Published: March 2020
Updated: January 2021
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 (COVID-19) 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 that have “Shelter in Place” and “Stay at Home” restrictions.
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.
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.
We have read nothing in any of the COVID-19 related social distancing orders issued by various cities, counties, and states prohibiting ongoing care and feeding of community cats. In fact, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, including at its 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.
Coronavirus 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.
Coronavirus 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, can spread COVID-19.
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.
Addressing Concerns from Others
If you live in a jurisdiction with “Shelter in Place” and “Stay at Home” restrictions and you are stopped by someone – such as 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 ongoing care to cats in the community. If you encounter any push back, please let us know.
Alley Cat Allies is Here to Help
At Alley Cat Allies, we’re taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously. See the letter from our president and founder, Becky Robinson. 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.