Community Cats

WHAT IS A COMMUNITY CAT?

"Community Cat" is an umbrella term used to refer to outdoor, unowned, free-roaming cats. These cats can be friendly, feral, adults, kittens, healthy, sick, altered and/or unaltered. They may or may not have a caretaker that provides food and outdoor shelter. Some are born outdoors and others may be previously owned cats that were lost or abandoned and adapted to outdoor living over time. There are tens of millions of community cats in the United States.

It's important to also define feral cats –which fall under the community cat umbrella. A feral cat is an unsocialized outdoor cat who has either never had any physical contact with humans, or human contact has diminished over enough time that they are no longer accustomed to it. Feral cats are fearful of people and cannot be safely handled or socialized. Feral cats must live outdoors and should not be brought to shelters. Check out this resource to learn more about feral cat behavior.

https://www.aspca.org/helping-people-pets/shelter-intake-and-surrender/closer-look-community-cats


 

Cats on the Street

Population Control & TNR

Community cats are the most significant source of cat overpopulation in this country and 

The Humane Society of the United States advocates nonlethal strategies to manage community cat populations, including a tactic known as Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). Community cats who have been sterilized and vaccinated through a TNR program can be identified by their ear-tip—about a quarter inch at the top of one ear is removed at the time the cat is spayed or neutered so that one ear will appear flat instead of pointed when seen at a distance.

Without TNR, community cats continue to reproduce, overwhelming their human neighbors as well as the local animal shelters and rescue groups that are already caring for large numbers of cats. 

Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) involves trapping outdoor cats, having them spayed or neutered, ear-tipped, and returned to their outdoor environment. TNR is the only effective method that can stabilize outdoor cat populations, also known as cat colonies or community cats.

An ear-tip is a universally recognized symbol for outdoor cats who have been spayed or neutered. The cat's left ear has the tip (3/8 inch) removed to signify they have been fixed. This procedure causes no harm to the animal when performed by a veterinarian.

An ear tip is where the top left portion of the ear has been removed indicating the cat is spayed or neutered. These cats are free-roaming in the community and may or may not be socialized. They often have multiple caregivers and do not need human intervention. If the cat is feral (unsocialized and won't approach humans) but not yet ear tipped, we recommend utilizing the Trap-Neuter-Return method. Feral cats cannot be socialized and must live in a safe outdoor environment –we do not take them into the shelter. 

Curious Cat

What Doesn't Work

many communities still opt to control populations using outdated, ineffective methods. Community cats who end up in shelters make up a large percentage of cats euthanized throughout the country every year.

Cat on stone wall

Living Together Harmoniously

Puppy mills are large-scale breeding operations that put profit above the welfare of animals. Dogs at puppy mills are housed in shockingly poor conditions and are often sick and behaviorally troubled as a result. The parents of these puppies are kept in small cages and bred over and over for years, without human companionship. 

According to Best Friends, the U.S. still has about 10,000 puppy mills and our work as a community is not over! While adoption is the best option, if you choose to buy always do your research and never purchase blindly — many people support puppy mills everyday by believing pretty pictures online or purchasing from pet stores or parking lots. So spread the knowledge and let's put an end to this suffering!

Cat Portrait

Are They Adoptable?

Community cats have a wide range of behaviors and degrees of socialization, but they generally do not want to live indoors and are unadoptable.

Most community cats are not adoptable and shelters are not a hospitable location for a community cat to be held. The fact is, most community cats exhibit wild, shy or frightened behavior, and it's impossible to predict how or if they will ever acclimate to indoor life and the consistent presence of humans. While a community cat might look exactly the same as a pet cat, community cats survive by avoiding close human interaction. When properly cared for, community cats are happier outdoors in their own territory.

Some community cats are actually stray cats who don't exhibit feral behaviors but rather are friendly and enjoy interaction with humans. These cats were likely once owned or have a caretaker who frequently cares for and interacts with them. It is very important to take caution, especially with cats who seem to straddle the fence between a community cat and a stray cat. Even though they might encourage petting or follow you around, they could likely be inadequately prepared for adoption and an indoor life. These cats don’t need intervention, other than TNRM, unless they’re ill or injured. Talking to local community members about the history of a specific cat or group of cats in the neighborhood may help you discern if the cat is being cared for and how you can best help.

It is often assumed that an animal shelter is the best place for any animal. The reality is that there are simply not enough homes for every stray cat and there are better options for healthy cats who have adapted to outdoor living –also known as community cats.

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Don't Kit-Nap the Kittens

Don't kit-nap the kittens! Wait and watch patiently for a mother cat to return or call us for advice before intervening! Their best chance for survival is being left with their mother. Tip: You can use baking flour to make a circle around the kittens and footprints will let you know if mom has been returning. You can also refer to the Kitten Lady’s CASA chart to determine when to intervene. If intervention is required, we can provide you with bottle feeding instructions or assistance in finding a foster home. Although, finding a foster to provide round-the-clock feedings is no easy task, and no match to what their mother could have provided. 

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How We Are Helping

Our facility, like many others across the country, has moved to a managed admission system for cats. It allows for cats who need emergency care to obtain immediate shelter while also allowing us to coordinate the flow of cats into our facility to ensure we are providing the best care possible with our current resources. It also eliminates the practice of euthanizing healthy cats due to overcrowding. For those who have found healthy cats and do not wish to keep them long term, they are placed on a waiting list to bring the cat(s) to our facility and we will provide advice on alternatives to try in the meantime. This system has empowered community members to take an active role in keeping healthy cats out of the shelter by reuniting lost pets with their owners, participating in TNR, avoiding unnecessary intervention, fostering, and finding adopters for homeless cats. 

Grey Cat

How You Can Help

Ear cropping is a cosmetic procedure which involves surgical removal of the ear flaps. Ear cropping is most common within purebred dogs to achieve a distinctive physical appearance.

 

While there are many arguments both for and against this procedure, we highly recommend that pet owners carefully consider this decision and consult a veterinarian. We advise pet owners to proceed with caution as the desired result of any ear crop is not guaranteed.

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Additional Resources

Ear cropping is a cosmetic procedure which involves surgical removal of the ear flaps. Ear cropping is most common within purebred dogs to achieve a distinctive physical appearance.

 

While there are many arguments both for and against this procedure, we highly recommend that pet owners carefully consider this decision and consult a veterinarian. We advise pet owners to proceed with caution as the desired result of any ear crop is not guaranteed.