If you’ve spent time in the City of Philadelphia, you’ve more than likely seen a cat outdoors and wondered what to do. Some stray cats that are outside are socialized to humans and may be someone’s pet, but some stray cats that are outside on the streets may be feral, meaning they are scared of humans, will not allow you to pet or pick them up, and do not belong to an owner. Feral cats are community cats—they inhabit residential and commercial areas because of the presence of food, water, and shelter, and have adapted to living apart but in close proximity to humans.
Stray vs. Feral
- Not all free-roaming outdoor cats are feral cats. Many are pets who are loosely owned or allowed to roam outdoors; others have strayed from home and become lost or abandoned.
- Truly feral cats have had little to no human contact. Often they were born outside and never lived with people. Those who were once pets have been on their own for so long that they have become self-sufficient and distrustful of humans.
- The difference between ferals and strays may be determined by their tolerance, or lack thereof, of human contact.
By some estimates* there are 390,000 cats living outdoors in Philadelphia either as outdoor pets, cats who are allowed outdoors or feral cats who live entirely outdoors. ACCT Philly does not trap cats and recommends that unless sick or injured, cats be left in their home territory and only trapped to be sterilized (fixed to prevent births), vaccinated and returned.
If you have feral cats in your area, please see below for some help information on how to care for and humanely manage community cats.