How Cat Rescue Groups Are Helping Community Cats In The US

Posted: September 23, 2020 by Anita

My sisters and brothers in the cat-loving world, I was throwing around the title of cat advocate for myself and had no clue. And it dawned on me that I should probably Google that title and see what’s up.

I had no idea.

Cat advocate is a colossal ass step beyond and above cat lover.

For a brief moment, I thought maybe I’d get into it and start fostering kittens.  Then, Theo, the kitten came into my life, and I saw the errors of my ways.

Yeah, I’m not quite ready for another kitten, let alone a litter of them.  So much for being a cat advocate.

Thank God there are animal welfare organizations out there getting the job done for community cats.

In this article, I discuss:

  • what are community cats
  • what is cat advocacy
  • how animal welfare organizations are helping community cats
  • what you can do to help the movement

cat rescue groups

What are community cats?

According to the Animal Humane Society, “community cats are unowned cats that live outdoors in our community.”  These cats can be feral (never had contact with humans) or lost, abandoned, friendly cats and kittens and go by several different names:

  • stray cats
  • neighborhood cats
  • alley cats
  • homeless cats

The preferred term for these cats is community cats.  I think this is a great name for these cats because they are part of our community.  Some animal welfare organizations include owned cats that are allowed to roam outside as part of the community of cats.

Sometimes community cats run in packs or colonies.  Cats that are part of these colonies usually have easier access to food and shelter but might be thought of by humans as a nuisance.

Community cat colonies can be seen hanging around dumpsters near restaurants or malls scrounging for food,  Or you might have someone in your neighborhood who have taken it upon themselves to feed the local community cats in your area.

It is thought to be an estimated 30-40 million community cats in the United States.

The history of free-roaming community cats

For thousands of years, cats were free-roaming and had a place in nature like birds and bees. However, sometime after discovering cat litter in the 1940s, cats began to be thought of as pets to be brought on the inside.

It wasn’t long before free-roaming cats were treated as pests to be gotten rid of.  Some people thought (and still think) they were destroying the environment as if humans aren’t responsible for that crime. In the name of some considered right, community cats were trapped and killed in the most inhumane ways.

In the 90s, a movement began.

Becoming “woke” to the movement: cat advocacy

Those attitudes slowly started to change in the 1990s, changing due to the work of cat advocate groups. This cat advocacy movement was born from cat lovers and caregivers and animal welfare organizations who felt that it was time to look at the stray cat population and do something about their well-being.

Cat advocacy is a movement involved in:

  • fighting for humane laws for stray and feral cats (known as community cats)
  • improving the lives of community cats
  • raising the awareness of the needs of community cats
  • working with shelters and animal control organizations to come up with humane ways of dealing with community cats rather than euthanasia
  • educating and changing the attitudes of the public about community cats

Several animal welfare organizations have made cat advocacy and the plight of community cats a priority.

Community Cat Programs

There are no set national guidelines on handling stray cats. Many animal control agencies and shelters were still operating like the 1970s when community cats were thought of as pests, rounded up and eliminated by lethal injection.

So depending on where you live and the laws that govern the feeding of community cats, there can be many different outcomes for strays when “rescued”:

Most of these cats are not adoptable because they are used to being free-roaming and are not used to hanging out with humans.  According to Best Friends Animal Society, thirty percent of community cats rescued and enter the shelter system end up dead.

Many animal welfares and cat rescue groups have adopted community cat programs that include things like:

These are an alternative to the expensive old-fashioned shelters handling community cats (i.e., trap and kill).

What is Trap, Neuter, and Return (TNR)?

The basic definition of trap, neuter, and return is this – a free-roaming cat is humanely trapped, taken to the Vet to be neutered.  After recovering, kittens and friendly cats are placed into adoptions – feral and unsocialized cats are returned to the community. TNR stops the breeding cycles of free-roaming community cats, thereby decreasing the number of kittens born into the “wild.”

Many communities and cat rescue groups have added TNR to their community cat programs.  It is a more humane way of handling community cats.  Along with TNR, cat rescue groups provide wellness exams and vaccination to free-roaming cats before returning to the community.

It is a more humane way of handling community cats.

Research has shown that TNR:

  • improves the welfare of community cats
  • decreases the breeding cycle within cat colonies
  • has been shown to reduce the number of calls of nuisance complaints about community cats
  • cost less than the trap and kill method used by animal control agencies
  • protects cat’s lives

Read more about the benefits of TNR by clicking here.

What we can do to help cat rescue groups

There are plenty of things we can do to support cat rescue groups with changing people’s minds and government opinions about community cats and how they should be handled.  Here are just a few things you can do:

  • Become a caregiver for a community cat colony – click here for more information.
  • Adopt/foster a rescued cat or kitten – click here to get started on the search. 
  • Organize a neighborhood TNR in your community – click here for more information
  • and donate to Alley Cats Allies!  To read more about Alley Cats Allies and what they are doing to save the lives of cats, click here.

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