Our Community Cat program is committed to enhancing the lives of cats in our community and strategically managing the population of Community Cats.

Community cats are unowned cats that live outdoors in the community. They may be feral or friendly, may have been born into the wild, or may be lost or abandoned pets.

As animal lovers, it’s natural for us to want to help a creature in need. Oftentimes, people believe that if they see a cat outside – maybe even coming around for meals every day – they need help. The truth is that generally, they don’t need our help. Most cats that you see outside are what we call Community Cats. These cats behavior may be feral or friendly. They may have been born in the wild and be accustomed to that lifestyle, or they could even be loved pets who have indoor-outdoor access and don’t need your help. With owned cats, often they are captured and taken somewhere else – whether that’s inside your home permanently, or to a shelter – this reduces their chances of being reunited with their family to less than 1%.

These cats DO need your help and intervention:

  • Unhealthy Cats/Kittens – have you noticed limping, visible injuries, or discharge from her eyes and nose?
  • Cats who are declawed
  • Orphaned Kittens

If there are stray or feral cats in your community that need spay/neuter surgery, you can participate in our Community Cats program by trapping and transporting community cats to one of our shelters. Call our Pet Helpline at 412.345.0348 for more information on how to get involved!

Community Cat FAQs

It may be hard to imagine living outdoors during winters, however, we know cats have adapted and manage to survive year-round as the survival rate of community cats located in urban areas is actually 90% per year.

Another thing to keep in mind is that half of all owned cats have indoor-outdoor access. This may be because their family believes it’s more natural, or because if they are kept indoors, they destroy the house or chooses to pee and poop everywhere but the litter box – and whatever your personal choices are – outdoor access is normal for many cats.

If you care for community cats and would like to provide a warm spot this winter, you can learn how to build an inexpensive community cat shelter here!

Cats will venture MUCH further than most people realize! Cats roam through back yards, “as the crow flies”, not on streets and sidewalks as humans do. Have you really talked with everyone in that area? Keep in mind when speaking to people – their cat(s) isn’t missing, so if you’re asking if they’re missing a cat, their response will most likely be “nope!”. They are still returning daily for food!

If you offer free food, you’ll get visitors. Sometimes even wild creatures, or even that family member you don’t like will show up regularly if you keep feeding him! If you don’t want community cats hanging around your yard, we suggest that you don’t provide them with any food and ignore them when they are around.

You can also use the following deterrents to assist in keeping them out of your yard.

  • Digging: Most cats have an instinct to cover their feces in sand or dirt. You can try covering the area with citrus smells or coffee grounds to deter the cats. Laying lattice fencing on the ground can also help to stop digging.
  • Trash Cans: Using bungee cords to securely keep garbage cans shut so if they knock them over, they can’t get them open.
  • Scratching: Place double sided tape on places they’re scratching, they don’t like the stickiness of the tape.
  • Fighting with Other Cats: Spaying and Neutering with help to stop the fighting as they don’t have the urge to fight over mates.

Although community cats do often hunt to survive, this responsible spay/neuter of Community Cats will reduce the impact on birds and wildlife. By reducing the number of cats living outside due to sterilization, we are doing the best thing for all involved. This does however take time, determination, patience and collaboration. Simple removing cats from an environment is not effective or humane.

Removing these cats from the community doesn’t eliminate the nuisances they could create and actually encourages cat populations to steadily grow. When you return cats that have been spayed/neutered, they continue to use resources but are unable to reproduce, decreasing the free-roaming cat population over time.

Sterilization also reduces problematic behaviors like fighting and spraying. Usually within a month, the sexual hormones are completely gone and the desire to mate is no longer there. You can also try using vinegar or citrus peels to deter cats, while also masking the smell of cat urine. Euthanizing healthy, community cats is not an option.

If the cat appears healthy and has a good body condition, then we know it has found a food source and shelter to thrive. Only cats that are thriving will be returned to their environments. For those that appear unable to return, we will try to find alternative placement through other shelter programs.

Simply removing cats from an area will not solve the problem! When you remove cats from one area, more will come from another. The safest and most efficient way to decrease this population is Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). This is when cats are trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, ear-tipped and returned to live out the rest of their life. Community cats are very resilient and smart⁠— they will find food, water and shelter.

This is more likely to occur when food is left outside for too long and/or after dark. You can prevent this by creating a raised feeding station to keep insects away from the food. Additionally, set a feeding time for cats and only leave food out for 30 minutes at a time, or until they have finished eating. Community cats will learn to adjust to the schedule that you set for them!

Ear-tipping involves surgically removing a small portion of one of a cat’s ears while the cat is under anesthesia for spay or neuter surgery. A tipped ear indicates that the cat has already be spayed or neutered and vaccinated, so you can simply leave that cat alone. Ear-tipped cats that are surrendered will be returned to the community. If no ear tip is present, this cat is most likely not spayed or neutered. You can help by participating in the Humane Animal Rescue’s Community Cat Initiative program to get the cat spayed or neutered and vaccinated for rabies.

Volunteer: If there are stray or feral cats in your community that need spay/neuter surgery, you can participate in our Community Cats program by trapping and transporting community cats to one of our shelters.

Donate: Donations to assist with all of the expenses that we incur with program supplies, surgeries, food, etc. for our Community Cat program are always incredibly appreciated and help us in our goal to save more lives!

Call our Pet Helpline at 412.345.0348 for more information on how to get involved and help Community Cats in your area!


Make a Difference!

Your gift today will help save an animal’s life. We rely on donations from friends like you to rescue, shelter, and find homes for pets. Please be as generous as you can to help us give them the care they need and the love they deserve.


Care They Need.
Love They Deserve.


Interested in more content like this? Subscribe & follow us to stay up-to-date.