How to save & take care of a kitten and feral cats - an advocacy tool kit

Feeding Community Cats During COVID-19

Guide/How-to| Disaster Response

Published: March 2020
Updated: January 2021

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Alley Cat Allies received questions from concerned supporters all across the United States about whether community cat caregivers can and should continue to feed cats. Today, there is a new normal. We have all made adjustments to our daily lives to protect against the spread of COVID-19, and feeding community cats has been able to continue with precautions for the safety of cats and their caregivers.

Our Recommendation:

Healthy caregivers should go about their care and feeding routines while maintaining appropriate social distancing protocols with regard to distance from other people. If you can stock up on cat food so as to reduce the number of visits you make to the store, that’s great.

Follow safety tips and instructions provided by your local health authority and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding keeping yourself safe, isolation precautions, and reducing community spread of the coronavirus.

Get Vaccinated to Save Lives

If you have not received the COVID-19 vaccine, we strongly recommend you do so as soon as possible. Getting vaccinated will protect you, your family—including its animal members—and the cats and kittens you care for.

You should know:

  • Cats CAN contract COVID-19 through contact with infected people. When you are vaccinated, they are safer.
  • In addition to adhering to local mandates, keep informed about the COVID-19 threat in your area. If COVID-19 cases are rising where you live, consider taking extra precautions.

Our recommendation is for cat caregivers to carry on with their care and feeding routines so long as the caregiver is:

  • Not infected with (or suspected of being infected with) COVID-19.
  • Maintaining appropriate social distancing guidelines from other people.
  • Employing good hygiene practices before, during and after feeding. Wash your hands frequently. Bring hand sanitizer with you and take clean plates to every single feeding. When feeding time is over, remove all plates and wash them immediately. Alley Cat Allies also recommends wearing personal protective equipment, including a face mask and gloves, while caring for a colony.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been no orders issued by various cities, counties, and states that prohibits ongoing care and feeding of community cats. In fact, including at the pandemic’s worst point, the United States government has been firm that animal services are essential. Even during the most stringent lockdown requirements, care must be provided to animals.

Caring for live animals is considered an “essential” activity. 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.

Practicing Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) also remains essential, though there are safety precautions and potential roadblocks to securing spay and neuter appointments to consider. We have a full set of TNR guidelines during COVID-19 available.

Social Distancing as a Caregiver

While feeding community cats, you may be approached by curious neighbors or other community members. To help you maintain social distancing while also explaining your work as a caregiver, we’ve created a Social Distancing and Caregivers Handout.

Download the handout for free and print out multiple copies to bring with you when you’re out in the field.

We suggest keeping a stack of them available on a nearby table or chair or, when necessary, to place one on the ground and back away so the other person can pick it up.

COVID-19 Isolation Precautions

We’re all concerned about preventing the spread of COVID-19. If you are a 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 your care. If you cannot find someone to help, please call our hotline and we will help find someone in your community to assist.

COVID-19 and Cats – What We Know

The World Health Organization, the CDC, and the World Organization for Animal Health all report seeing no evidence thus far that companion animals, including cats, have or are able to spread the virus that causes COVID-19 to humans.

However, there is evidence of human transmission to animals, including cats. Per the CDC’s recommendations, if you are sick with COVID-19 (either suspected or confirmed), you should restrict contact with pets and other animals, just like you would around other people.

Learn more in our COVID-19 Guide: You & Your Pet Cat.

Alley Cat Allies is Here to Help

At Alley Cat Allies, we’re taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously. 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 indoors with people and those who live outdoors in our communities. Your efforts can help slow the spread of COVID-19 while continuing to protect cats. Get involved today.

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.