What is a Community Cat?
Community cats are generally not interested in living indoors like the domesticated felines we have curled up on our sofas, napping the day away. They are cats who prefer an outdoor lifestyle and have figured out how to survive and, more often than not, thrive. Their reaction to humans can vary from friendly and social, reliant on food they're receiving from one or more neighbors in the area; or elusive or fearful, preferring a life without human contact (typically called feral cats).
Community cats that have been spayed or neutered are easily identifiable by an ear tip (clipping the tip of their ear) so neighbors quickly can recognize a cat that has been altered and is getting along on their own.
Community Cats in Vancouver and Clark County
You may see HSSW volunteers out and about in your neighborhood. The City of Vancouver and Clark County overwhelmingly supported a change in ordinance allowing community cats to be released through its SNR (Shelter-Neuter-Return) program.
As an open admission shelter, HSSW accepts thousands of animals each year in our care. We accept any local cat or dog, regardless of physical health or behavioral issues – including feral and unsocialized cats. Without the development of a formalized SNR program, these healthy community cats would not be released.
Managing Community Cats
If you have cats on your property who don't have someone caring for them, you may consider taking steps to manage their influence.
Ask Your Neighbors
Before taking any action, ask around! You may have one (or many) neighbors caring for the cats. This will ensure you don't make unnecessary calls to animal control or trap a cat being cared for by your neighbor. If the cats are a nuisance, have a conversation with your neighbor about managing their problematic behavior.
Trapping Unaltered Cats
It's important to make sure that the cats are spayed and neutered by doing what is called Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR). This will ensure that the cats are healthy, sterilized and vaccinated. HSSW does not have traps to lend or rent. Traps are often available at your local hardware store. You'll also want to make sure you've made plans with a vet before you've trapped. Contact your local vet or a service like Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon or Spay & Save to help.
Once you start the trapping process, it is recommended to not stop until you have successfully caught all the cats in the colony. This will ensure population control, colony health and will make it easier later to identify a new cat coming into the colony.
Creating a Colony
After trapping, you may decide that you don't want to remove the cats from your property. Community cats bring may benefits to the area - a well managed colony of cats control the rodent population and keep other cats from moving in on their territory.
Colonies also benefit the cats as they are generally not suitable for adoption to a family home.
It is important to provide enough shelters for everyone. Even though some cats like to socialize, many prefer their own space. Shelters should be just big enough for up to five cats and multiple structures is best. For more populated colonies, go with multiple shelters of a larger size. Check out some great information about creating a shelter.
Your shelter is only limited by your imagination! The most important thing is the type of material you put inside the structures. The interior must stay dry, so avoid using folded newspaper, towels or blankets as they can hold moisture and drastically reduce the cat’s body temperature. You can use straw or shredded paper so cats stay dry and allow the cat to burrow for extra warmth.