The sight of stray cats in a neighborhood is disturbing. People that love cats want every animal to have a home. Folks who dislike them may feel irritated because of the neighborhood problems the stays cause.
A loose cat without a caring human can become a nuisance. The animals make a mess as they forage through garbage cans to find food. They may also cause fights with household pets and continue to breed and overpopulate the area.
A fast, easy solution to the problem is not available. However, many people around the country work to make lives better for stray pets. The resources may vary based on where people live, but some form of help is available everywhere.
I’ve put together the following list of 7 options to help you address stray animals from your neighborhood.
1. Contact Animal Control
Most municipalities have animal control officers or teams that round up homeless cats and dogs and take them to shelters or hold them at their offices for a certain amount of time for the owners. Many departments only collect dogs because when a dog is loose, the owner is in violation of a leash law. Cats rarely have any of this type of regulation, so government groups choose to stay uninvolved.
Some cities and towns only allow their animal control departments to manage wildlife that enters the city limits and avoids pets entirely. Contact the municipal office to see what options they offer. If they will not help physically, they may have a list of recommendations for stray removal.
2. Call a Shelter
The ASPCA accepts strays from individuals that find them in their yards and on the streets. The organization itself does not have a team that comes out to do this type of work. Privately run, local shelters may have volunteers that work with them to catch stray cats and to bring them to the shelter for safety purposes.
The statistics from the ASPCA state that twice the number of animals arrive at shelters as strays as they do as pets surrendered by an owner. The reason for this may be the fee that many shelters charge to accept surrenders. The Humane Society, for example, charges $50 per cat and $85 for a cat with kittens to leave an animal with them.
Any individual that brings in a stray, not just the owners, must pay the surrender fee. The cost may be why so many people prefer to call animal control or ignore the stray rather than handle the problem on their own.
3. Check Feral Groups
Groups around the country now work to manage the problem of feral cats. A feral cat is a domestic animal that has never lived with humans or has been away from human contact for long enough to prefer staying in the wild. The cats in this category are those that could never be comfortable in a home environment and can successfully hunt and care for themselves.
Feral cat communities may not be the best solution, but it does prevent the need to euthanize unadoptable animals. Feral groups are volunteer organizations that trap the cats, has each treated by a vet before they are neutered and then releases the animal back into the wild. The effort reduces the number of litters added to the community and ensures each animal is healthy and not in pain.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the American Humane Society both support these types of arrangements. Feral cats living alone have a life expectancy of two years. Cats that become a part of these controlled feral communities live for about 10 years.
Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) groups have sprung up around the country where there was a need. The volunteers check in on the cats and trap any that are new. Monitors also oversee the group to keep an eye on each animal’s general health and to respond when there is an illness or injury.
Every cat that has been caught and treated by a TNR organization is marked for easy identification. The accepted marking is the removal of the tip of the left ear at the time of their neutering. The mark prevents the volunteers from trapping the same animals repeatedly.
4. Inform Finder Groups
Numerous groups that help to find lost pets now have pages on social media platforms. The news about found or lost animals is instantly spread to thousands of people that follow the pages and are seen even more when the followers share the notices. The groups can help even if the animal is believed to be a stray.
First, not every stray is really a homeless animal. Cats are especially good at wandering away from home and staying away for a while. The ASPCA says that 90,000 supposed stray cats are returned to their owners at shelters in the U.S. each year.
Another reason to contact these groups is that they often have volunteers that will work to trap strays. Many of the volunteers also act as foster parents until the owner claims the pet. Some groups turn the animal over to a local shelter if the owner does not appear, and others find adoptive homes on their own.
Animal rescue groups that work online and have active social media accounts are a wonderful way to share an image of a homeless cat to people far beyond the neighborhood. Cats typically only travel about 750-1500 feet away from their home. A scared cat can go much further, as can one that accidentally ends up in a car with an unwitting stranger.
can go much further, as can one that accidentally ends up in a car with an unwitting stranger.
5. Talk to Veterinarians
Local veterinarians are a great resource because they have many contacts within the animal industry. Veterinarians usually know the operators of all rescue centers and charitable groups in the area. Many animal clinics work with municipalities to keep the animal population, domestic and wild, in their area protected.
Veterinarians are also in a unique position to know who would be willing to adopt a stray. The vet may have a client that recently lost a beloved pet or know of one that is looking for just the right cat for their family. Veterinarians are also acquainted with ambitious people that are happy to open their homes as foster parents for lost and homeless cats.
6. Start a Rescue
Become an animal advocate if an animal shelter is not nearby, animal control is unavailable, and a TNR organization is nowhere in the area. Check first with any local resources possible to see if there is a TNR nearby that was not found in website search. If none are nearby, consider taking on this responsibility if there are multiple strays in the neighborhood.
To begin a TNR, it is important to have a vet in the area that is willing to help. The veterinarians and animal clinics that work with these types of non-profit groups usually donate their time and offer the medication and vaccinations at their cost. Volunteers for the group and a strategy to make the process successful are the next considerations for a successful organization.
TNR groups rely on donations, so all members should expect to help with fundraisers and marketing plans to draw attention to the program. Alley Cat Allies is an example of a national group that helps startup TNR charities and other animal advocacy groups dedicated to the cause of helping feral cats and strays. The advice they offer can even help people to understand how to become a legal non-profit agency and much more.
An animal shelter, even if it is dedicated to only cats, is another possibility. The effort to create a shelter is equal to starting any business, and it can take months or years of planning before the doors open. Research the legal issues like zoning and the cost of the project carefully beforehand.
Citizens can also mention the issue of stray cats at local town meetings to help encourage group thinking to solve the problem. New legislation or the expansion of an animal control department may be necessary to help correct a recent population explosion of strays in the area.
7. Save a Life
Consider adoption if there are only one or two strays. Talk to friends and family for help if a stray mother and her kittens are the concern. It may be possible to find loving homes for each animal without the use of an outside group.
People that choose to let in strays should have them checked by a veterinarian before allowing them around children or other pets. Always have the animal spayed or neutered. Kittens can reproduce as early as five months and have up to 24 babies per year.
Also, plan to keep the cat inside or in a fully enclosed area in the yard. A stray may have become accustomed to life outside and try to escape again. Cats allowed outside live statistically shorter lives than housecats and they have the risk of someone mistaking them for a stray.
Stray and feral cats can become a nuisance by fighting at night or bothering local wild birds and squirrels. The solution should never be to do harm to a creature that is only trying to live its life. Instead, help stray cats to find a new home or to find their way back to their owners.
Thank you for being kind to animals, which is evidenced by your reading of an article like this one. Cats, like humans, can be down on their luck, and sometimes the only thing they need is a simple act of kindness to get them back on their path to leading a fulfilling life.
What to Do When You Find a Feral or Stray Cat (Video)
"In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this."
-- Terry Pratchett