House cats are friendly, they can easily be picked up and cuddled and they generally enjoy human attention. Barn cats are typically friendly, but generally do not like to be handled and prefer to be outside.
A truly feral cat is a wild animal like a raccoon or opossum. You cannot pick up or handle these cats without the danger of getting bit.
Livingston County Animal Control and Shelter cannot take in or adopt out feral/wild cats because they are not a family pet and they are dangerous to you and our staff. A cat bite can result to in an emergency room visit due to the nature of the bite. Unfortunately, feral/wild cats that are surrendered to the shelter will be euthanized. However, there are humane options to consider, including our TNR (Trap, Neuter and Return) program.
Here are some differences between feral and stray cats:
Silent except mating calls and fights at night
Only seen at dawn and dusk to hunt
Will eat food only after humans have retreated a distance
Can never be touched or held
If cornered will hiss, spit and fight hard
Looks clean and healthy (feral cats are better a surviving in the wild)
May be intact or spayed/neutered and ear tipped as part of TNR
No collar or microchip
Stray Cat (displaced house cat)
Meows at you
Seen at all times of day and night
Will eat food with humans standing within six feet
May be touched, held, or approached within limitations
If cornered will try to hide, but will fight if pushed
Looks dirty and unwell
Intact or spayed/neutered
Might have collar and/or microchip
To determine if a cat is feral, stray, or just a visiting cat from the neighborhood, the cat should be monitored for a few days. Use the information above to determine if the animal is feral or stray (stray refers to homeless cats that are lost or abandoned pets and have not been born in the wild). If the cat is clean, healthy and friendly, it is likely a neighborhood cat just visiting. You can put a collar on the cat with a note asking the owners to notify you if this is their cat. This way an owned cat doesn't mistakenly get taken to a shelter.