A stray cat is not afraid of humans and was probably a pet at one time. It may have been abandoned or lost at one time. Strays and Free-roaming pets can be VERY difficult to tell apart.
Feral cats are unsocialized and afraid of people. They live much like wild animals and many of them were born into this lifestyle. Feral cats can not be adopted and would not make good pets. TNR programs are the best way to control the feral cat population and provide them with the best quality of life possible.
Alley Cat Allies - a national feral cat group with extensive information on TNR and feral cats.
Trap-Neuter-Release/Return aka: TNR
The primary goal of TNR programs is to reduce the free-roaming cat population and improve public health by providing vaccinations and surgeries to free-roaming cats. TNR also reduces over-crowding in shelters and euthanasia of healthy cats.
Proven effective control of the feral or community cat population
Reduction in nuisance behaviors such as spraying, yowling and fighting
Public health benefits from vaccinations administered during capture
Less roaming when the urge to find a mate is eliminated
Cats minimize rodent and nuisance wildlife populations
Fewer cats over time due to inability to reproduce
Why not Relocate?
Relocation is difficult to coordinate and execute, animals often don't stay in their new location, and removal of the colony leaves a void that is often filled by the arrival of a new colony. In short, relocation of animals usually fails and we do NOT relocate community cats or other wildlife.
DEALING WITH PROBLEM CATS
Start by talking to your cat-owning neighbors about your frustrations and concerns. For tips on how to talk to your neighbors read Neighborhood Toolbox. And give them some time to solve the problem.