February 20, 2015
How Officials Can Help Community Cats
Tips for local lawmakers and town officials dealing with stray, feral and free-roaming cats
Have you been hearing from citizens who don’t want cats on their property?
Are you looking for a way to modify ordinances so that trap-neuter-return programs are allowed?
You're not alone. More and more municipalities are seeking effective strategies to manage community (feral and stray) cats and owned cats whose owners let them outside.
Community cat management is a complex and emotional issue, to say the least. But we’re here to help!
Get the facts about community cats
There is a large amount of conflicting and confusing data out there. Depending on the source, feral and stray cat populations vary, as do their effects on wildlife and public health.
First, check out our Managing Community Cats: A Guide for Municipal Leaders, which you can download for free. Published in 2015 and endorsed by the International City/County Management Association, this guide is designed to help communities find long-lasting, nonlethal solutions to conflicts involving community (feral and stray) cats.
Here are some additional basic fact sheets on a variety of relevant topics.
- Community Cats and Rabies [PDF]
- Community Cats and Public Health [PDF]
- An Overview of Caring for Community Cats [PDF]
- How to Protect Community Cats from Disasters
Learn what methods of helping community cats are available
Many strategies over the years have been used to reduce the number of community cats. You may already be familiar with some. Watch our short video that shows what's been done and what you can do to effectively manage these cats in your community. Need more information? Start with the fact sheets listed above.
Work with a local group
If you're lucky, there is an organization in your area that helps community cats: Check out our list. Remember that collaboration is essential if a local community cat management plan is to be successful.
Seek funding from a foundation
Foundations are another possible partner. They are looking for collaborative efforts to fund, and a community cat management program may be very attractive.
Help keep neighborhoods peaceful
Outdoor cats can often be the cause of neighborhood disputes, from arguments about a neighbor’s cat who stalks the birdfeeder next door to a colony of feral cats living in a yard. For people who are looking for ways to keep cats off their property or to resolve nuisance complaints, we suggest the following resources:
- Keeping Cats out of Gardens and Yards, by Neighborhood Cats
- Community Cats and Wildlife [PDF]
- Peaceable Backyard Kingdom: Protecting Pets and Wildlife
- Managing Community Cats: A Municipal Leaders Guide
Decide whether new or revised laws or ordinances are necessary
When addressing issues with community cats, many municipalities and advocates think they need to make changes in ordinances and laws. While these can be helpful, and in some cases necessary, there are many things you can do before resorting to legislation.
First, find out if what you want to do—for instance, start a TNR program—is already allowed under current law or ordinances. If it is, then try out the program, leaving legislation for further down the road if you encounter problems.
If current regulations prohibit programs or actions that you want to try, propose small, specific changes rather than a total overhaul of your ordinances or laws. You’ll find small changes easier to pass, and you’ll avoid a common pitfall: implementing too many changes with many unforeseen consequences. For help with ordinances and law changes, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let The HSUS help you
The HSUS has many resources. If there's something you need that isn't available, don't hesitate to send us an email at email@example.com. Working together, we can save money and lives and make communities safer and healthier for all citizens.
Another good resource is your HSUS state director. Our state directors can help with ordinances and law changes, and they can put you in touch with others in your state who have struggled with community cat issues and found solutions that may work in your community.