A stray is a cat who has been abandoned or who has strayed from home and become lost. Stray cats can usually be re-socialized and adopted.
A feral cat is an unsocialized cat. Either he was born outside and never lived with humans, or he/she is a house cat who has strayed from home and over time has thrown off the effects of domestication and reverted to a wild state.
Feral cats should not be taken to a local shelter to be adopted. Feral cats are not pet cats, and they will be killed at most shelters. Because they are unadoptable, they sometimes don't even make it to the shelter, but are killed in the animal control truck. Even no-kill shelters are not able to place feral cats in homes.
FERAL KITTENS CAN BE ADOPTED
Feral kittens can often be tamed and placed in homes, but they must be socialized in their first weeks of life. This is a critical window, and if they aren't handled in time, they will remain feral and therefore unadoptable. The incidence of disease in feral cat colonies is no higher than among owned cats. Feral cats are not the cause of wildlife depletion. Studies show that the overwhelming cause of wildlife depletion is destruction of natural habitat due to man-made structures, chemical pollution, pesticides, and drought - not feral cats.
TRAP AND REMOVE DOESN'T WORK
Not only would you have to continue to remove cats, but this process is also extremely costly. Other cats simply move in to take advantage of the available resources. They breed prolifically, thereby quickly forming a new colony. This "vacuum effect" is well documented
TRAP NEUTER AND RETURN DOES WORK
No more kittens. Their numbers gradually go down. The annoying behaviors or mating cats, such as howling and fighting, stop. The cats are vaccinated and they are fed on a regular schedule. This ongoing care creates a safety net for both the cats and the community.