Abstract The mating strategies of male and female feral cats living in a large urban colony were analysed. The distribution of males around the female being courted, the agonistic and copulatory behaviour patterns of 19 males belonging to the group studied and the copulatory behaviour of 15 females of the same group, were investigated. A linear dominance hierarchy based on the outcome of agonistic encounters was found among males. It did not correlate with copulatory success. Courting males did not fight around the female in oestrus. The optimal mating strategies of male and female cats conflict: females would do best to copulate with more than one male, whereas males should monopolize the female and guard her from other males. In this study, however, females mated polygamously but males did not attempt to monopolize females. Possible explanations for this obscure male behaviour are given.