Community Cats

Cat outside walking along fence

Animal Humane Society’s Community Cats program works to improve the lives of free-roaming and feral cats in our community and reduce the unnecessary euthanasia of healthy cats that are not suitable for adoption.

Community cats are un-owned cats that live outdoors in the community. They may be feral or friendly, may have been born into the wild, or may be lost or abandoned pets.

Stray or free-roaming cats that are friendly and would do well in a home are made available for adoption or placed in our adoption preparation programs. Feral cats that would not be appropriate or happy as pets are sterilized, ear-tipped, vaccinated, and released in the same outdoor location where they were found.

If there are stray or feral cats in your community that need sterilization surgery, you can participate in our Community Cats program by trapping and transporting community cats to one of our shelters. Call our Community Cats Coordinator at 763-432-4892 for more information on how to get involved.

Community Cats FAQs

Why return feral cats to the community?

Removing these cats from the community doesn't eliminate the nuisances they create and actually encourages cat populations to steadily grow. When you return cats that have been sterilized, they continue to use resources but are unable to reproduce, decreasing the free-roaming cat population over time. Sterilization also reduces problematic behaviors like fighting and spraying. Euthanizing healthy, feral cats is not an option at AHS.

Will community cats suffer if we return them?

Under this program, only feral cats that are thriving are returned to their environment. If the cat is healthy, we know it has found a food source and shelter, just as other wild animals have. 

What about our cold winters?

While it’s hard to imagine living outdoors during our winters, we know cats have adapted and manage to survive year round. Similar programs have been successfully implemented in all types of climates across the U.S. and Canada.

Don’t outdoor cats kill birds and wildlife?

Although community cats often hunt to survive, this program will reduce the impact on birds and wildlife by gradually decreasing the cat population over time.

What is the difference between a stray cat and a feral cat?

A feral cat is primarily wild-raised or has adapted to feral life, while a stray cat is a domesticated pet who is lost or abandoned. Stray pet cats are usually tame and accustomed to contact with people. They will frequently seek out human contact and exhibit behaviors such as meowing or purring. In contrast, feral cats are notably quiet and keep their distance from people. Stray cats will also often try to make a home near humans — in car garages, front porches or backyards.

General differences in appearance and behavior include:

Stray cat:

  • May approach you
  •  May approach food right away
  • May be vocal
  • May look disheveled
  • May be seen at all hours of the day

Feral cat:

  • Will not approach you
  • Will wait until you move away before approaching food
  • Will be silent
  • Will appear groomed
  • Usually nocturnal
I found a friendly stray cat, what do I do?

Please view our Lost and Found pets page for more information on how to help lost pets.

I found a feral cat, what do I do?

First, look to see if the cat already has an eartip. Feral cats who have been through a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program will usually have an eartip, which is a universal symbol used to identify neutered free-roaming cats. The most common type of eartip is a flat quarter-inch taken from the top of the left ear, which is painlessly performed surgically while the cat is sedated for spay/neuter. Other TNR programs may use ear notches or use the right ear instead of the left. Ear-tipped cats have already been sterilized and rabies vaccinated, and can be left where they are found.

If no eartip is present, this cat is most likely not sterilized, and you can help by participating in Animal Humane Society’s Community Cats program to get the cat spayed/neutered and vaccinated for rabies. Your first step is to stop by your nearest AHS shelter location during open shelter hours (Monday-Friday 12–8 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.) and ask to borrow a humane livetrap. Our staff will show you how to set and bait the trap.

What should I do if I find a cat with a tipped ear?

A tipped ear indicates that the cat has already been sterilized and vaccinated, so you can simply leave that cat alone. Ear-tipped cats that are surrendered will be returned to the community.

What do I do with the cat once I have it in the trap?

Cover the trap with a towel or blanket to help calm the cat, and move the trap to a safe area protected from the weather if necessary. Call our friendly representatives at the Pet Helpline at 952-435-7738 to let them know you have a feral in a livetrap, and they will set up a walk-in appointment for you to bring the cat to your nearest AHS shelter. Please note that for the safety of yourself, the cat, and our staff, feral cats must arrive in humane livetraps.

What services do community cats receive at AHS?

A community cat is sedated, spayed or neutered, given a rabies vaccine and an eartip to help identify him or her as a sterilized feral. The cat is allowed to rest in shelter overnight to ensure full recovery from anesthesia. Staff will then call the finder to pick up and return the cat to the trapping location.

How much will this cost?

Animal Humane Society provides these services for feral cats free of charge.

Questions?

Contact our community cats coordinator at 763-432-4892 or communitycats@animalhumanesociety.org.

Animal Humane Society's Community Cats program is supported in part by a grant from PetSmart Charities.

For caring, compassionate advice and resources to address all your animal concerns.

Contact the Pet Helpline