Learn more about community cats and Trap-Neuter-Return

What is a community cat?

Community cats are unowned cats who live outdoors. Community cats live outdoors in virtually every landscape on every continent where people live. Like indoor cats, they belong to the domestic cat species (Felis catus). However, community cats, also called feral or outdoor cats, are generally not socialized, or friendly, to people and can’t live indoors. They live full, healthy lives with their feline families, called colonies, in their outdoor homes. Learn more at www.alleycat.org/resources/the-truth-about-community-cats/

What is the difference between a stray cat and a feral cat?

Stray cats are socialized to people and can be adopted into homes, but feral cats are not socialized to people and are happy living outdoors. Learn more at alleycat.org/StrayOrFeral.

Where do community cats come from?

Cats have always lived outdoors, so community cats are not a new phenomenon.

Domestic cats (Felis catus) came into existence about 10,000 years ago, when humans began farming. According to scientists, cats are one of the only animals who domesticated themselves. Evolutionary research shows that the natural habitat of cats is outdoors in close proximity to humans. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1940s—and the invention of cat litter—that “indoors only” for cats was even a concept.

Learn more at alleycat.org/CatHistory.

What is Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)?

Trap-Neuter-Return is the humane, effective approach to addressing community cat populations. Through TNR cats are humanely trapped, spayed or neutered and vaccinated. The tip of one ear is painlessly removed to indicate the cats are part of a TNR program. They are then returned to their outdoor homes where they live and thrive, ending the cycle of producing new litters of kittens.

TNR is good public policy. It reduces animal shelter intake, “euthanasia” numbers and calls to animal control agencies, which saves tax dollars. Hundreds of communities have adopted official TNR ordinances and policies, and thousands more conduct grassroots, volunteer-led TNR programs. Those numbers continue to grow because the programs have proven successful in a wide variety of environments.

Learn more at alleycat.org/TNR.

What is an ‘eartip’?

We use the word “eartip” to describe when a small portion of the tip of a community cat’s ear is surgically removed during neuter surgery, as part of a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program, to show that the cat has been neutered and vaccinated. Eartipping is done while the cat is anesthetized and is not painful for the cat. Eartipping is the most effective way to identify neutered community cats from a distance, to make sure they are not trapped or undergo surgery a second time.

Learn more at alleycat.org/WhyEartip.

Isn’t it unsafe for community cats to live outside?

Cats have been living outdoors alongside humans for thousands of years. Research shows the majority of community cats are healthy. They have equally low disease rates as pet cats, and can live just as long. Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) improves their wellbeing.

Learn more at https://www.alleycat.org/resources/feral-cat-health-analysis-living-healthy-lives-outdoors/.

Why can’t feral cats be socialized and then adopted into homes?

The ideal window for socializing (or acclimating cats to people) is when cats are young kittens. It is very difficult, and often impossible, to socialize an adult feral cat who has lived outdoors her whole life. Alley Cat Allies does not recommend attempting to socialize adult feral cats and promotes devoting time, energy, and resources to Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) instead. TNR programs are the best way to help the most community cats.

Learn more at https://www.alleycat.org/resources/why-its-trap-neuter-return-not-trap-neuter-adopt/.

What happens to community cats when they are brought to most shelters?

Because community cats are generally not socialized, or friendly, to people they are unadoptable and cannot live indoors. In many animal shelters in the U.S., unadoptable animals like community cats are killed. To save cats’ lives, always practice Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) instead of bringing community cats to an animal shelter.

Learn more at alleycat.org/AnimalShelters.

Why doesn’t removing community cats from an area work?

While catching and removing cats may temporarily reduce the number of cats in a given area, it is ultimately counterproductive. Removing cats only creates a vacuum that will soon be filled by nearby cats, who move in to use the resources that sustained the cats who were removed. These cats breed and the area is soon populated again. This phenomenon is known as the Vacuum Effect and has been documented worldwide in many species, including coyotes and foxes. Because of the Vacuum Effect, catching and removing cats is an endless, ineffective cycle.

Learn more at alleycat.org/VacuumEffect.

What can I do to help community cats?

Join our movement to protect and improve the lives of all cats at alleycat.org/JoinUs. When you sign up, you’ll receive the latest cat news, information, and actions to take to save cats’ lives.

