Alley Cat Allies

Substitute Colony Care

Life is full of the unexpected, so it’s important to have a plan for your colony’s ongoing care in case you can no longer care for them. The best thing you can do for your cats is have a substitute caregiver ready to support them if anything should happen. With a new caregiver on deck, you can be rest assured that a compassionate person is ready to fill your shoes if necessary.

Here are six tips to find the best person for the job and to help them with the transition:

1. Gather the cats’ records.

Ensure all the cats are neutered and vaccinated and that their records are organized in one place. Check out our Recordkeeping tips for more info. You can give this to the new caregiver, but keep a copy for yourself, too.

2. Find someone you trust.

Look for family, friends, neighbors, or other caregivers in the area. If you’re moving, ask the new tenants if they can help. You can also solicit for a substitute caregiver by posting flyers or newspaper ads (but don’t mention the colony location or your home address).

Find Feral Friends in your areafellow caregivers may be able to help or know someone who can.

3. Educate the new caregiver about your colony.

Explain what you do, the daily food and water routine, shelter upkeep, neutering any newcomers, and occasional vet visits.

4. Work out the fine print.

Determine whether the new caregiver will be paying for the cats’ care, trapping and transporting sick or injured cats to the vet, and other arrangements. Decide together on a veterinarian trained to care for feral cats, and learn more about working with veterinarians.

5. Sign an agreement.

Write up a simple agreement that you’re transferring or sharing care of the cats with the new caregiver. Be specific about the colony.

6. Do everything you can to avoid relocating the cats.

Cats should only be relocated under dire, life-or-death circumstances. It’s dangerous and stressful for the cats, and may not be successful. Find out more about the Safe Relocation of Feral Cats.

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 backin some cases cats have died in the process, when people misguidedly believe that their life will be better someplace else.


Carry information about your colony in your wallet. This will let emergency workers know what to do in case something happens to you. Include your substitute caregiver’s contact info, and keep a few of these “Emergency Contact Cards” in obvious places, like your car or on your refrigerator. Learn more about preparing for the unexpected.