Where Do Feral Cats Go During The Day?

Feral cats are domestic cats that have reverted to a wild state after failing to socialize with people. Unlike house cats, feral cats avoid human contact and don’t allow themselves to be handled. Feral cats typically form colonies of anywhere from a few cats to over a hundred, and lead largely nocturnal lifestyles while hunting for food and shelter.

While we may see feral cats out during the day, they tend to remain hidden and keep to the shadows. Where exactly do feral cats spend their daytime hours while house cats are napping in sunny windows? While their behaviors and routines vary, feral cats have preferred daytime habitats and activities.


Feral cats often seek shelter in places that provide protection from the elements like sheds, porches, garages and vehicles1. These types of shelters are beneficial for feral cats as they allow the cats to stay warm and dry. Old sheds are a favorite shelter spot, as they have small openings that cats can enter and exit while still providing a covered and secluded space2. Porches and crawlspaces under houses also make good shelters, as they are protected from wind, rain, and snow. Vehicles like old trucks or tractors are appreciated by feral cats when available, as they offer an enclosed metal shell for insulation.

The benefits of these shelters for feral cats include protection from precipitation, icy winds, temperature extremes, and drafts. They allow cats a respite from the elements so they can rest and regulate their body temperature. Shelters like sheds, porches, and vehicles also provide seclusion so feral cats can avoid dangers and feel secure. Overall, seeking solid shelters helps outdoor feral cats survive challenging weather and seasons.

Hunting Grounds

Feral cats are active and skilled hunters that spend much of their daytime hours searching for prey in their territory (Cats and Their Hunting Behaviour). They engage in typical hunting behaviors like stalking, chasing, and pouncing on small animals. Feral cats hunt throughout the day, but tend to be most active at dawn and dusk when prey is also active. Their hunting grounds typically include areas like grassy fields, shrubbery, barns, and garbage dump sites where rodents and other small animals gather.

Feral cats establish a home range or territory that can span from 1 to 100 acres. Males tend to have larger territories than females. Within their territories, feral cats hunt primarily mice, voles, shrews, chipmunks, rabbits, snakes, lizards, frogs, and insects. They patrol and defend their hunting grounds, which supply their food sources (Do feral cats ever hunt in groups). Unlike lions, feral cats are solitary hunters and do not cooperate to bring down larger prey.

Interacting with Humans

Feral cats generally avoid interactions with humans due to a lack of socialization from kittenhood (https://www.alleycat.org/resources/cat-socialization-continuum-guide/). They view humans as a threat and will run away or become aggressive if approached or cornered. However, feral cats may learn to associate humans with food and cautiously approach people or populated areas at feeding times (https://be.chewy.com/feral-cat-behavior/). While feral cats remain wary, they may display food-seeking behaviors like waiting near trash cans or meowing for handouts. Feral cats that are regularly fed may gradually become accustomed to the presence of familiar humans at a distance, though they are unlikely to allow handling or close interactions.

Some feral cats can become semi-socialized through consistent gentle care and feeding. With time, they may accept occasional petting or learn to tolerate handling for medical treatment. However, it takes exceptional patience and care to gain the trust of an adult feral cat. Kittens younger than 8 weeks old are the best candidates for socialization and potential adoption (https://www.alleycat.org/resources/feral-and-stray-cats-an-important-difference/).

Weather Considerations

The weather can significantly impact where feral cats choose to stay during the day. In cold winter weather, feral cats need shelter from the elements. They may seek out warm places like under porches or in abandoned sheds and barns. According to https://winnebagoanimals.org/keeping-feral-cats-warm-during-the-winter/, providing insulated shelters for feral cats can help them survive frigid temperatures. Feral cats are resilient, but freezing rain, snow, and bitter cold can be dangerous if they cannot find adequate protection.

In summer heat, feral cats need shade and cooler areas to rest comfortably. They may sleep under shrubs or vines, or in basements and crawlspaces of vacant buildings. On extremely hot days, feral cats limit their activity and stay in the coolest places they can find. According to https://www.quora.com/How-does-the-weather-affect-stray-cats, ensuring access to fresh water is crucial for feral cats in periods of intense heat.

