There are two paths a cat could find itself in our care. The first is adoption. The second is Trap-Neuter-Return, or TNR. If a cat is sociable to humans and/or will not do well outside, we partner with other rescues and shelters to help them find a home or we place them in foster care and find them a home ourselves.
If a cat is feral (not sociable to humans) and is doing well on its own, we get it spayed/neutered and vaccinated. We then release it back to its home on our feral cat feeding route. This is TNR. There are several classifications of a cat’s behavior, including social, feral, and feeder-friendly. Though there are a lot of cats in between, which we either call semi-social or semi-feral, for our purposes we usually use these three classifications.
A feral cat wants nothing to do with humans. Most would be miserable if they were brought into a house, and would hide the entire time. They are typically born outside and taught how to survive by their mother. Note: just because a cat is born outside does not mean it is feral. A feral cat, by definition, wants nothing to do with people.
A feeder-friendly cat is a feral cat, or a cat that used to be feral, that will approach its feeder and allow the feeder to even pet them. Usually they are still cautious, and if someone is with the feeder they will stay back. They are not social cats; they only trust the person who brings them food.
A social cat is one that would be happy to live in a home with humans and interact with them. Social cats are your typical house cat, and do not belong outside. Most lack the basic skills needed to survive, such as avoiding roads and people who may do them harm.