Roaming Cats

Free Roaming Cats in Your Neighborhood

We all experience free roaming cats in our neighborhoods or in the areas where we work.  These cats generally fall under a few categories:

  1. Stray Kittens – First priority is to determine if their mother has abandoned them, you need to wait and observe.  The mother could be out hunting or just hiding nearby.  Kittens that appear well cared for are probably just waiting for mom.
  2. Feral cats – These are cats that are highly unsocialized to people and avoid human contact.  They are generally stray housecats that have been outside for two or more generations.
  3. Stray cats – Previously owned cats that may or may not be social to people, are house cats that were abandoned or accidentally lost.  They may enjoy human companionship but not necessarily direct human contact.  Many people see them as “community cats”.
  4. Owned outdoor “pet” cats – These are cats that are owned by someone in the neighborhood who chooses to allow their cat to roam free.  These cats may be extremely friendly or they may be temperamental and only allow minimal handling.

The cats in all 4 of these categories may be happy and healthy hanging out in the neighborhood, but usually do not do well in a shelter situation.  The majority of them do not want human contact.  Historically, unfriendly cats taken into shelters will only be held for the legally required holding period and then euthanized. It is more likely that a cat will return to their home or be found by their family if left alone.

What should you do about the free roaming cats in your neighborhood?
Removing them from the neighborhood often creates a vacuum effect — more cats will come into the neighborhood — or other animals like raccoons and opossums will move in and fill the void. If the free roaming cats are healthy, then they have found a food source and should be altered and returned to the neighborhood. Here are a few fact sheets that can help you learn more:
Why catch and kill doesn’t work
Why trap-neuter-return feral cats?
What to do when you find a feral cat

If you want to find the owner of a cat, you can post flyers in the neighborhood, with local veterinarians, at grocery stores, coffee shops, etc. You can create a printable flyer here: You may contact your local animal control agency to make a “found” report. You can also create an ad on Craigslist or place an ad in the local paper.

I Don’t Want Cats In My Yard!
Ask around to see if anyone is feeding the cats…  or even feeding their own cat outdoors.  You might find that people in your neighborhood are caring for the cats that are coming into your yard.  Discuss your concerns about the cats in your yard with these caregivers.  Try to find a solution that works for everyone involved.  The key to keeping unwanted cats out of your yard is to remove all potential food, water, and shelter.  Just like wildlife, cats look for places with an easy source of food, water, and shelter.

If you have removed all food, water, and blocked any potential shelter areas, but you still have cats coming through your yard, consider using humane deterrents.

Here is a link for some suggestions:

I Enjoy Having Cats In My Yard
If you have decided that you enjoy having kitty company in your yard, here are some resources to help you get them spayed and neutered from the Cat Resource Center.