Resources for Businesses and Residents

About Community Cats

Community cats are feral (unsocialized), and are present in urban, suburban and rural areas. They are the offspring of abandoned and outdoor pet cats that were never spayed or neutered. While feral cats are the same species as the house cats that make terrific companions, their behavior is very different since they are not socialized to humans. Feral cats are fearful of contact with people–they are scared of humans, will not allow you to pet or pick them up, and a truly feral cat will avoid people entirely. While they will flee from human contact, feral cats have adapted to living in close proximity to humans, and often grow accustomed to humans who provide food. Feral cats often live in a “colony”–a larger group of feral cats that inhabit the same general area and share similar food sources.

Feral cats can be seen as a nuisance, but conflict with these animals who share our environment can be prevented humanely through Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). TNR benefits a feral cat colony by reducing their numbers and maintaining the colony’s health.

Recommended Solution: Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)

If you are the owner, resident or manager of a property with a colony of feral cats in residence, the most effective and humane course of action to reduce and humanely manage the colony is Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). TNR is not only the compassionate, humane choice but also the most effective option as sterilization ends the reproductive cycle that grows the colony. How it works:

  • Volunteer caretakers humanely trap cats in a colony and bring them to a spay/neuter clinic, like ACCT’s TNR Clinic, to be spayed/neutered and vaccinated.
  • The cats are spayed or neutered, vaccinated against rabies and other diseases, examined by a veterinarian and given routine care while under anesthesia.
  • To easily identify cats already spayed/neutered, each cat’s left ear is tipped.
  • The volunteer caretaker monitors the cats while they recover overnight before releasing them from the trap back to the only home they have known – the outdoor colony where they have been residing.
  • Volunteers continue to feed the cats to prevent foraging.
  • Nuisance behaviors, such as yowling during mating, fighting and territorial spraying, are diminished or eliminated once the cats are sterilized.
  • Vaccination for rabies and other diseases prevents the threat of illness, keeping the cats healthy and the community safe.
  • Once all of the cats have been sterilized, the colony will naturally diminish over time as the cats cease breeding. The average lifespan of an outdoor cat is 2 years.

Not Recommended: Cat Removal

Why it doesn’t work:

  • Because they are not socialized to humans, feral cats are not typically adoptable. Therefore, removal to an animal control facility will nearly always result in their being euthanized.
  • Removing the cats from the property will just allow new cats to move in to the area. The existing conditions – food, water and shelter – that allow the existing colony to survive in the area would draw new cats, repeating the process of breeding and overpopulation. For this reason, relocation of a colony to another property is also not recommended.
  • Colonies of feral cats can also be helpful in controlling rodent populations, which would increase should the cats be eliminated from the area.
  • Community members have demonstrated for years that they want colonies managed compassionately, and when businesses or residents advocate for feral cats’ removal, compassionate citizens become very vocal in order to protect the cats and their long-term health and happiness. They will not stand for an inhumane approach, and they will demand a humane approach. A public opinion survey, commissioned by Alley Cat Allies, a national advocacy organization, and published in September 2007, reveals that 81 percent of Americans believe it is more humane to leave a stray cat outdoors to live out its life than to have the cat caught and killed.

Other Recommendations for Property Owners and Managers

  • Enlist concerned residents/employees to help with TNR, or contact ACCT for help!
  • Enforce spay/neuter requirement for renters!
  • Require residents to keep pet cats indoors!

Helpful Links

How to live with cats in your neighborhood
Scientific Evidence That TNR Works
Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) Guide
Colony Care Guide
Helping Cats and People Coexist
Helping Community Cats video

If you would like to speak with someone about a feral cat colony on your property or would like more information about starting a TNR program, please contact Life Saving at 267-385-3800, or email at lifesaving@acctphilly.org.