Community Cats FAQ
Listed below are some frequently asked questions and answers about community cats and TNR.
TNR stands for Trap-Neuter-Return and is a method to manage the number of outdoor community cats. Cats are humanely trapped and taken to a veterinarian to be spayed or neutered and vaccinated. After recovery, the cats are returned back to their outdoor colony.
Removing outdoor cats from their home is counterproductive. Each colony of cats has a territory that they defend from other cat colonies. If outdoor cats are removed, it leaves an open territory where more unaltered cats will move in and start the breeding cycle again.
TNR is the only effective humane solution to reduce and stabilize large populations of outdoor cats by preventing reproduction. It is life-saving for feral cats who are not adoptable and often end up being euthanized.
TNR is an effective humane solution for outdoor community cats that provides many benefits which are:
- Stops the repeated breeding cycle of unwanted litters of kittens and over time will decrease the size of outdoor cat colonies.
- Ends mating behaviors from outdoor cats such as yowling, fighting, and spraying which will result in less noise from fighting and smell from marking their territory.
- Improves cat’s health because cats are vaccinated preventing the spread of diseases like rabies and spaying/neutering reduces mammary/testicular tumors and other health concerns.
- Stops the killing of unsocialized feral cats who are not adoptable and end up being euthanized.
- Saves taxpayer dollars by keeping these cats out of county shelters.
- The only humane solution to reduce and stabilize the large populations of outdoor cats.
An ear tip is a universal symbol for an outdoor cat that has been sterilized. It is a painless procedure done during spay or neuter surgery that will not affect the cat’s hearing. Ear tips allow the ability to tell from a distance whether or not a cat has been spayed or neutered. It will also save a female cat from having to be cut a second time to determine if she has been spayed.
A feral cat is an unsocialized, domestic cat that has not experienced contact with humans or it diminished over time. Feral cats look cleaner and well-kept. They typically belong to a colony and can survive on their own outdoors. They avoid making eye contact with humans and their body language tends to stay low to the ground. Adult feral cats generally do not become pets, but kittens born to feral cats can be socialized at an early age (under 4 months of age).
A stray cat is a lost or abandoned pet that has been socialized with humans. Depending on their personality, they can be fearful or approachable Stray cats look thin, dirty, and disheveled. Many live alone but some join a colony of feral cats. They will make eye contact and vocalize with humans and may walk with their tails up. Stray cats can be reintroduced to a home after living outdoors but may require some patience while re-adjusting.
For more information about feral and stray cats, check out Alley Cat Allies.
Feral cats are considered wildlife just like birds and squirrels. They can only be removed from their habitat when they are sick or injured. Feeding them but not sterilizing them will only help them continue to breed. A female cat as young as 5 months old can have 4 sets of litters in a year with an average of 5 kittens per litter which is 300 kittens during its lifespan. You can help with TNR so they will not continue to reproduce in high numbers.
Our rescue does not provide TNR services but there are financial resources available to people who are willing to trap, transport and when ready, return the animal back to their outdoor colonies.
Socializing a feral kitten takes a lot of dedication and it is a very time-consuming activity because you will be interacting with the individual kitten daily for a couple of hours each day with no guarantee of success. The recommended socialization window for a feral kitten is 4 months of age and under. There are some exceptions where the kitten’s personality may come into play especially if the kitten is showing any meaningful signs of social behavior. Keep in mind the older the kitten, the longer it will take to socialize.
Each kitten needs to be assessed for its socialization level progress. If the kitten does not show any increasing signs of socialization to humans, it is in the kitten’s best interest to sterilize and return the animal to its colony. Forcing socialization can be very stressful on the kitten and sometimes the best home is outdoors. This decision must be made quickly because if you hold on to a feral kitten too long, you could be in a situation where the kitten is not adoptable and no longer able to return to an unfamiliar outdoor colony. The additional resources below will provide the individual steps for socializing a feral kitten.
Here are some great videos and materials on this topic:
It is easy and inexpensive to build an outdoor cat shelter. A winter cat shelter is critical in helping outdoor feral and stray cats keep warm in cooler temperatures. It is important to make sure the cat shelter is well insulated to trap the cat’s body heat, has minimal air space so there isn’t a lot to heat, and is waterproof so the interior will remain dry.
Here are some great videos and materials on this topic:
- DIY Outdoor Cat Shelter – Cats and Pats
- How to Build an Outdoor Shelter – Alley Cat Allies
- Making Winter Shelters for Community Cats! – Kitten Lady
Feral cats pose little risk to human health. They are fearful of people and will steer clear of human contact unless threatened.
Feral cats are not natural carriers of rabies. Statistics show cats rank lower than most wild animals like bats, skunks, and foxes which account for 90% of reported rabies cases. The last reported case for a cat to human transmission of rabies was in 1975. As part of TNR, many feral cats are vaccinated against rabies.
The risk of catching an intestinal parasite is unlikely as they are usually species-specific and studies have suggested the animals are more likely to catch these parasites from humans. It is also rare for a human to catch toxoplasmosis from a feral cat because most humans would avoid direct contact with the infected feces of a feral cat.
Certain plants will naturally deter cats, like lavender, rue, pennyroyal, coleus canina, lemon thyme, and lemongrass. These plants can be put along the border of flower beds or intermixed throughout the garden. Citrus is another natural cat repellant so spread orange or lime peel around gardens or patio pots. Other cat deterrents include coffee grounds, ground ginger, and cayenne pepper.
Another effective cat deterrent is to purchase a Scarecrow Motion Sensor Water Sprayer.
If the cat is sick or injured, it will need to be seen by a veterinarian immediately. If the cat is unable to be handled, you will need to trap the kitty using a humane trap.
Dr. Spencer (Bowyer) at the Feline Wellness Center can provide treatment to a sick or injured feral cat. For safety purposes, they require the cat to be brought in a humane trap. Call ahead to let them know you are coming. Keep in mind that they are not a low cost facility that can provide medical care for large numbers of feral cats so please see our list of low-cost spay and neuter clinics if you are planning to trap a large number of feral cats.