|Community cats who have been spayed and neutered usually have an ear clipped. [Fairfax County Animal Shelter]|
The public needs to be educated about feral cats, which I prefer to call “community cats.” I help them by having them spayed and neutered through county programs and providing feeding sites where they live.
This helps the cats and the public coexist by ensuring the neighborhood cats live in a stable community.
Community cats are members of the domestic cat species just like pet cats, but are usually not socialized to people and therefore are not adoptable. They typically live in groups called colonies and have strong social bonds with other members of the colony.
Because community cats are not socialized and not adoptable, they do not belong in animal shelters, where virtually 100 percent of them are killed. Instead, they should be neutered, vaccinated, and returned to their outdoor home.
Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is the only effective and humane way to stabilize community cat populations, allowing them to peacefully coexist with local residents. Under the TRN approach, cats are humanely trapped and taken to a veterinarian where they are neutered and vaccinated.
Kittens and socialized cats are placed into loving homes. Healthy adult cats are returned to their colony site, where they are often provided continuing care and food by volunteers.
TNR works. It prevents cats from having more kittens. Their health and quality of life are improved, and the population stabilizes and declines over time. The behaviors and stresses associated with mating, such as yowling and fighting, stop.
The public can make a difference and save lives. There are many individuals who quietly go each day to address the needs of cats in our communities. If you would like to know more about how to help community cats, the Alley Cat Allies website provides lots of information.
Individuals may also find valuable information on how to help community cats by contacting the Fairfax County Animal Shelter, 703-830-1100.
Shelter staff occasionally host workshops on helping community cats. The next ones are Tuesday, Jan. 31, and Monday, Feb. 27. Both sessions are 7 p.m. at the Kinstowne Library in Alexandria. To register, send an email to animalshelter@Fairfaxcounty.gov.
Anyone who has taken the class can borrow a trap from the animal shelter for free.