Can compassion for cats unite a community, transform policies, change hearts and minds, and save lives? Yes—and our Atlantic City Boardwalk Cats Project illustrates this.

What is the Boardwalk Cats Project?

The Boardwalk Cats Project is a city-endorsed Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program that brings together officials, the public, and advocates to protect and improve the lives of cats in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It is one of Alley Cat Allies’ oldest initiatives and proudest accomplishments.

Since 2000, Alley Cat Allies has cared for the famous community cat colonies living outdoors along the Atlantic City Boardwalk. Through the Boardwalk Cats Project, we humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, and vaccinated more than 350 cats. Some cats were young or socialized enough to be adopted into loving homes. Other cats were only happy in their outdoor homes, so they were eartipped and returned to the boardwalk to reunite with their bonded groups, called colonies.

Today, 89 community cats live and thrive in 15 colonies around the Atlantic City Boardwalk. If you visit, you might see them lounging underneath the docks or basking in the sun . Alley Cat Allies staff and volunteers monitor and maintain these colonies every day, ensuring the cats have the food, shelter, and medical care they need.

A Brief History of the Boardwalk Cats Project

The successful project began 17 years ago, when Atlantic City’s animal control started trapping and killing the cats living on the boardwalk. Alley Cat Allies quickly stepped in to save the cats’ lives by forming the Cat Action Team with Atlantic City’s Health Department, the Humane Society of Atlantic County, and local caregivers and advocates. Under our leadership, the team conducted TNR, mobilized the community, and educated the public to protect the cats.

The effort became formally known as the Boardwalk Cats Project, and its impact was profound. Over time, the boardwalk’s cat population has naturally decreased by more than 72 percent, and the remaining cats are enjoying healthier, happier lives.

A True Community Effort

The Boardwalk Cats Project does more than provide TNR. It is a steadfast partner to the Atlantic City community, aiding in everything from recovery after Hurricane Sandy to educating community members about their feline neighbors through workshops and informative signs along the boardwalk.

The Boardwalk Cats have become beloved members of the Atlantic City community, delighting residents, drawing media attention, and bringing in tourist admirers from across the nation.

Our Boardwalk Cats Project is living proof that TNR is the only humane and effective approach to community cats and benefits people. It is a model and inspiration for communities everywhere, and it is all possible thanks to the generosity of our supporters.

The Project Proves It: Trap-Neuter-Return Works

The next time someone asks for proof that Trap-Neuter-Return is the humane and effective approach to community cats, direct them to the Boardwalk Cats Project.

Over the past 17 years, the project has benefitted the community and allowed cats to live happier, healthier lives.

Because of TNR:

  • The Boardwalk Cat population has naturally declined by over 72 percent
  • Most of the remaining cats are well into their teen years
  • No new kittens have been born on the boardwalk in years
  • The cats no longer suffer stressful behaviors associated with mating, like yowling and fighting
  • The cats receive the food and medical care they need through their caregivers

TNR is the reason the Boardwalk Cats are free to live out their lives in their outdoor home. Without our Boardwalk Cats Project, many of these beloved cats would have ended up in shelters years ago. Most of them are not adoptable and would not have survived, as virtually all community cats are killed in shelters even today.

We believe that every cat deserves the best possible chance at a long, happy life. TNR provides that opportunity, and the Boardwalk Cats Project shows why every community should have its own program.

Learn more about the Boardwalk Cats Project’s success in a case study.