Community Cats

What is a Community Cat?

If you’ve spent time in the city of Philadelphia, you’ve more than likely seen a cat outdoors. Cats who spend most of their time outside are referred to as “Community Cats” or “Free-Roaming Cats”. These blanket terms refer to indoor/outdoor pet cats, abandoned stray cats who have adapted to the outdoors, and feral cats who have had no human contact. They may have vastly different personalities but they are all referred to as community cats, and all cats who will be outdoors, even for just a short period of time, need to be spayed/neutered and vaccinated.

The best thing we can offer free-roaming cats is TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return). TNR is the process of humanely trapping and transporting community cats for spay/neuter surgery and then returning them to their outdoor home.

Why TNR (trap-neuter-return)?

TNR (Trap. Neuter. Return) is the process of humanely trapping and transporting community cats for spay/neuter surgery and then returning them to their outdoor home. Seeing stray cats? Want to TNR? We've got options!

TNR  is the only proven humane way to reduce the number of the cats who live outside. Once cats are spayed or neutered, they cannot reproduce and contribute to the cat population. TNR will also drastically reduce nuisance behaviors, such as spraying, caterwauling, and roaming out in traffic-ridden streets.

Without TNR, community cats’ lives are at risk! A high intake animal shelter such as ACCT Philly simply does not have the capacity to find adopters for the thousands of cats who are found to be living outdoors. Many cats who live outside have not been socialized to live indoors with humans, and are better suited to life in the urban wild.

How you can create a nuisance free colony on your block

Set up a feeding station
Please, feed cats at the same location every time, preferably on your own property. Place a large Rubbermaid container on its side, place food and water bowls inside. This will help reduce cats ripping through garbage bags and roaming out in the streets looking for food.

Set up a feeding schedule
Feed the cats at the same time; once or twice every day. Clean up any leftovers within 60 minutes. This will help reduce other wildlife to enter the colony. This also creates a pattern for the cats and they will benefit from a routine.

Outdoor cats can have litter boxes, too
Build a litter box with wood frames, add sand or peat moss, please do not use actual cat litter, which is for indoor use only. Having an outdoor litter box will help reduce cats using lawns or gardens. Place this outdoor litter box in a strategic area, away from neighbors who do not want cats on their property. Be sure to keep these litter boxes and areas clean and change out the contents regularly.

Physical Barriers

  • Cover and tightly secure trash can lids with bungee cords.
  • Physically block or seal locations that cats are entering with chicken wire or lattice.
  • Cover exposed ground in flower beds with large river rocks to keep cats from digging.
  • Purchase a Cat Scat™ mat to keep cats from digging.
  • Arrange branches in lattice-type patterns or use actual lattice fencing material over soil, this discourages digging.
  • Purchase a car cover if cats are walking on your vehicle.
  • Use plastic car carpet, spiked-side up and covered lightly in soil, in gardens, flower beds, and other landscaping.

Electronic and Battery Operated Deterrents

  • Hoont™ Motion Activated Electronic Animal Repeller
  • CatStop™ Ultrasonic deterrent
  • Scarecrow™Motion Activated Sprinkler

*You can purchase these deterrents at a hardware store or

Scent Deterrents
To keep cats away from gardens, flower beds, or specific areas of property, scatter fragrant items that don’t appeal to a cat’s sense of smell.

  • Fresh orange or lemon peels.
  • Organic citrus-scented sprays.
  • Sprinkle coffee grounds, vinegar, or pipe tobacco, oil of lavender, lemongrass, citronella, or eucalyptus.
    in gardens or landscaping

Killing and relocating will not reduce the outdoor cat population.

Historically, cats are a part of wildlife, they were not brought indoors until the 1950s. Because of their history, all cats are born with an instinct to survive outside, and have adapted quite well to life in the city, where food, water, and shelter are abundant.

Not only can cats survive without human help, they have also been extremely successful reproducing in the city. Cat overpopulation is a community issue, and it is our responsibility to make sure that our tiny friends are spayed, neutered, and returned to their outdoor homes.

If cats are permanently removed from a location, the area will suffer from what is called “The Vacuum Effect” which a new colony of cats will infiltrate the unoccupied area, regardless of whether the cats are being fed by someone. By implementing TNR in Philadelphia, the outdoor cat population will eventually decrease; although this takes time and a great deal of help from people who live in the community!

Harming community cats is a crime!
To report animal cruelty, neglect or abuse contact:
Pennsylvania SPCA Cruelty Hotline