Learn more about caring for outdoor cats

Cats in my community are in urgent danger. What can I do?

If cats are being threatened or removed from your area, fill out our Online Assistance Form at alleycat.org/AdviceAboutCats. You will be directed to resources that will help you protect the cats.

You can also check out our community relations information at https://www.alleycat.org/community-cat-care-category/community-relations/conflict/. It includes advice on resolving conflicts with property management, what to do if neighbors complain, how to talk to animal control, addressing violent threats to cats, and more.

I found a friendly outdoor cat, how do I find her a home?

First, make sure you know the difference between a stray and a feral cat. We have information that will help at alleycat.org/StrayOrFeral.

If the cat is a friendly stray cat, she may have wandered away from her indoor home. See our tips to reunite her at alleycat.org/community-cat-care/how-to-find-a-stray-cats-home/.

If the cat doesn’t have an indoor home, you may decide to foster and adopt her out. See our adoption resources at alleycat.org/AdoptionTips.

Keep in mind that even the friendliest stray cat can be at home outdoors and does not need to be placed in an indoor home. It is always a great option to have her humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and returned to her outdoor home through Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR).

Learn more at alleycat.org/TNR.

How do I find information about caring for outdoor cats?

Visit alleycat.org/CommunityCatCare for expert information on caring for cats and kittens.

Our Helping Cats in Your Community webinar is a great introduction to community cat care and Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). The best part: it’s free and can be viewed anytime at alleycat.org/TNRWebinar.

Help, I found a kitten outside! What do I do?

Leave kittens with their mom. She’s always their best caretaker! For more detailed information and scenarios where you might need to get involved (e.g. if the kittens no longer have a mother), visit alleycat.org/FoundAKitten.

How do I do Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) for cats outdoors?

Visit alleycat.org/TNRGuide for a step-by-step guide to TNR, an informative video, best practices for successful TNR, tips for hard-to-trap cats, and more.

Who can help me trap cats outdoors for TNR? Where can I find other local assistance for outdoor cats?

You can request a list of members of our Feral Friends Network® for local resources in your community such as spay/neuter clinics, trapping support, trap loans, and more.

I don’t want cats in my yard. How can I keep cats away?

We have simple, effective, humane solutions to keep outdoor cats away from places they are not wanted. Learn how at alleycat.org/Deterrents.

I believe cats are in danger/a community cat colony site is threatened and I want to relocate the colony. What should I do?

Relocation is a last resort. It’s a time-intensive process that is stressful for you and the cats and may not even be 100% effective. Learn why relocating is dangerous and better approaches.

I/The community cats’ caregiver is moving away and I’m worried about the cats. What should I do?

It’s always best to let community cats stay in the outdoor home they know and love. Don’t worry, they will find new sources of food. You can also consider finding a substitute caregiver–learn how!

You may also find the local assistance you need through our Feral Friends Network®.

If the cats have all been spayed or neutered through a Trap-Neuter-Return program, let your neighbors know so they won’t be concerned with our talking points and tips.

I need to relocate a cat/colony. Should I do this? How do I do this?

IMPORTANT: Even in the best case scenarios relocation can be very dangerous for cats and ineffective. Relocation is stressful for cats and since community cats are not socialized to people they can be unpredictable. Community cats bond to their outdoor homes and will try to go back—in some cases cats have died in the process, when people misguidedly believe that their life will be better someplace else.

Relocation should only be considered as a last resort and Alley Cat Allies advises against relocating community cats in most circumstances. You can read more about relocation and what to do instead at alleycat.org/Relocation. It also includes a link to safe relocation protocols if you decide relocation must be used as a last resort.

I’m looking for low-cost neutering or financial help for the community cats I care for. Can you steer me in the right direction?

You may be able to find low-cost spay and neuter, and community cat friendly full-service veterinarians near you through our Feral Friends Network. Request a list of local Feral Friends Network members at alleycat.org/FindFeralFriends.

For financial resources to help you or your organization cover the cost of spay and neuter surgeries and other cat care needs, visit alleycat.org/Economy.
You can also try these low-cost spay and neuter referral services:

Can you give me advice for how to care for a sick or injured cat?