Heavy rain can also impact where feral cats decide to stay in the daytime. They will seek covered areas like porches, sheds, or under vehicles to stay dry. Extreme weather of all kinds influences the daytime habitats and behaviors of feral cats as they adapt to survive outdoor conditions.

Nighttime Routines

Feral cats generally have very different behaviors and routines at night compared to during the day. Whereas they tend to remain relatively inactive and hidden during daylight hours, feral cats become much more active at night when it’s darker and they can move around with less chance of detection.

At night, feral cats will leave their daytime shelters and venture out into their territories to hunt and scavenge for food. This is the primary time when they will search for prey like rodents, birds, rabbits, etc. As expert nocturnal hunters, feral cats are well adapted to hunting at night.

In contrast to sleeping throughout much of the day, feral cats are awake and roaming most of the night. They will patrol and mark their territories, interact with other cats, search for mates, and engage in other social behaviors mainly after dark. Their night vision and hearing give them an advantage when active at night.

Whereas feral cats seek out hidden, secluded places to sleep undisturbed during daylight, at night they are not as constrained by the need for protective shelter. They will sleep wherever they end up at night, often curling up in open areas, vehicles, porches, or barns after a long night of hunting and patrolling their territory. Their main priority is just finding a place to get some rest before starting the cycle over again the next day.

So in summary, feral cats shift to being much more active, social creatures at night, in contrast to their dormant and solitary daytime habits.

Territories and Colonies

Feral cats are highly territorial and often form colonies in areas with a stable food source. These colonies can range in size from a handful of cats to over 100 cats. Within the colony, there is a hierarchy and shared territories amongst the cats. The territories help reduce conflict over resources like food and shelter (source).

However, territorial disputes do occur, especially between competing tom cats. These disputes typically involve threatening body language, swatting, and vocalizations before escalating to physical combat for dominance. Injuries are common. The dominant tom will gain prime territory and access to females in that area (source).

Overall, the shared territories and hierarchy in feral cat colonies help minimize serious conflicts. The colonies offer security, social interaction, and access to mates for these otherwise solitary creatures. But clashes over territory and mates remain common among feral cats as they compete for resources.

Roaming Distance

Studies show that feral cats generally do not roam very far from their home territory or colony. According to research from the University of Illinois, most feral cats stayed within about 300 meters (984 feet) of human structures where they could find food and shelter (https://news.illinois.edu/view/6367/205315). Another source indicates that male feral cats may roam over a wider territory of around 1,500 feet, while females usually stay within around 75 yards of their home base (https://www.hepper.com/how-far-does-a-feral-cat-roam/).

Overall, feral cats do not typically wander very far, with males roaming somewhat farther than females. They tend to stay close to their colony’s home territory where their needs for food, water, shelter and safety within a familiar environment can be met. Long-distance travel is risky and energetically costly for these cats, so they favor staying within a consistent home range unless forced out by threats, competition or lack of resources.


Feral cats tend to nap frequently during the day, sleeping around 16 hours per day on average. This is similar to indoor cats and their natural sleep patterns. Feral cats will nap in sheltered spots that make them feel safe, including under porches, in abandoned vehicles, under bushes, or anywhere they can find protection from the elements. Their naps typically last from 30 minutes up to a few hours at a time. Cats nap more frequently than having one long sleep session, likely an instinct from their days as wild hunters where they needed to be alert for prey or predators. Feral cats especially need quality napping spots to conserve energy while living outdoors and facing survival challenges.

According to the blog Catbandit.com, “During the day, [feral cats] are typically inactive, sleeping up to 16 hours per day. Their sleep patterns are influenced by their hunting habits and their environment.” Naps restore a feral cat’s energy levels so they can hunt effectively at dawn and dusk.


In summary, feral cats spend their days engaged in activities that ensure their survival. They seek out shelter and protection, hunting grounds for food, and cautiously interact with humans when necessary. Feral cats are also highly attuned to weather conditions and will adjust their routines accordingly. At night, they return to their designated territories and colonies to rest and socialize. Though feral cats roam freely, they tend to limit their movements to a certain area and have preferred napping spots during the day. Ultimately, feral cats are resourceful and adaptable, spending their days focused on meeting their basic needs of food, shelter, safety, and companionship with other cats.

To conclude, while feral cats are elusive during daylight hours, we know they spend their days engaged in the activities required for survival, within a familiar location they consider their territory.

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