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Cats Roaming Your Rental Property? Here's What to Do

Humane stray management is smart stray management

  • If your complex has cats, simply removing them won’t get rid of the problem. Photo by iStockphoto

Housing managers: Have you been seeing cats around your property who don't belong to your residents?

Unfortunately, you're not alone: There are approximately 30 to 40 million unowned, "community" cats in the U.S., and some may turn up on your grounds. Since cats tend to migrate to locations which offer a consistent food source, an apartment complex can be a desirable spot, especially if its dumpsters and trash systems aren't well secured.

You may be tempted to have the cats removed, but that's not the best approach: Not only does removal usually mean killing the cats, it's not an effective solution. Studies have shown that new cats will just move into the space.

The most effective strategy is to have the cats managed right where they are, using a practice called trap-neuter-return (TNR). TNR ensures the cats get sterilized and vaccinated so they don't spread diseases, multiply, spray, caterwaul, fight or cause a nuisance. The cats are managed by caring volunteers, who know how to feed them in a way that meets sanitation standards and deters wildlife.

The public supports non-lethal approaches to managing community cats. Your residents will be pleased that you chose a humane solution.

  • Find a local group willing to take on and manage the cats on your property.
  • If no local group exists, consider a community-based approach; some of your residents may already be feeding the cats and may be happy to help in a more effective, systematic way. The HSUS can provide training on how to conduct TNR and humanely manage cats.
  • Once you have a system in place, make sure that all your residents know the cats are being fed systematically, so that they don't randomly feed the cats themselves (Well-intentioned but unmanaged feeding can attract more cats and wildlife). The HSUS can provide you with samples of signage and communications to this end.
  • If the cats are interfering with bird feeders, gardens, etc., use these tips.

  • TNR is a well-studied practice with a great deal of public support, and there are many resources and materials available to help ensure your success. The publication Managing Community Cats: A Guide for Municipal Leaders is a great start, and contains plenty of advice and research that will help you handle your local felines in a way that's smart, effective and humane.