The Differences between Wild Feral and Domestic Animals

There are many differences between wild, feral, and domestic animals as well as some similarities. Biologically and in physical appearance they may be the same, or similar.

Wild animals are born and live in the wild. They are generally shy and avoid contact with man. They find their own food and shelter, and take little or nothing, from humans.

Domestic animals were tamed, by man, back in prehistory and serve man’s needs in some way. Whether as companion animals, food animals, riding animals or to help man with his work, they are reliant on man for their food and shelter, to a greater or lesser degree. It is doubtful that most modern cattle, for example, would be able to survive in the wild.

Feral animals are animals that were once domestic animals, but who have returned to the wild. They may have been abandoned, have run away, or escaped accidentally from their former home. Some feral animals survive well in the wild, such as cats and pigs in rural areas, in urban areas however, feral animals can be a nuisance. They raid rubbish tips, dustbins and survive on the take away foods that humans carelessly, and thoughtlessly, discard on the pavements of British cities and towns. Perhaps, if humans were a little less messy, feral animals would not be such a problem in this regard. Feral dogs may form packs and terrorize urban housing estates.

An example of an animal that is very similar whether wild, feral or domestic, is the cat. The European wild cat is, at first sight, very similar to the domestic pet cat, but it is better not to mistake a feral cat for a domestic cat. The European wild cat has a thicker, shorter tail, and a smaller and stockier build. At a quick glance, the wild cat’s markings can be mistaken for those of a domestic tabby, however, on closer inspection, there are clear differences between the two. Were you able to touch a wild cat, you would notice that its coat is very much rougher and coarser than a domestic cat.

Domestic cats can easily revert to the wild and become feral. They breed quite successfully in the feral state, and their offspring will also be feral cats. If the kittens receive no input from man they will live their lives in the wild and, as adults, will avoid man. It is next to impossible to re-domesticate an adult feral cat successfully but, if you get a kitten young enough, it is possible to domesticate a feral kitten. There is evidence that wild cats, feral, and domestic cats have successfully bred in some areas and there is concern that the pure bred wild cat may disappear. Conservationists, in Scotland, are taking action to ensure the survival of pure bred wild cats.

It is important to know the differences between wild, feral and domestic animals, especially when you are dealing with a species where all three may look very similar. If you come across an injured, wandering, or young animal, that needs help it is wise to know just what you are dealing with. It will affect your method, actions, and confidence, when trying to help the animal.