Community Cats

What are Community Cats and How are They Managed?IMG_6403

Community cats refers to all un-owned feral and homeless stray cats.

Feral cats are un-owned, non-socialized, free-roaming cats. 

Trap-Neuter-Return, or TNR, is the most humane and effective method known for managing feral and stray cats. The cats are trapped, spayed and neutered, vaccinated, ear-tipped and then returned to their outdoor homes. Caretakers provide food and shelter and monitor the cats. When possible, friendly adults and young kittens are removed for adoption.


Why TNR Works


  • Cats are vaccinated against rabies
  • Immediate reductions are realized when young kittens and friendly strays are re-homed
  • Leads to long-term management, reduction, and eventual elimination of roaming cat populations
  • More cost-effective for municipalities compared to trapping, sheltering, and euthanasia
  • Reduces inundation of kittens at shelters every spring
  • Decreases nuisance complaints by reducing cat fighting, mating and spraying
  • Engages citizens in helping as volunteer trappers and caretakers
  • Appeals to external funding sources interest in paying for spay/neuter surgeries and care
  • Supports mediation of conflicts by nonprofit organizations between volunteers and residents
  • Maintains the health of the colony cats and allows caretakers to trap new cats that may join the colony



Why Removal Does Not Work

Except for a few successful projects on isolated oceanic islands, removal efforts have not proven successful. A significant majority of the cats need to be removed from the population to reduce the reproductive capacity. Doing so is labor and cost intensive particularly as new cats move into the vacated area to take advantage of the available resources. Generally what happens is that the individual cats change without any significant reduction in the population numbers. Additionally, removal typically means that cats are turned over to shelters. They are held for mandatory holding periods that are designed to allow owners time to locate missing pets. Given that community cats are by definition not owned, the holding period is an unnecessary and inefficient use of limited shelter resources. After the holding period, some friendly cats that may have been socialized with people are made available for adoption. However, the majority of community cats are ferals that have not been socialized with people. Their options are limited and most do not result in live releases unless they can be returned to their original colonies. The number of cats that need to be put to death to achieve marked reductions in populations of free-roaming cats is unacceptably high for most communities. 

At Rochester Animal Services, we have a Barn and Working Cat program that helps place a small percentage of un-socialized cats into barn or other non-traditional homes. 

Source: The Humane Society of the United States.  2014.  Managing Community Cats: A Guide for Municipal Leaders.