We have received questions from concerned supporters all across the United States about whether community cat caregivers can and should continue to feed their colonies in the midst of the novel coronavirus outbreak. These questions are coming to us with a greater sense of urgency from people who care for and provide food to community cats in jurisdictions, such as California and New York, that have “shelter in place” restrictions.
Our recommendation is for caregivers to carry on with their care and feeding routines so long as the caregiver is not infected with or experiencing symptoms of the virus (or exposed to anyone who is) or under mandatory quarantine for having been exposed to a person with the virus, and provided that the caregiver maintains appropriate social distancing guidelines. This is a rapidly evolving situation. We will keep you updated if and when we become aware of new information.
We have read nothing in any of the orders issued by various jurisdictions that prohibit on-going care and feeding of community cats. To discontinue care and feeding to which the cats have grown accustomed would be to put them in grave danger. Should anyone at any point receive instructions preventing caregivers from getting food and care to community cats, please let us know right away, and we will engage with the local authorities.
If you are a regular caregiver to community cats and are unwell or under quarantine, please reach out by phone or the internet to friends and local TNR groups for help to check on and feed cats under their care. If you cannot find someone to help, please call our hotline and we will help find someone in your community to assist.
Healthy caregivers should go about their care and feeding regimes while maintaining safe social distancing protocols with regard to distance from other humans. If you can stock up on cat food so as to reduce the number of visits you make to the store, that’s great. Basically, follow the instructions provided by your local health authority and the CDC regarding keeping yourself safe and reducing community spread of the novel coronavirus.
The WHO and the CDC have seen no evidence thus far of transmission of the novel coronavirus from humans to cats. So, should some of the community cats for whom you care allow themselves to be petted by you, we are not aware of any guidance requiring you to refrain from making contact with them. Similarly, we are not aware of any risk to the cats from eating food you have touched or from rubbing against items you have touched. According to the CDC: At this time, there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19 or that they might be a source of infection in the United States.
If you live in a jurisdiction with “shelter in place” restrictions and you are stopped by someone – either an official or a concerned citizen – who feels that you should not be out and that caring for community cats is non-essential, please let them know that there are cats who depend on you for food. Should your preliminary answer not resolve the matter, please feel free to share our name and our contact details with them.
If you are an employee of or volunteer at an organization that has policies regarding care for community cats, please confirm that it is understood by your organization that the community cat care you undertake on your own time is something you are doing as an individual citizen and not as a representative or employee of that agency. Likewise, in any communications you might have about your role as a cat caregiver, please be sure to not give the impression that you are an employee or representative of Alley Cat Allies, as this would be inaccurate. Be truthful and proud about being a compassionate concerned citizen who is committed to providing on-going care to cats in the community. If you encounter any pushback, please let us know.
At Alley Cat Allies we celebrate and support the many thousands of individuals across our country and around the world who care about and care for cats, both those who live with human families and those who live in our communities.
Note: The above does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of each situation and upon the law in the specific jurisdictions. Applicable local and federal laws should be followed.