Note: This is a chapter in the Community Cat Programs Handbook.
The Community Cats Projects are model CCPs, reflecting best practices and some of the most progressive thinking — with the results to prove it. For example:
- In 2014, about 6,000 cats and kittens entered Albuquerque’s shelter system. That’s 38 percent fewer cats and kittens than in 2011, prior to the program’s start. And the number of cats and kittens who died decreased by 84 percent, from more than 3,500 in 2011 to 608 in 2014.
- The number of cats who died in San Antonio’s municipal shelter during 2014 was 82 percent lower than in 2011, when nearly 4,200 cats and kittens lost their lives.
- In 2016, 39 percent fewer kittens under four months of age entered the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter, compared to 2012. This is a strong indicator that the number of outdoor cats breeding in these communities is being reduced significantly.
- By integrating RTF and targeted TNR efforts, our first six CCPs resulted in median reductions of 32 percent in feline intake and 83 percent in feline euthanasia, and a 53 percent median increase in the live release rate for cats.
“The ideal community TNR program will operate on multiple fronts — saving healthy outdoor cats in shelters from euthanasia through return-to-field, targeting areas with large cat populations for intensive TNR and engaging the public to practice TNR themselves. This holistic approach is the fastest, most sustainable way to solve overpopulation.”
-Bryan Kortis, program manager, PetSmart Charities (2010–2015)
Much of the success of the Community Cats Projects can be attributed to what’s become known as the “red flag cat model." Under this model, CCP staff and volunteers consider each stray cat surrendered to a shelter as a likely indicator (i.e., a “red flag”) that additional cats are living in the same area. Although it’s possible that the cat could truly be a loner, it’s more likely that he’s got friends and family nearby — and perhaps he’s even part of a well-established colony. Time and time again, this assumption pays off.
Indeed, we’ve found that for every program cat who’s pulled from shelter intake, many more are found in the community as a result of calls from concerned citizens and door-to-door neighborhood canvassing by Best Friends staff and volunteers. This allows us to identify colonies otherwise largely “invisible” to shelter and field services staff, and to spay or neuter a high percentage of the colony cats (as well as provide resources to caregivers). For municipalities interested in reducing feline intake and shelter deaths, such programs are the way to go.
 These efforts also allow us to gather “intelligence” about cats and colonies, ensuring that cats being returned are thriving in their outdoor environment.
Download the Community Cat Programs Handbook Basics (863 KB PDF)