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What is a community cat?

Community Cat is an umbrella definition that includes any un-owned cats. These cats may be "feral" (unsocialized/fractious) or friendly, may have been born into the wild, or may be lost or abandoned pet cats.

As many of these cats are feral, it would be impossible for us to adopt them to families safely. For this reason, we cannot take in community cats unless the animal is being brought in to be spayed or neutered and then collected and returned to where it came from.

Many Community Cats are cared for by compassionate people who provide food and water for these cats. Others thrive without any human intervention, especially in our temperate climate. They live in neighborhoods, shopping centers, commercial properties - anywhere they can find shelter. Whatever a cat's circumstances, the term "Community Cat" reflects that for these cats, "home" is within the community rather than in an individual household.

Why aren’t traditional sheltering methods working for community cats?*

The traditional shelter model was originally developed to care for dogs and livestock, and simply does not meet the unique needs of cats. As a result, shelters do not provide the best option for cats, and statistics demonstrate that: Nationally, cats admitted to shelters have only a 2% chance of being reunited with an owner, and a nearly 50% chance of being euthanized in a shelter.

In shelter environments, community cats who are accustomed to roaming miles each day are confined to small habitats in highly populated indoor spaces, which can lead to extreme stress and illness — which then results in significantly higher rates of death and euthanasia. In California in 2019, 9% of dogs who entered shelters were lost, euthanized or died, compared to 25% of cats.

Additionally, despite the use of traditional sheltering methods and the work of many people and organizations dedicated to caring for animals, the volume of cats entering shelters continues to increase. In 2019, nearly 2.3 million cats entered shelters nationwide, up from 2.2 million the previous year. During our 2020 fiscal year (July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020), 21,648 cats entered shelters in San Diego County alone.

It is important to note that cats live and thrive outdoors all over the world — in Africa, Asia, Australia, South America and beyond. In fact, North America is the only continent in which keeping indoor-only cats has become common practice. Even in the United States, keeping indoor cats as pets only became popular after 1947, with the invention of cat litter, and then became more commonplace in the 1970s when shelters advocated for keeping cats indoors in an effort to control population. Additionally, cats — unlike their canine counterparts — have DNA that has remained unchanged for the past 4 million years.

The feline pets we keep today are still virtually identical to those who have thrived outside for millions of years! According to National Geographic, a study that compared the DNA of cats throughout history shows that no major differences exist between the genetic makeup of wild and domestic cats. As a result, they remain perfectly capable of thriving in the wild.

All of these facts demand that we challenge old ways of thinking and utilize innovative solutions that are in the best interest of community cats. 

*Source: SDHS, https://www.sdhumane.org/programs/community-cats/

Community Cat Resources

The Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center supports Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR), which has proven to be the most effective, humane method of reducing Community Cat populations. Through TNR, these cats are humanely trapped, vaccinated, microchipped, spayed or neutered, ear-tipped, and returned to outdoor homes to live out their lives.  Our clinic provides low-cost surgery for community cats.  Learn more info here.

Never trapped a community cat before? Download our TNR Guide  and learn best practices. 

Searching for ways to help keep cats comfortable in the cold winter months? Check out this DIY guide to building an outdoor shelter.

Need a Trap?

Traps are available at the Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center for rental for $5/per day or $20/per week with a $75 deposit refunded when the trap is returned.

Download Rental Agreement Form

Download TNR Guide