Population estimates vary widely, but outdoor cats are found in almost every neighborhood across the U.S. These cats include community cats—friendly stray or abandoned cats as well as feral (unsocialized) cats—and owned cats let outside to roam and reproduce. Tens of millions of unowned cats live outdoors and usually rely on people to provide them with food and shelter. Understanding the complex and emotional issues relating to outdoor cats is essential to combatting cat overpopulation and keeping cats and wildlife safe and healthy.
In 2010, Beth McNulty discovered a sudden influx of cats in her neighborhood. She enlisted the help of her friends at the Humane Society of the United States and another cat-loving neighbor to raise money for spay/neuter surgeries and to organize a neighborhood-wide trapping effort. Thirty adult cats and older kittens were sterilized and McNulty hasn’t seen a kitten born in her neighborhood since.
Cats roam outside in most neighborhoods in the United States. Some are pets whose owners let or put them outside, but many are community cats who may be feral or one-time pets now stray, lost or abandoned. The more we understand outdoor cats and the complicated issues related to them, the more effectively we can help them, reduce cat overpopulation and protect wildlife.
With determination, innovation and collaboration, cat-wildlife conflicts can be humanely resolved by implementing and sustaining effective programs. The ultimate goal is to dramatically and humanely reduce the number of cats outdoors, leading to much less risk and harm to the cats, no predation of birds and wildlife and the elimination of potential public health concerns and nuisance-related issues.
You can help improve the quality of life of some of the millions of community (feral and stray) cats in the U.S. by supporting Trap-Neuter-Return, an effective and humane strategy for reducing cat populations.