Community cats are cats that live outside and are not tame or are only
partially tame. Community cats are also called feral cats. There are an
estimated 60 million to 120 million community cats within the U.S. alone. One
unspayed female cat will likely produce two litters per year. This means in one
year, there will be 12 kittens, in two years there will be 67 kittens, in three
years, 367 kittens (from one mother alone). This is why we need to work
together to stop the spread of homeless cats. Here are some other things to
know about feral cats:
Trap-Neuter-Return does work.
Trapping and getting surgeries for community cats so they can’t have more kittens is called spaying (for the females) and neutering (for the
males). Trap-Neuter-Return is called TNR among community cat groups. TNR is the
best way of helping community cats and making sure no more kittens are born
outside. The population stabilizes and the cats’ lives are improved. The behaviors and stresses associated with mating, such as
yowling and fighting, are reduced. The cats are vaccinated before being
returned to their outdoor home. Not only does Trap-Neuter-Return make good
sense, it is also a responsible, humane method of care for outdoor cats.
Environmentalists and cat lovers can work together.
Many people concerned about the earth want to get rid of community cats because
they kill wildlife. If all community cats were neutered, both cat lovers and
environmentalists should be happy because the cats would, over time,
naturally die off, and the cats could live out their lives humanely.
A community cat is not socialized to humans.
Though community cats are members of the domestic cat species and are protected
under state anti-cruelty laws, they are typically fearful of humans.
Community kittens can be adopted.
Community kittens can often be adopted into homes, but they must be
socialized at an early age (usually 10-12 weeks at the latest). This means they
must be regularly handled by humans as early as possible, and live primarily
indoors. If kittens aren’t handled in time, they will remain feral and therefore unadoptable.
Healthy community cats are well-fed community cats.
When community cats have people who feed them every day and provide shelter for
them, they are the safest and the most secure. People who feed a colony rarely
get to hold or pet their community cats, but they have the
satisfaction of knowing they are helping these cats that just happen to live
Humans cause the community cat problem.
Cats were bred by humans to be companions of humans. They were not bred to be
outdoors and have to fend for themselves. They can manage outside, but the
happiest cats are those that are loved by humans and mainly live indoors with
Humans are the cause of wildlife depletion.
Sometimes people complain about community cats, saying that they kill wildlife.
But studies show that the overwhelming cause of wildlife depletion is
destruction of natural habitat due to man-made structures, chemical pollution,
pesticides, and drought — not community cats. Still, outside cats do killwildlife. This is why it is best
to stop the breeding of community cats and keep pet cats indoors.
Catch and kill doesn’t work and is cruel.
The main way of dealing with community cats in our country is for animal
control to catch and kill them. This endless, cruel cycle is very costly and
doesn’t seem to work. Cats choose to reside in locations for two reasons: there is a
food source—(intended or not)—and shelter. When cats are removed from a location, survivors breed to capacity
or new cats move in. This is called the vacuum effect and is well documented.
Look for the tipped ear.
When community cats get their surgeries, one of their ears is slightly tipped.
So if you see a community cat, get out your binoculars and see if it has a
tipped ear. A tipped ear has the top cut off during surgery (so it isn’t painful). This means it has already been spayed or neutered.
You can make a difference and save lives.
Together, we can educate people about community cats and the fact that they don’t belong in “pounds” and shelters. To learn more or to find tools to help
you spread the word in your area, go to Alley Cat Allies (alleycat.org) or
contact your local community cat rescue group.