Community Cats

Community Cats & Feral Cats

Community cats are unowned, free-roaming cats living among us in our neighborhoods. Like all cats, they have a range of behaviors and socialization levels. Some are friendly to humans, others are not. The unsocial cats that cannot live indoors in a typical pet home are sometimes referred to as feral cats or barn cats. These cats are well-suited to life outdoors. They often live in closely bonded groups called colonies, and if they look healthy, chances are they are being fed and cared for by someone nearby (often referred to as a caretaker). To learn more about community cats, please visit Alley Cat Allies.

What is Trap-Neuter Return (TNR)?

TNR involves humanely trapping community cats to be spayed/neutered, vaccinated, and returned to their outdoor environments. During surgery, the tip of their left ear is clipped, a universal indicator that they are fixed and vaccinated. TNR programs may also include a microchip, but since community cats are unowned cats, the eartip is a sufficient marker to leave the cat alone in its neighborhood if it is healthy.

Why is TNR important for San Marcos?

It reduces cat populations. TNR is an internationally proven, widely accepted non-lethal solution that has proven to reduce colony numbers over time. It is more humane and more effective than catch and kill methods.

It helps the community. Once sterilized, many cats lose the urge to roam and fight, eliminating most nuisance behaviors (such as yowling, spraying, roaming, and reproducing). TNR’d cats make better neighbors.

It helps the shelter. TNR keeps unadoptable cats out of the shelter, reducing shelter killing and freeing up valuable space and resources for other cats in need.

It improves the lives of cats. Through TNR, outdoor cats are able to continue living healthy, happy lives without the stresses associated with mating.


Frequently Asked Questions about Community Cats

I don’t want cats on my property. What should I do?
Spaying/neutering cats will greatly reduce or in many cases eliminate nuisance behaviors. Additionally, you can deter them with humane methods such as applying nontoxic repellants to your lawn. See our tip sheet on How to Keep Cats Out of Your Yard or Garden (PDF).

How can I help the community cats in my neighborhood?
Many people feed community cats, but taking the additional step of spaying/neutering/microchipping them is the best thing you can do. To achieve the goal of decreasing the overall size of the colony, all cats in the defined location must be sterilized within a relatively short time period. Additionally, you can help by not taking community cats to the shelter -- especially if they are unfriendly to humans and therefore not considered adoptable.

  • Rent a Trap for TNR: We offer trap loans for the sole purpose of TNR. Watch this short video:    How to Trap a Feral Cat for Trap-Neuter-Return
  • Low-Cost Spay/Neuter: A list of low-cost spay/neuter options are here. For community cats, Austin Humane Society and Hill Country Animal League are the best options at this time. The San Marcos Animal Shelter hosts Emancipet once a month for low-cost spay/neuter - you can schedule an appointment in advance over the phone or online. Please contact the shelter to inquire about additional assistance for community cats spay/neuter funding.

I found a kitten! What should I do?
If you find a young kitten, it is always best to leave them with their mother until they’re about 8 weeks old. Observe them from a distance for at least a few hours to allow their mother to come back. Moms/queens typically leave their kittens to go find food and may be gone several hours. If you are sure the mom is not around anymore, what to do next depends on the kittens’ age and whether or not they are tame or feral. Here is a flowchart showing what to do with a kitten based on the situation.

I found a cat that I think is lost. What should I do? 
Nationally, cats brought to shelters only have a 3-5% chance of being reunited with their owners. They have a much better chance of finding their owners if left in their community. You can help by posting the cat’s picture on Nextdoor, Craigslist, and the local Lost & Found Pet Facebook pages, and the animal shelter Lost & Found page.