Free Roaming Cats in Your Neighborhood
We all experience free roaming cats in our neighborhoods or in the areas where we work. These cats generally fall under a few categories:
- Stray Kittens – The first priority is to determine if their mother has abandoned them – you need to wait and observe. The mother could be out hunting or just hiding nearby. Kittens that appear well cared for are probably just waiting for mom.
- Feral cats – cats that are highly unsocialized to people and avoid human contact. They are generally the results of stray housecats that have been outside for two or more generations.
- Stray cats – cats that are unsocial or sometimes social to people that originated as house cats but were abandoned or accidentally lost. They may enjoy human companionship but not necessarily direct human contact. Many people see them as “community cats”.
- Owned outdoor “pet” cats – cats that are owned by someone in the community who chooses to allow their cat to run the neighborhood. These cats may be extremely friendly or they may be temperamental and only allow handling to a certain point.
In all four of these categories the cats may be happy and healthy hanging out in the neighborhood, but may not do well in a shelter situation. The majority does not solicit or want human contact and some will “shut down” or act feral (hissing/striking) when in a cage. Historically the cats brought into shelters that are not friendly to people or comfortable in a caged environment will be held through any legally required holding period and then euthanized. Nationwide less than 2% of the stray cats brought into shelters as reclaimed by their owners. Statistically it is more likely that a cat will return home or be found by their family if left alone in the neighborhood than being taken into a shelter.
What should you do about the free roaming cats in your neighborhood? Because so many of these cats will not do well in a shelter. it’s not in their best interest to bring them into a shelter. Removing them from the neighborhood often creates a vacuum effect where more cats will come into the neighborhood or other animals like raccoons and opossums will fill the void. If the cats are healthy, then they have found a food source and just need to be altered and returned to the neighborhood. Here are a few links that can help you learn more:
To help identify an owner a cat in your neighborhood you can try to post flyers in the neighborhood, and at local vet hospitals, grocery stores and coffee shops, etc. Here’s a link for a poster you can make and print: http://www.petbond.com/flyerentry.php
Contact your local shelters and fill out a “found” report. Take the cat to a vet or shelter and have them scanned for a microchip which should identify the owner and the owner’s address. You can also create an ad on Craigslist http://sfbay.craigslist.org/pet/ or in the local paper.
Kittens should be brought into your local shelter or vet to determine their age and needs for care. If you’re able to foster them by providing a place for them to stay until they are old enough to be altered and re-homed, tell the shelter or vet and they may be able to provide you with food, litter, etc. through a foster program. If they’re old enough to be altered and are acting unsocial/feral then they might be good candidates for the TNR (Trap – Neuter – Return) program in your area. If they’re with their mother it’s a good idea to catch the kittens, and then use them to trap the mom so she can be altered and returned.
I Don’t Want Cats in My Yard
Ask around and see if anyone is feeding the cats or even feeding their own cat outdoors. You might find that some people in your neighborhood are already caring for the cats you see in your yard. Talk with your neighbors and any caregivers if you have concerns about cats in your yard. Work to find a solution that works for everyone involved. The key to keeping unwanted cats out of your yard is to remove any potential food and places for shelter. Just like wildlife they look for places to live that have easy food sources and safe shelters.
I Enjoy Having Cats in My Yard
If you have decided that you enjoy having kitty company in your yard, here are some resources to help you get them spayed and neutered so they don’t multiply. This link has local shelters/rescues, a list of low cost spay and neuter assistance, food pantries and more: http://www.catcenter.org/Pages/KnowledgeBase/Documents/ShowDocPage.ASP?Title=Local%20Rescue%20Groups&URL=44_Local_Rescue_Groups