If your cat is sick or injured, or if you come across a sick or injured cat outdoors, bring her to a veterinarian right away. You can find community cat friendly veterinarians through our Feral Friends Network at alleycat.org/FindFeralFriends.
Learn more about helping sick or injured cats at alleycat.org/community-cat-care/sick-or-injured-cats/.

I think someone poisoned/injured my cat(s). What can I do?

It is important to foremost stay focused and calm—that will help you better protect the cats. If you believe cats are being threatened with harm, learn how to proceed at alleycat.org/community-cat-care/stop-violent-threats-against-cats/.

If you believe cats were already poisoned or injured, find next steps at alleycat.org/community-cat-care/if-cats-you-care-for-have-been-harmed-or-killed/.

Learn how to prevent poisoning, or how to proceed if a cat has been poisoned, at alleycat.org/Poison.

How do I build/where can I find shelters for my outdoor cats?

We have a library of outdoor cat shelter ideas, from pre-built to DIY, at alleycat.org/ShelterGallery.

How do I build/where can I find feeding stations for my outdoor cats?

Find blueprints to build a feeding station and feeding stations for purchase at alleycat.org/community-cat-care/feeding-locations-and-stations/.

Learn more about advocating for cats

The property manager in my community/at a local store/office park wants cats removed. What do I do?

When a property manager or animal control agency wants to trap and remove cats, your goal is to try to protect the cats and keep them right where they are. You can find detailed information on resolving conflicts like this at alleycat.org/CommunityRelations.

For specific help with property management that wants cats removed, see our resources at alleycat.org/PropertyManagement.

Someone told me to stop feeding cats and/or wants cats removed from my property. What can I do?

We encourage you to do your best to keep the cats in their outdoor homes. We have tips for negotiating and working with neighbors, property managers, and other decision makers at alleycat.org/CommunityRelations.

Learn how to address feeding bans at alleycat.org/StopFeedingBans.

If you have been approached, or believe you may be approached by animal control, learn how to protect yourself and the cats at alleycat.org/KnowYourRights.

I have received a citation. What can I do?

If you’ve been threatened with or given a citation, learn how you can protect yourself at alleycat.org/Citations. Know that Alley Cat Allies cannot provide legal advice.

If you have time to fax (240-482-1990) or mail (7920 Norfolk Ave., Suite 600, Bethesda, MD 20814 Attn: Citation Information) us a copy of your citation, we monitor and track trends in the types of citations being issued around the country so we can continue to advocate on a national level for caregivers like you.

My town is considering/I would like my town to consider a TNR ordinance or policy. Do you have information for me?

We have advocacy tips, tools, templates, and model ordinance language for you in our Advocacy Toolkit at alleycat.org/AdvocacyToolkit.

My town either already has unfavorable laws for feral cats or is considering new laws. How can I change them or stop this process?

We have resources to help you fight harmful laws for cats and advocate for good laws to protect them at alleycat.org/community-cat-care/fighting-laws-and-policies-that-endanger-cats/.

I would like to start my own organization to help cats. Where do I start?

Congratulations on your decision to start a nonprofit organization! Alley Cat Allies has comprehensive resources to help you launch your organization, recruit supporters and volunteers, and provide quality services at alleycat.org/resources/starting-you-own-organization-to-help-cats/.

Learn more about donating to Alley Cat Allies

Who should I talk to if I have questions about donating to Alley Cat Allies?

Thank you so much for your support! Our Development team can help you. You can contact them at donate@alleycat.org.

Can I make a donation in honor or memory of a person or cat?

You can pay tribute to a special person or animal companion to honor their memory by making a gift in his, her, or their name to Alley Cat Allies. Learn more about making a tribute gift at alleycat.org/WaysToGive.

If you would prefer to make your donation over the phone, please call 1-866-309-6207.

Is the website secure for donations and other purchases?

Yes. When you donate to Alley Cat Allies via our website or purchase items from our online shop, your personal information is encrypted and transmitted via a secure connection. Alley Cat Allies uses your credit card information only for the purpose of processing your donation. If you would prefer to make a donation or purchase items from our online shop over the phone, please call 1-866-309-6207.

