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Pet Wellness

5 Tips to Identify and Help the Cats in Your Neighborhood

Becky Robinson

President and Founder, Alley Cat Allies

Cats are some of the most beloved and popular animals who live among us, yet there is so much about them that remains a mystery. In my three decades helping to protect cats, these are some of the most common conversations I’ve had with people who want to help them.

1. How to identify a community cat

Pet, stray, and community cats are all members of the domestic cat species, Felis catus, but they have different socialization levels with people. Community cats are unowned and live full, healthy lives outdoors, but they generally are not friendly to people. If she avoids contact with people, she is usually a community cat. A stray cat is a cat who has been socialized to people but has left or lost her indoor home.

2. How to help in inclement weather

Community cats are resourceful and can take care of themselves, but some severe weather can be too much even for them. In any season, you can always provide more food and fresh water. You can also purchase or build warm, inexpensive outdoor shelters for cats. Supplies are available at any hardware or big box store. Instructions are on our YouTube channel.

3. What to do if you find a kitten

The best place for kittens is with their mom, so look around for her, and remember she may be hiding from you. If you’re sure mom can’t help, you can collect supplies on your own for a Kitten Care Kit and follow instructions on how to care for them on our website, Don’t take kittens to a shelter. Kittens, especially those unweaned and under four weeks old, will be killed since most shelters don’t have programs in place to provide the intensive, round-the-clock care kittens require.

4. What to do if you find an adult cat

Because community cats are not socialized to people, they can’t be adopted, so many people are surprised to learn that if you bring a community cat to a shelter, it will probably be killed. For most community cats, the best option is “Trap-Neuter-Return” (TNR), in which they are trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, eartipped to indicate they have been through TNR, and returned to their outdoor homes. TNR is mainstream and endorsed by leading animal protection organizations. It’s a win-win for the cats and the community.

5. Advocate

After learning that community cats need a different kind of care, many people choose to get involved to help, which is easier than it may sound. Be the voice for cats — ask what happens to cats at your local shelter and what laws and policies are in place to protect cats. Alley Cat Allies shows how to do all of this on our website,, and we’re helping people across the globe every day to drive changes that save cats’ lives.

To learn more about how you can get involved, please visit Alley Cat Allies’ official website.

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