Community Cats

If you’re driving down the street and see a dog, you probably assume that he’s lost and someone is looking for him.  But if you see a cat, is the same true?  The reality is that there are millions of unowned cats living outdoors in North America, in addition to the many owned pet cats who are allowed to roam outdoors (often unaltered, which allows them to mate with community cats and add to the population).  Cat overpopulation isn’t a Windsor or Essex County problem, it’s an issue Canada-wide.

If you’re already feeding free-roaming cats, you’ve shown that you care for them. But the best way to make their lives easier is through TNR, or Trap-Neuter-Return, sometimes also called TNVR (Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return). By feeding but not fixing them, you can actually be making the cats’ lives harder because you are allowing them to have larger litters with more of the kittens surviving to adulthood. This means that the cats will ultimately have to compete with more cats for limited resources, and also means that your small group of cats may soon grow to an unmanageable number.

It may seem daunting to fix a whole colony of cats, but it’s important to take the first step. The cats won’t stop reproducing while you’re trying to decide what to do! The Humane Society’s spay/neuter clinic can help – cat spays and neuters can be done for only $50. We also provide a free microchip, ear tip and vaccine for feral cats, and offer a “Frequent Fixer” program which makes your 10th cat spay or neuter free. Municipal vouchers are also available to fix free-roaming cats, but those vouchers are often claimed quickly and therefore not widely available. However, please contact your municipality to ask if they offer a voucher program, and to express your interest in participating in the program.

We also offer a Community Cat Package, which provides (upon request) a free standard ear tip, microchip, and FVRCP vaccine to community (feral) cats.  To qualify for this package, the cat must be brought in for surgery in a trap or be clearly free-roaming.

PLEASE NOTE: Effective October 1, feral cat walk-ins will only be accepted on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday (until then they continue on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday).  Walk-ins permitted for feral cats in traps only. Only one walk-in per day per person allowed.

If you are caring for community cats…

You can help to protect the cats you are caring for as well as reduce neighbourhood conflict by taking some simple steps to prevent conflicts from arising. Some great tips are available from Alley Cat Allies at https://www.alleycat.org/resources/how-to-live-with-cats-in-your-neighborhood/.  For information on how to construct an easy-to-build shelter to protect the cats you’re caring for over the winter please visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v18bbx0X2wQ

If you are a neighbour of a cat caregiver…

You may be feeling frustrated by the number of cats around. You may think that just getting rid of the cats is the solution, but there are many reasons that cat problems are rarely solved by trapping and removing a colony. Community cats live at a certain location because it offers food and shelter. If a colony is removed, cats from surrounding colonies may move in to take advantage of the newly available food and shelter and the cycle of reproduction and nuisance behavior begins all over again. In addition, if all the cats in a colony are not trapped, then the ones left behind will tend to have larger litters of kittens. The kittens are more likely to survive because there are fewer cats competing for food. The colony’s population will continue to increase until it once again reaches the number that can be supported by the available food and shelter.

Feeding community cats is not restricted by any local municipal by-laws, and the Humane Society will not trap and remove healthy community cats. While you can legally trap cats on your property yourself or hire a trapper to do it for you, a more effective solution is to work with the caregiver to ensure that the cats are being spayed or neutered. This will help to control the population, and prevent it from growing.  Trapped community cats that are brought into the Humane Society as stray cats will be considered for Return to Field if they are healthy and not candidates for adoption due to their unsocial behaviour.

The good news is…

Steps being taken in Windsor and Essex County are helping to reduce cat overpopulation in our area. The Humane Society’s high volume spay/neuter clinic was one of the first of its kind in Ontario, and has fixed almost 30,000 animals since we opened in 2011. All area municipalities (Windsor, Essex, Tecumseh, LaSalle, Kingsville, Amherstburg, Leamington, and Lakeshore) offer some form of spay/neuter vouchers which help residents fix community cats and/or low income residents fix their own cats to prevent future community cats. And all of these efforts are paying off with fewer kittens being born. Between 2011 (when our clinic opened) and 2017 stray cat intake at the Humane Society has dropped by 55%; overall cat intake has dropped by 48%.  Many people and rescue groups in our community are also working hard to implement TNR programs and find homes for community cats. At the Humane Society we’ve increased adoptions, transfers, and implemented other innovative programs that have been able to reduce cat euthanasia in the same time period by 75%! We can only continue to make progress with your support, and hope that you will continue to support these life-saving programs.

If you have questions about community cats, TNR, or our feral cat spay/neuter programs please contact ferals@windsorhumane.org.