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/
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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/community-cat-care/adoption-tips/.
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.
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 www.alleycat.org/community-cat-care/finding-kittens-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.
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.
We have simple, effective, humane solutions to keep outdoor cats away from places they are not wanted. Learn how at alleycat.org/Deterrents.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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/.
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.
We have a library of outdoor cat shelter ideas, from pre-built to DIY, at alleycat.org/ShelterGallery.
Find blueprints to build a feeding station and feeding stations for purchase at alleycat.org/community-cat-care/feeding-locations-and-stations/.
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/community-cat-care/mediating-conflicts-with-property-management/.
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/resources/stop-feeding-bans.
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/community-cat-care/interacting-with-animal-control/.
If you’ve been threatened with or given a citation, learn how you can protect yourself at alleycat.org/community-cat-care/how-to-handle-a-citation-or-fine/. 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.
We have advocacy tips, tools, templates, and model ordinance language for you in our Advocacy Toolkit at alleycat.org/AdvocacyToolkit.
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/.
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Learn more about the program at alleycat.org/WaysToGive.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
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 www.alleycat.org/FindFeralFriends. Just reach out, connect, and see how you can lend a hand and help the cats!
If your contact information has changed, you can update it at alleycat.org/FFNUpdate.
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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.
If you need advice or resources from Alley Cat Allies, fill out our Online Assistance Form at alleycat.org/GetHelp.
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.
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 https://www.alleycat.org/community-cat-care/adoption-tips/.
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:
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.
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.
We appreciate you considering us! Please fill out our online speaker request form at alleycat.org/Speaker.
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.
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.