in what is known as a cat colony, but if food is scarce they may roam alone. A colony of cats is typically very territorial, and can most often be found where food and shelter is available, such as wooded areas, where there are lots of small prey animals, near dumpsters, restaurants, or wherever else they can attain nourishment to survive.

Most of these cats live short lives because of the everyday challenges they face living on the street, and not having access to proper medical attention, they tend to breed and overpopulate at an alarming rate. Human intervention and care is crucial to ensure their welfare, by preventing more kittens from being born into this harsh and difficult existence, and by preventing diseases that can be detrimental to their overall well-being.

How to Help Stray Cats

If you find a stray cat, the best advice is to:

  • Safely trap or confine them.
  • Immediately take them to an animal shelter or veterinarian to check for a microchip implant that will have their caretakers contact information on it.
  • If there is no microchip, and you cannot find the guardians after a few days of searching bring them to a cat rescue, sanctuary or animal shelter, where they will be looked after until forever homes can be found.  If you intend to keep the cat, have them examined by a veterinarian, spayed, or neutered, vaccinated, and microchipped in case they ever get lost again.

How to Help Feral Cats

If the cat is a feral cat, the most compassionate action you can take is to follow the procedure of trap-neuter-return (TNR):

  • Safely trap or confine them.
  • Bring them to a veterinarian, and have them spayed, or neutered, and vaccinated against diseases.
  • Release them back where you found them.

How to Set-up a TNR Program in Your Neighbourhood

Anyone can set-up a TNR program in their neighbourhood. Speak to your local SPCA, or Humane Society, or call a rescue organization in your area, that can give you advice about setting up traps for feral cats.

If you have more general questions or concerns about stray or feral cats, contact your local animal control or animal welfare organization.