Community (Feral) Cats

What is a community cat?

A community cat is a domestic cat that is born in the wild and that typically lives with other community (feral) cats. These cats are usually unable to handled because they have had no exposure to human touch or contact. Kittens born in the wild begin to take on feral behaviors at a very young age; therefore, only very young feral cats can be domesticated.

What do I do if I find a community cat?

The ARL offers Berks County residents support and help to trap-neuter-return (TNR) outdoor cats. TNR is the humane trapping of outdoor cats, spaying or neutering them, and then returning them to their original location. This program is promoted on a national level by the ASPCA as a more effective way of dealing with outdoor cat populations. Due to our limited resources, the ARL does not come and pick up outdoor cats, but we do offer guidance and support to help you humanely deal with the cats, to help you humanely keep the cats off of your property with the use of ultrasonic or other deterrents, and to help you decrease or eliminate their population over time.

Why doesn’t the ARL take these cats and adopt them or euthanize them?

Because these cats have had limited human contact, they do no like to be handled or confined indoors, and do not make good pets. We do not euthanize these cats because there’s simply no point in doing so: Study after study shows that TNR is more effective than euthanasia in eliminating cat colonies over time due (plus, it’s a much more humane way to deal with cats!) In the past, many organizations–including ours–did euthanize these cats, and it did nothing to put a dent into the outdoor cat crisis in Berks County. Sterilizing cats to ensure they can’t reproduce is the only effective means to ensure we get a handle on these cats in our community.

What are the first steps in getting help with outdoor cats?

If you’re reading this, you’ve already taken your first steps as being someone who’s concerned for the welfare of these ownerless cats, as well as being someone who’s interested in seeing their population decrease. Your involvement in this process is critical. Please take a moment to read these important steps:

Step 1: Identify all people who are feeding the cats. Once you have, please coordinate feeding of the cat or cat colony to once or twice a day. Cats should be fed a quarter cup of dry or wet food per cat per day; please make sure to pull any uneaten wet food immediately after the cats have finished eating to ensure flies don’t lay eggs in the food. Please understand that overfeeding cats will likely cause more cats to join the colony. In order to successfully trap cats, cats must be hungry and know where and when to obtain food. Once a feeding schedule is established and set, please proceed to the next step.

Step 2: Call to make an appointment at No Nonsense Neutering or Fairchild Foundation. Both organizations offer low-cost spay/neutering services for community cats; however, due to the feral cat crisis in Berks County, appointments may be booked out 3 weeks or longer during select times of the year. Clinics are offered as follows:

No Nonsense Neutering offers TNR clinics on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays and every first and third Sunday of the month. They also offer trap rental and feral cat deterrents. Their phone number is 866-820-2510, or appointments can be made online. Up to five feral cats be neutered at once by appointment, or you can walk into their clinic with one trapped cat without an appointment on select clinic days.

Fairchild Foundation offers TNR clinics on the third Sunday of each month. They also offer trap rental. Appointments can be made online for up to five feral cats.

To expedite your check in, please make sure you visit the website of the organization you’d like to work with to read their complete guidelines, to complete their intake forms in advance, and to receive handy tips on how to effectively trap and care for the cats prior to surgery.

Step 3: Obtain a trap from No Nonsense Neutering, the Fairchild Foundation, or from the ARL. Two types of traps are available to rent through the ARL for $5 per day, plus a $60 to $80 refundable deposit.

What do I do if I find a litter of outdoor kittens?

Unlike adult cats, it’s important to catch new kittens as soon as possible so that they can be domesticated. Kittens can dropped off at the ARL so that we may find foster families to raise and socialize them until they are old enough to be adopted. Please call the shelter at 610-373-8830 to discuss a convenient time to drop off the kittens.

Wait. I didn’t realize there was going to be a cost incurred for me to have these cats trapped or fixed. Why do I need to pay for it when they aren’t my cats?

The ARL recognizes that spay/neutering of these cats can be a financial hardship; therefore, we are willing to offer financial assistance on a case-by-case basis. While you are under no obligation to do anything to help these cats, please understand that ignoring the problem will only lead to the cats continuing to reproduce, which will only lead to more cats. Very rarely will the cats move onto another location when they are receiving food, water and shelter in an area that they consider to be “home.”

How can I get more information or help?

To speak with a TNR expert at the ARL, please contact Alexandra Young at 610-373-8830 x125 or by email at ayoung@berksarl.org. Due to her field work, please allow several days for a response.

Other resources:

The ASPCA: http://www.aspca.org/adopt/feral-cats-faq

Alley Cat Allies: https://www.alleycat.org/our-work/trap-neuter-return

Best Friends: https://bestfriends.org/resources/frequently-asked-questions-about-tnr

FeralCat_Infographic