Community & Feral Cats

Community Cats

ACC recognizes that community cats are a challenge throughout the five boroughs and is committed to participating in effectively and humanely controlling their population. Community cats can include social, owned cats, abandoned strays and feral cats – really, any cat living outside that has an established and sustained lifestyle can be considered a community cat. For many years, it was common practice across the US to purposefully trap outdoor cats and bring them to shelters. For cats acclimated to living outdoors, who sometimes have not been socialized with humans at all, euthanasia was the most likely outcome for many. Over time, as animal welfare trends changed and more became known about outdoor cats, their effect on the community, and the effects of simply removing them, it became clear that better options were and are available.  Many cities across the country as well as globally have implemented policies to better address cats living in the community.  Successful cities are able to boast a 97% live release rate as well as a happier healthier shelter environment. Animal Care Centers of NYC believes that the most effective solution is a comprehensive program that includes:

  • Community education about spay/neuter and keeping socialized cats indoors. While ACC encourages all cat owners to keep their cats indoors, especially if they have not been spayed or neutered yet it is understood that not all cats are suited to the indoor only lifestyle. Allowing them to mingle with cats outdoors not only potentially exposes them to disease or injury; it provides the opportunity for them to mate with other intact cats, resulting in more homeless animals.  Having your pet cat spayed/neutered helps keep that from happening as well as staying up to date on your cat’s vaccines. If you a in need of assistance with this ACC has resources to help.  Additionally, it is the law in NYC that if you are going to let your cat out, it must be spayed/neutered.
  • Policy change.  As this concept of community cats is embraced it may be possible to enact legislation geared towards helping keep these cats safe and healthy.
  • Adoption of tame strays into new homes. For cats who are unaccustomed to living outdoors, such as newly abandoned pet cats, and who are social and friendly, ACC does believe that the best place for them is in a home environment. ACC does not pick up stray cats unless they are involved in an animal bite or cruelty situation, or if they're sick or injured, however, we do accept them at our Animal Care Centers.
  • Shelter, Neuter, Return (SNR) of cats from the community back to their home in the community.  As cats are found living successfully in the community and brought into the shelter by well intending citizens, they are identified as living in the community, sterilizes (or spay/neutered), given vaccines and basic wellness care, then returned where they were found in the community.  Cats that are healthy and of good body weight are demonstrating that they are doing well and able to find food and shelter either naturally or through someone providing care.  Maybe they are someone’s indoor/outdoor pet or they belong to a local business.  Cats brought to the shelter have a national reunification rate of only 2%.  That means that 2 out of every 100 cats find its way back to its home after coming to the shelter.  In contrast to this, cats lost in the community are 18 times more likely to find their way back home.Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) of community cats. Through TNR, cats are humanely trapped and sterilized, given vaccines and basic wellness care, and then placed back into the community in which they were living. Volunteer caretakers then provide food, water and clean, unobtrusive shelters for the cats.

Though it may seem against logic to allow cats to remain living outdoors, there are some real, data supported reasons to do so. National studies have shown that when cats are removed from an area, more cats move in. If you sterilize the population, you will stop the constant flow of kittens and the colony will actually keep other cats from moving into the area.  Having cats in an area can also help prevent nuisance animals from moving in as well, such as rodents or raccoons. Eventually, through the natural life cycle, the colony population will decrease. TNR also helps to stop many of the undesirable behaviors including loud mating, territorial fights and spraying. TNR:

  • Stabilizes the population
  • Is more effective and less expensive than attempts at extermination
  • Eliminates or reduces annoying behaviors like spraying, yowling and fighting
  • Is the humane thing to do. Anyone who suggests inhumane and/or illegal methods of cat population control may be prosecuted according to the law.
  • TNR increases community immunity against rabies and other diseases.

Your next step:
If you are not the free-roaming cat caregiver, take the time to talk to your neighbors and learn about TNR by visiting the NYC Feral Cat Initiative site and