Managing Community Cats
What is a Community Cat?
A community cat is a free-roaming cat whose home is in your community or neighborhood and not solely indoors in an individual household. In Philadelphia, it is estimated that there are about 390,000 free-roaming cats, and that the majority of these cats are feral or semi-feral – that is, not socialized or happy to live indoors with people.
Here are the basics.
(For more information, see links at the bottom of this page.)
If you feed community cats, before you know it you’ll find yourself overwhelmed by litters of kittens—unless you take quick action to get all the cats spayed and neutered. Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is the best chance of a good outcome for both you and the cats. Keep in mind that TNR is not primarily about rescuing cats. It’s about reducing the endless birth of kittens. It’s about lowering stray intake and euthanasia rates at local shelters. It’s about humanely reducing the number of free-roaming and feral cats in an area over time, and making the outdoor cats that remain healthier and better neighbors.
It’s important to set up a feeding station and specific times for feeding. Predictable meals will improve the cats’ health, and will make trapping them for TNR much easier. After TNR, a regular feeding time and place means that you’ll be able to keep tabs on “your” cats’ physical condition and health. You’ll also need to provide shelter, especially in the winter. There are many inexpensive ways to do this. Project MEOW holds fall workshops in West Philadelphia to share information and help residents build winter shelters.
3. Decide what to do with kittens and friendly adults.
Before you start trapping, plan what you will do with the kittens and friendly adults. Ideally, all adoptable cats and kittens would be removed and placed in good homes. The reality is a little more complicated.
- Make sure that a friendly cat isn’t someone else’s pet. Before you “rescue,” ask your neighbors, put up flyers and, in Philadelphia, report the cat to ACCT–Animal Care and Control. (Please do not surrender the cat to ACCT.)
- When there’s a shortage of foster homes or adopters — especially during “kitten season” – you may need to prioritize which friendly cats get taken in based on urgency, and care for the rest outdoors.
- Depending on age and other factors, many cats will be happier living outside and away from close human contact, and will not be good adoption candidates.
4. Build good relations with your neighbors.
Most Philadelphia community cats live close to their human neighbors, so you need to take them into account. Make your neighbors aware that there are positive outcomes of your efforts that will benefit them too. And yes, even the cat haters on your block can become supportive, with the right information and tools!
Colony care guide: http://www.alleycat.org/page.aspx?pid=298
Warm weather care tips: www.alleycat.org/SummerWeather
Winter care tips: http://www.alleycat.org/page.aspx?pid=701
Rescuing kittens – if, when, and how to do it: http://www.alleycat.org/page.aspx?pid=977
Food and water: http://www.alleycat.org/page.aspx?pid=295
Medicating feral cats/kittens: http://www.animalalliancenyc.org/wordpress/2013/12/medicating-feral-cats-kittens/