Community Cat Programs Handbook: Managing Stray and Feral Cats

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Ear-tipped black cat who is part of TNR cats program

Community cats can be found just about everywhere that people live. These outdoor, free-roaming cats live in and are cared for by community members, hence the term “community cats.” For decades, community cats have been trapped and killed in a failed attempt at population management. Using this trap-and-kill approach is not only ineffective at reducing outdoor cat populations, it’s a burden on shelters. Because shelters aren’t able to handle that level of feline intake, cats now account for roughly two of every three animals dying in U.S. shelters. 

Thankfully, this ineffective, expensive and inhumane approach to managing community cats is steadily being replaced with progressive community cat programs (CCPs) in shelters across the country. At the heart of all CCPs is a simple, humane philosophy: Cats are accepted members of many communities, and they are often valued and cared for by multiple residents. The best way to manage the community cat population is to humanely trap them and then vaccinate, spay or neuter, and return them to their outdoor homes. This method, called trap-neuter-return (TNR), stops the cats from breeding, respects the bond that caregivers have with the cats and reserves limited shelter space for cats without such an option. 

Through various partnerships, Best Friends operates more large-scale CCPs than any other organization in the country. We are therefore in a unique position to describe what it takes to make such programs effective. That’s why we created a comprehensive manual to share our knowledge with individuals and organizations interested in creating and operating their own CCPs. 

You can view the manual and download individual chapters on our Best Friends Network site.