Are donations made to Alley Cat Allies tax deductible?

Yes. Alley Cat Allies is a registered nonprofit organization under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code. Contributions are tax-deductible as allowed by law.

How do I make other in-kind donations?

Alley Cat Allies gladly accepts in-kind donations, provided there is a need for the donation. Acceptance is determined on a case by case basis. Please email a description of your item(s) and your location to donate@alleycat.org or call 1-866-309-6207.

I have cat supplies (like a trap/bed/cat food/blankets, etc.) which I would like to donate. Will Alley Cat Allies accept these items?

Alley Cat Allies gladly accepts in-kind donations, including supplies for the cats in our adoption program, provided there is a need for the donation. Acceptance is determined on a case by case basis. Please email us a description of your item(s) and your location to donate@alleycat.org or call 1-866-309-6207.

Can I donate my car?

Our vehicle donation program lets you turn your used car, van, truck, RV, motorcycle, boat, or even airplane into a charitable contribution to Alley Cat Allies. Proceeds from the sale of donated vehicles pump much-needed dollars into our lifesaving programs for cats.

Learn more about the program at alleycat.org/WaysToGive.

Where do my donations go?

When you give to Alley Cat Allies, you’ll be helping protect and improve cat’s lives! We’re proud that 87 cents of every dollar you donate goes directly to saving cats’ lives, with 7 cents to management and 6 cents to fundraising. Learn more at alleycat.org/WaysToGive.

What is Alley Cat Allies’ tax ID number?

Our Federal tax ID number is: 52-1742079.

Learn more about Alley Cat Allies’ Feral Friends Network®

What is the Feral Friends Network?

Alley Cat Allies’ Feral Friends Network is a worldwide database of individuals and groups who are actively working to protect and improve the cats’ lives. Our Feral Friends Network members have self-identified their expertise in Trap-Neuter-Return, foster and adoption of socialized cats and kittens, education and advocacy, and veterinary care and have committed themselves to being a resource for others to help the cats in their community.

Learn more at alleycat.org/FeralFriends.

Please note: Feral Friends Network members are not representatives or agents of Alley Cat Allies and are not required to provide hands-on assistance.

How can I see the list of Feral Friends Network members in my area?

The Feral Friends Network can be accessed anytime, 24/7 by visiting alleycat.org/FindFeralFriends. Simply input your information and click submit to receive an email with the current listing of every Feral Friends Network member in your community.

Will Feral Friends Network members come trap the cats in my yard?

Our Feral Friends Network members are not required to provide hands-on assistance. Rather, they have volunteered to share their knowledge with you and may offer advice, support, educational resources, and even referrals to local groups. The decision to provide any kind of hands-on support is at the discretion of each individual Feral Friends Network member.

Do the people I contact through the Feral Friends Network work for Alley Cat Allies?

No. Feral Friends are not representatives, employees, volunteers, or agents of Alley Cat Allies. Alley Cat Allies adds individuals and groups to the Feral Friends Network based on the representations they make regarding their knowledge, experience, and practices. Alley Cat Allies does its best to provide reliable contacts and information through this program, but cannot guarantee that any assistance or information you receive through the program will be helpful, reliable, accurate, legitimate, and/or free from incidents or errors. Alley Cat Allies cannot assume any responsibility for any liability which may arise.

A couple of the numbers/emails I reached out to were no longer in service. Why is that?

While we do our best to maintain an accurate database of our Feral Friends Network members, we rely in part upon each individual Feral Friends Network member to contact us whenever their phone or email information changes. As such, Alley Cat Allies cannot guarantee that all information provided is current and apologizes if any of the information sent to you is out of date.

You can help us keep our list current by sending outdated Feral Friends Network information us at ffn@alleycat.org.

There are no Feral Friends Network members listed for my area. What do I do now?

Although we do our best to connect with caregivers and advocates across the nation and around the world, we are still growing and cannot guarantee local Feral Friends Network assistance in every community. However, you may choose to contact Feral Friends Network members just outside of your area for recommendations. A member in a neighboring town or county may know of resources close to you that are not currently on our list.

Can I become a member of the Feral Friends Network?

