A community cat lives comfortably in the outdoors (free-roaming). They are familiar with their surroundings, including where to find food and shelter. These cats are mostly outdoor cats that are cared for by one or more people. They range from friendly, social cats to completely unsocial feral, or “wild” cats.
Community Cats programs is a broad term used to refer to two types of methods in managing cat populations; TNR and SNR. TNR or Trap Neuter Return, refers to the practice of trapping cats, ensuring cats are surgically sterilized (vaccinations and parasite control is typically assumed as part of the treatment process), then returning the cats to their original trap location. SNR or Shelter Neuter Return, refers to the practice of surgically sterilizing healthy stray cats in a shelter and returning them to where they originally came.
Ideally, when stray cats enter the shelter, they are reunited with their owners. Only 1% of cats in shelters are ever reclaimed by an owner as opposed to 20% of dogs. This disparity is due to the fact that most stray cats are not owned in the traditional sense that dogs are owned and likely do not have an owner to reclaim them. Programs and resources designed for owners and their animals do not address the problem of most roaming cats. This is where community cat programs can more effectively and humanely address the issue of roaming cats.
As part of the Compassion Saves operations model for LBACS, return of community cats or “Return to Home” is an important strategy to managing cats. This strategy is used for two reasons:
1. Returning cats to their home territory is the most effective and humane way of managing cat populations both inside and outside of the shelter.
- Science and evidence-based approach reduces roaming cat populations and increases the number of non-breeding healthy cats in a community.
- Broadly supported by national animal welfare organizations including the Humane Society of the United States, ASPCA, Best Friends Animal Society, National Animal Care and Control Association, and more.
- Other approaches (shelter removal) are ineffective and result in fast-growing populations of stray cats in communities, wasting tax dollars and increasing public health and safety concerns regarding roaming animals
- Other approaches are inhumane and illegal such as poisoning and lethal trapping
2. Returning community cats to their homes can address institutionalized equity concerns that fall on socioeconomic, cultural, and racial lines when animal sheltering results in separation of animals from their homes
- Households earning less than $30K per year are 70% less likely to ever be reunited with their pet. Families earning over $100K per year are nearly 100% likely to be reunited with their pet.
- Returning cats to their homes improves cat health and decreases roaming for cats whose owners might not have the resources or access to those services.
It is vitally important that these cats return to their locations whenever possible. Non-breeding, healthy, vaccinated cats need to continue to use the available resources in a location to keep away unwanted breeding, unhealthy, unvaccinated cats from encroaching the territory. In this way, the health and welfare of all cats is improved, as is the health and welfare of people and other animals who may come into contact with these cats.
Ensuring healthy stray cats are safe is a responsibility of every compassionate, responsible person. Determine first, that the cat is healthy. Healthy cats should be TRAPPED and taken to a veterinary clinic to be spayed or neutered. Once they recover from their surgery (usually within 24 to 72 hours), they should be returned to the location where they were trapped. This is called TNR or “Trap”, “Neuter”, “Return”. Cats should not be taken to other locations where they are not familiar and released. This is illegal and is considered abandonment.
To borrow a cat trap from LBACS, simply email AnimalCare@longbeach.gov to make an appointment to borrow a trap. There is a $100 deposit returnable once the trap is returned in good condition.
Every animal has the right to prompt and necessary veterinary care. If you see a sick or injured cat, they should be trapped and taken to either a veterinary clinic or delivered to LBACS during regular business hours. No appointment is necessary to bring a sick or injured cat to LBACS. When a sick or injured cat is trapped after regular operating hours, residents in our service cities may call animal services for emergency after-hours services. An officer will take the cat to either the shelter for a veterinary exam the following day or to a veterinary facility if the cat is found to be critically sick or injured. If you choose to take the cat to a veterinary clinic, you are financially responsible for any services provided to the cat. The City of Long Beach does not provide reimbursement for medical care provided to stray animals.
