Cats of domestic descent that have known little or no human contact, or former pets that have become homeless for various reasons, are termed “feral.” Although feral cats live in a wild state, they have no relationship to the true wildcat species found throughout the world.
Being resourceful animals, cats that have strayed or been abandoned by their owners often manage to survive on their own once they have reverted to the wild. Most have highly developed hunting instincts that allow them to subsist on small prey such as birds and rodents, and many supplement their diets by scavenging or accepting food handouts from sympathetic cat lovers.
Such cats usually learn to become wary of humans, but because they still have a background of domesticity it is sometimes possible to rehabilitate them.
Truly feral cats, which are born wild and never handled, are difficult if not impossible to domesticate as adults. Feral kittens, if rescued at a very early age, can sometimes be socialized with time and patience; but even at a few weeks old they have a natural distrust of humans and may already be beyond the stage where this can be overcome.