Of course! If you have experience providing Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) assistance, veterinary care, cat advocacy assistance, or have any other cat expertise, we encourage you to apply to join our Feral Friends Network. You can fill out an application in the sidebar at alleycat.org/FeralFriends.

I am not sure I am ready to be a Feral Friends Network member, but I still want to help the cats. What can I do?

If you do not yet have experience working with community cats, you might consider volunteering with some of our Feral Friends Network members. Many of the Feral Friends Network members are actively working and helping the cats in your community and would likely appreciate your help! You can access the list of people and organizations working in your community by visiting alleycat.org/FindFeralFriends. Just reach out, connect, and see how you can lend a hand and help the cats!

I’m a member of the Feral Friends Network and want to update my contact information, what should I do?

If your contact information has changed, you can update it at alleycat.org/FFNUpdate.

Find answers to some general questions

I’m receiving duplicate mailings, how do I correct this?

If you are receiving duplicate mailings, please email us at donate@alleycat.org with the address and/or names that are being duplicated. We will correct the situation and someone will be in touch with you if there are any additional questions.

Who should I talk to if I’m experiencing a technical issue using alleycat.org?

For website or email related issues, contact webmaster@alleycat.org.

I’m trying to find some information on your website, but can’t remember where it is located. Can you help? I have a question. How do I get help?

First, try using our search box, located at the top of all of our pages. Helpful hint: put your search terms in quotes to make your search as specific as possible. The search function does not yet include content inside PDF files, so newsletters and factsheets may not be returned in this search.You could also access our sitemap. The sitemap gives you a hierarchical outline of the website’s content.

You can request information through our personalized Email Assistance Form. This interactive form provides you with answers to our most common questions. After you complete the form you will immediately be emailed information tailored to your specific request for help.

I want to ask Alley Cat Allies a question or send Alley Cat Allies an email. How can I do that?

If you need advice or resources from Alley Cat Allies, fill out our Online Assistance Form at alleycat.org/GetHelp.

Will Alley Cat Allies pick up the cats in my yard?

Alley Cat Allies is a worldwide advocacy organization and is not available to provide hands-on assistance for individual situations. The best approach to the cats in your yard is Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), and you can learn why at alleycat.org/TNR.

If you need someone to help you with TNR, contact a member of Alley Cat Allies’ Feral Friends Network near you by visiting alleycat.org/FindFeralFriends.

I want to surrender/rehome my pet cats. Will you take them?

Alley Cat Allies is not a shelter or foster home network for companion animals. However, we have tips to help you find a loving new home for your indoor cat, and friendly stray cats at alleycat.org/AdoptionTips.

Do you spay or neuter cats? Are you low cost?

Alley Cat Allies is a worldwide advocacy organization, and does not operate a spay and neuter clinic. We can, however, put you in contact with resources in your area through our Feral Friends Network. Find members near you at www.alleycat.org/FindFeralFriends.

The following are low-cost spay and neuter referral services:

I cannot afford veterinary care for my cat(s). Can you help?

There are a few avenues to consider if you need financial help for a routine veterinarian visit or a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) project. Find options at alleycat.org/Economy.

Can Alley Cat Allies help me advocate for change or organize at the local level?

We have detailed resources to help you take your cat advocacy to the next level. Whether you want to start your own organization, advocate for cat-friendly laws in your local government, or spread lifesaving knowledge in your community, we’ll help you get started at alleycat.org/AdvocacyToolkit.

You can also use our Online Assistance Form at alleycat.org/GetHelp.

How do I get an Alley Cat Allies expert to speak at my upcoming meeting or event?

We appreciate you considering us! Please fill out our online speaker request form at alleycat.org/Speaker.

How do I find help or support for cats in my yard, neighborhood, or community?

Alley Cat Allies’ Feral Friends Network exists to help people like you find resources for cats in your area. Our Feral Friends Network includes organizations and individuals with hands-on Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) and community cat expertise, and veterinary practices and clinics that spay and neuter community cats.

You can request a list of Feral Friends who serve your area by visiting alleycat.org/FindFeralFriends.

Does Alley Cat Allies provide grants or funding?

Alley Cat Allies is not a grant-making organization. We do have information that will help you find the right financial resources for your efforts to help cats. Visit alleycat.org/Economy.