Whether you’re a large shelter, a private nonprofit, a municipal agency or a small all-volunteer rescue, there are ways to help your area’s community cats.

Community cats produce around 80% of the kittens born in the U.S. each year. It’s only by caring for and managing community cats that we can reduce cat overpopulation, which impacts the welfare of all cats and creates an ongoing drain on shelter and rescue resources.

Launch a community cat program

This can take many forms, such as a return-to-field program where eligible cats that come into your shelter are sterilized, vaccinated, ear-tipped and returned to where they came from. Or for an animal control agency, it may mean following the guidance on not impounding healthy stray cats as detailed by the National Animal Care and Control Association. Even if you currently lack the budget for a full-fledged trap-neuter-return program, there are many low-cost or no-cost ways your organization can empower TNR efforts in your area.


Join or start a coalition of local cat groups to focus on community cat management. You can accomplish more by working together.

Find funding to help cats

Visit HumanePro.org for information on organizations that offer financial assistance as well as tips on grant writing and fundraising ideas.

Bring on volunteers to help the cats

There aren’t enough hours in the day when it comes to helping community cats. Volunteers can assist you in many ways. Learn how to recruit and retain volunteers, and take advantage of online training to teach your volunteers how to do TNR.

Learn—and perhaps improve—the laws about cats

The number of organizations devoted to helping community cats is growing. As a result, some local governments now recognize that a comprehensive strategy to manage cat overpopulation requires them to work with cat advocates.

However, municipalities often have limitations and ways of doing things that advocates from the private sector might not be aware of. Collaborative efforts rely on mutual understanding and respect.

Learn how to work with your municipalities and elected officials to make progress for cats. Endorsed by the International City/County Management Association, Managing Community Cats: A Guide for Municipal Leaders is a free guide designed to help communities find long-lasting, nonlethal solutions to conflicts involving community cats.

If the laws in your municipality don’t facilitate helping cats, work with your local officials to improve the laws. For help with ordinances and law changes, please email us at  companionanimals@humanesociety.org

Spread the word about cat care

Reach out to cat owners

An important source of community cats is the population of unsterilized owned cats who are allowed outside—or bolt outdoors despite their owners’ best efforts to keep them inside. You can help reduce the number of cats who roam outdoors by providing information to community members about the benefits of keeping their cats indoors, the importance of spaying and neutering, and how collars with visible ID and microchips will help ensure their beloved pets will get back home should they ever be lost.

Cost and accessibility are often major barriers to people getting their pet cats fixed, so be ready to share details about local low-cost spay/neuter programs and vaccination/microchip clinics. Affordable, accessible spay/neuter services for pet cats will go a long way toward reducing the future need for labor-intensive TNR projects—something to keep this in mind when your organization is deciding where to focus resources.

Spread the word about trap-neuter-return to cat caretakers

People with big hearts often provide food to community cats. Unfortunately, they may not realize the importance of spaying and neutering. They may not even know that there’s anyone who can help them. You can tell them about TNR and help them find organizations that can assist them.

Support community cat caretakers

Help those community members who are caring for outdoor cats by providing winter shelters and fresh straw for bedding each winter, allowing access to pet food pantries, and if possible providing medical support for sick or injured community cats.

If you find that you’re preaching to the choir and having difficulty reaching those who haven’t already been clued in about the issue, the HSUS can help you change your tactics. Our Pets for Life Toolkit will show you how to become a great force for change in your community!

What else can my organization do to solve cat overpopulation?

Solving cat overpopulation is a complex undertaking that involves both humanely reducing the population of community cats and preventing the addition of more cats. There’s no quick fix and no one solution—a combination of tools is needed:

  • Spaying and neutering of community cats through strategic, high-intensity TNR and related programs. To effectively reduce the population, approximately 80% of the cats in the focus area (or community) need to be sterilized.
  • Spaying and neutering of owned cats and cats adopted from shelters and rescues before they are 5 months old (because cats can have kittens while they are still kittens).
  • Helping people keep their own cats when faced with cat behavior challenges as well as their own financial struggles and housing issues.
  • Providing people with options and assistance for rehoming cats they can no longer keep so that those cats aren’t abandoned outdoors.
  • Encouraging people to keep their owned cats indoors and promoting strategies to keep cats happy and active with an indoors lifestyle.