Government officials and lawmakers: Use policy to change the lives of community 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 (TNR) 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:

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. 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 bird feeder 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:

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

Let us help you

The Humane Society of the United States has many resources. If there's something you need that isn't available, don't hesitate to email us at 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.