Community cats is a blanket term in animal rescue circles that is used to describe stray cats living outdoors. Many of these cats are considered feral, meaning they are generally afraid or distrustful of humans. Others are friendly with their community caretakers, but for one reason or another are not able to be re-homed as fully indoor companions.
While it’s unclear exactly how many community cats roam freely in the U.S., the Humane Society of the United States estimates that there could be as many as 40 million of them. One such MUTTS community cat is our beloved and street-wise feline friend, Noodles. Read on to see how you can care for cats like Noodles!
Scenario 1: A Cat Wanders Up to Your Property
How lucky — you’ve become the chosen one! Your new feline friend(s) must have sensed that you were a safe person to trust. You can honor that trust by caring for them as best as they’ll let you. If your new furry friend is young enough to be domesticated — or seems immediately open to it, regardless of their age — bring them inside like Patrick did, if you’re able. If you can’t commit to a feline family member, contact your local rescues and shelters about getting your new friend into a foster or forever home.
If your new feline friend isn’t keen on becoming a domesticated housecat right away, you can still become their purrson by showing them love and kindness. Take it from Team MUTTS member Joe Biondo, who provided loving a home to a feral cat family. Read on to follow in Joe’s footsteps. Plus — you never know. With enough time and trust built, you may be able to convince a once-feral feline to join your family inside!
Provide food and water. When providing food, leave it out for 30-45 minutes then remove it if you can. Food left for lengthy periods can attract bugs and animals that may fight the cats over it. If you’re unable to pick food up after, try to leave the food at a consistent time of day — preferably during daylight hours — so the feline friends under your care can predict when you’ll be feeding them and eat it before another animal does. Additionally, ensure that the cats have fresh, clean water daily.
Offer shelter. Try to offer safe places for them to take shelter from the weather, like a house on a raised platform to protect from wind, rain, and standing water. Provide shady spots to protect from the sun, and offer a bed or straw to keep them warm in the winter.
T-N-R. A key facet of caring for community cats is a process known as “T-N-R” — in which cats are humanely trapped, taken to a vet to be spayed or neutered, then returned to their living area. Doing so prevents these cats from reproducing, which means fewer kittens in need of rescue!
Getting cats “fixed” also decreases some negative, mating-associated behaviors such as fighting, yowling, and spraying. It can also give rescuers a chance to evaluate them for potential adoptability, giving many cats the chance to get off the streets and into forever homes. Additionally, while their surgeries are being performed, these cats also receive vaccinations that they otherwise would be unlikely to receive. You can get involved by contacting your local rescue or animal control center to see what T-N-R resources are available in your area.
Scenario 2: You’re Out and About and Find a Community Cat or Colony
Say you’re in a friend’s neighborhood or staying somewhere on vacation and happen upon a community cat or colony. What do you do?
Be cautious. First things first: Be sure you’re caring for these cats safely and legally. Always act in a way that ensures your safety, and never trespass on others’ property.
Investigate. Ask someone in the area if the cats have a guardian, are being cared for, and if they’ve been spayed/neutered. If not, contact local rescues and shelters to request they make a visit to the area. If the cats do have a caretaker and you’re in a position to help them, don’t be afraid to reach out. The stars may even align like they did for Team MUTTS member Nikki Tramontana, who was able to rescue and rehome her feline bestie.
Scenario 3: Be Kind to Cats Everywhere
Even if you never happen upon community cats who need care, you can always find other ways to be kind to them. Consider donating to or starting a community cat fund at your local shelter or veterinarian’s office to help fund their spay/neuter surgeries. You can also provide cat food to a friend who feeds community cats or a rescue that provides food for them. Finally, you can advocate for T-N-R programs and humane, no-kill population control mechanisms in your city or county. Noodles (and all the cats he represents) say “thank you!”