Addressing Abandonment

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First, understand that TNR is not abandonment. TNR involves returning the cats to the exact location they were trapped in; their outdoor homes. It is a homecoming for community cats who will no longer have to deal with the stresses of mating or pregnancy.

Real abandonment is animal cruelty, and Alley Cat Allies stands strongly against it. We know that finding abandoned or “dumped” cats at your community cat colony or any other location can be frustrating and upsetting. The good news is that there are steps you can take to prevent it from happening.

One big part of deterring people from abandoning cats is educating your community. Sometimes when people see that a colony of spayed/neutered community cats is cared for, they think their pet cat will do fine in the group. In reality, cats who have lived indoors their entire lives can’t just be put outside. Cats who are accustomed to being cared for by humans do not have the skills to fend for themselves outdoors. The pet cat may have trouble finding a food source, water, and shelter.

Putting a cat outdoors permanently when she has never in her life lived outdoors prior, is putting the cat into a dangerous, negative situation. It is cruel, and it is  animal abandonment.

Including an abandonment component in your Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) education can help correct this misunderstanding. If you haven’t yet added an element of community relations to your TNR efforts, now is the perfect time. Visit the Community Relations Resource Center to get started.

There’s Always a Better Way
Some people abandon pets not out of cruelty, but out of desperation or ignorance. Consider leaving brochures at your colony site in a weather-proof clear box with a list of local resources including contact information for the local shelter and rescue groups. You could also include information from the Alley Cat Allies website on finding homes for socialized cats.

Volunteers could also hand out pamphlets about abandonment and cruelty a few hours a week at the colony site. While it’s unlikely that potential abandoners will reveal themselves, it helps to educate the whole community and let residents police the area themselves.

Make it Clear
Posting signs and holding educational seminars about Trap-Neuter-Return and community cats can go a long way in helping people make the distinction between community and pet cats.

Deterring Abandonment at Colony Sites

Signs are a good way to let people know that abandonment is cruel and illegal. Here is a sample sign that you could post. And here are a few additional examples:


We’ve heard from some groups that have taken their efforts a step further by installing video cameras to monitory the colony. The City of Houston, Texas, once installed a video camera at a popular site for animal abandonment and were able prosecute three people for animal cruelty. Prior to the installation of the cameras, the local authorities heard many reports of abandonment but didn’t have the evidence to prosecute the offenders.

You might also consider installing a “dummy camera” or even a sign simply stating that the area is under surveillance (even if it’s not). Dummy cameras can deter people from dumping cats if they believe there is a risk that they might be caught and prosecuted. These “cameras” are readily available at home improvement or online, with many models costing less than $30. A camera in conjunction with a sign explaining that abandonment is illegal can dissuade would-be violators.

Only Relocate Cats as a Last Resort

Trapping community cats at one site and releasing them at another colony is not TNR and is ill-advised. Cats are territorial animals and form strong bonds with the location they inhabit. A food source exists in the area (whether intentionally provided by humans, or not) and cats are acclimated to local conditions.

Relocating community cats is a difficult and time-consuming undertaking. Learn more about proper relocation techniques and why it should always be the last resort, here:

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 if removed from them unnecessarily and without the right protocol. In some cases, cats have died in the process.

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