What is a community cat?
“Community cat” is an umbrella definition that includes any un-owned cat. These cats may be “feral” (un-socialized) or friendly, may have been born into the wild or maybe lost or abandoned pet cats. Some community cats are routinely fed by one or more community members, while others survive without human intervention. Whatever a cat’s individual circumstances, the term “community cat” reflects the reality that for these cats, “home” is within the community rather than in an individual household.
A colony can range from 3–25 cats. Their locations vary. Community cat colonies can be in alleyways, parks, or neighborhoods. Members consist of adult females, their young, and some adult males.
Several organizations, including CAP, are committed to solving this problem through humane trap-neuter- return programs.
Twenty years of research has shown that TNR is the most humane and effective strategy for reducing the feral cat population. It has been proven that trapping and euthanizing feral cats only contributes to the population problem. Cats are territorial and when cats are removed and euthanized from a location, new cats will move in and the survivors will breed to capacity. This well-documented phenomenon is called the vacuum effect. TNR stops the problem because it stops the breeding and the colony will gradually diminish over time.
How can I keep unwanted community cats off of my property?
Remove all potential food sources from the property: This would include pet food for the resident’s animals, meat scraps in compost, fallen fruit from trees, barbecue grills, excess bird food from bird feeders and garbage. Garbage bags are very attractive to animals, so trash should be kept in containers with a secure lid, and put out in the morning of pick up to reduce the temptation for the animals.
Limit availability of water: Limit access to water features, pools and ponds with fencing. Remove or repair sources of standing water.
Remove or secure potential shelter areas: Secure access under houses, sheds, decks, porches, and buildings with wire fencing. Open spaces beneath structures should be tightly screened with 1/4- or 1/3-inch galvanized hardware mesh. The bottom edge of the wire should be buried at least 6 inches deep, extended outward for 12 inches, so it forms an L shape, and then covered with soil, or heavy stones. Trees should be trimmed so that the branches that overhang roofs are at least 5 feet from the house. Bushes and shrubs need to be thinned and trimmed so that there are 18 inches of open space above the ground to limit the cover for animals to hide under.
Other useful tactics to deter unwanted cats: Place chicken wire or plastic carpet runner, spikes up, under flower bed mulch to make scratching uncomfortable. Sprinkle coffee grounds or citrus peels or use citrus spray on gardens and shrubs. One very effective tool is a motion detection device combined with common water, available from various outlets. The cat breaks the beam of the device and is immediately sprayed with a stream of water. This device works on raccoons, dogs, opossums, and other animals, too.