Healthy stray cats do not require sheltering. It is best to TNR these cats and allow them to continue on their way. If you are certain a cat has been abandoned because you witnessed the abandonment or you have relevant information to verify they are abandoned, then you may make an appointment to bring in the cat, AnimalCare@longbeach.gov
The staff will discuss with the finder of the cat the circumstances of the cat living in the area to help determine the appropriate outcome for the cat. All animals admitted to the shelter are checked for signs of ownership including: tags, a collar or signs of a former collar, microchip, declaw/dew claw removal, and whether or not the animal appears to have already been spayed or neutered. Reports of lost cats are reviewed to determine if there is a possible match. In the case of friendly cats, personnel may be assigned to canvass, and even post signs in the area where the cat was found to determine if an owner can be identified. Once the cat is admitted to the shelter and assigned an identification number, he will be displayed on LBACS’ website for a potential owner to identify. Next, he will be examined by a member of LBACS medical team to determine if there are any illnesses or injures that require further examination and/or treatment by a shelter veterinarian. Healthy cats that that do not require maternal or medical care and who have no signs of ownership and appear to live in the neighborhood where they were found will be scheduled for spay/neuter surgery, vaccinated against rabies and common feline diseases, given a 3-month flea treatment, dewormed, microchipped and returned to their home territory. Cats that are not healthy or that do not otherwise qualify to be returned home will remain in the care of the shelter for a stray holding period, or until another home can be secured for the cat. Cats that are irremediably suffering from a serious illness or injury may not be held for a stray holding period and may be euthanized.
Yes! People who bring animals to LBACS have priority to adopt the animal they found (LBMC 6.04.060 - Voluntary impoundment). When you bring an animal to the shelter, you will be asked to complete an Animal Owner/Finder Release Form. There is a place to indicate that you would like to adopt the animal. If the animal is not reclaimed by the owner and you would like to become the new owner, LBACS will work with you to complete the adoption. Certain issues may disqualify a person from adoption including any history of animal abuse or neglect or other violation of the Long Beach Municipal Code, Title 6 ANIMALS.
The short answer is, “Yes, if… No, but…” Cats should be considered part of the environment. Sustainably and permanently removing them is not only not possible, attempting to do so is not effective. Removing animals from a location where they live only makes it possible for other animals to move into the void the animal has left behind. Ensuring that existing cats in a location are fixed not only continues to occupy their “space”, it keeps them from breeding, and it helps to keep other animals from encroaching on their territory.
When cats are not welcome in an area, it is up to the resident to determine why the cats are gravitating toward their home. There are usually reasons cats continue to return to your home. There is either food, shelter, or water for the cat. It is important to remove these opportunities for the cats to move on to more hospitable locations.
Cats may have a food source in actual pet food, unsecure garbage cans, or smaller wildlife being enticed to come to your yard. Do not feed any animals outside or encourage other wildlife to come to your yard by putting out bird and/or squirrel feeders. This attracts not only cats, but rats and predatory wildlife such as raccoons and coyotes.
Cats will seek shelter in and under sheds, porches, shrubbery, or rubbish piled in yards. Be sure all access points are covered. Use metal mesh, not screens, to completely cover holes. Keep yards free of debris, keep shed and garage doors closed and secure, keep garbage cans covered and secure, cover patio furniture with tarp, keep sandboxes covered, keep shrubbery trimmed at least 16 inches from the ground.
Cats will drink standing water, and will seek out water features including bird baths, koi ponds, swimming pools, etc. Keep these items covered at night or reconsider having such features in your yard.
There are many things you can do, or add to the environment that will help lessen the nuisance of cats and other unwanted animals in your yard:
Change YOUR Behavior
- Feed animals inside
- Keep yards clean of debris and other items that can be used as shelter
- Keep shrubs trimmed at least 18 inches above the ground
- Cover your trash
- Cover sandboxes
- Remove water elements, completely cover pools
- Remove feeders that attract other animals to your yard (birds, squirrels, etc.)
- Scatter fresh orange or lemon peels, coffee grounds, pipe tobacco
- Spray essential oils in areas cats are not welcome (citrus odors, vinegar, lavender, lemongrass, citronella, eucalyptus)
- Add the herb rue to gardens or sprinkle dried rue over gardens/landscaping
- Plastic carpet runners with spike side up covered lightly in soil for gardens, flowerbeds, and other landscaping
- Chicken wire in dirt with sharp edges rolled under
- Lattice fencing over soil to discourage digging
- Embed wooden chopsticks, pine cones or other sticks with dull points deep in the soil with just the tops exposed, set 8 inches apart
- Cover exposed ground in flower beds with large (and attractive) river rocks to keep cats from digging.
- Physically block or seal locations that cats are entering with chicken wire or lattice. Double-check that no cats or kittens will be trapped inside.
Products/Devices for Purchase
- Cat Scat™ plastic mats to press into the soil. The mats have flexible plastic spikes that are harmless to cats and other animals, but also discourage digging. · Install an ultrasonic animal repellent or a motion-activated water sprinkler like CatStop™ or ScareCrow™.
- Combat cat urine smell by spraying the area thoroughly with white vinegar or products using natural enzymes, such as Nature’s Miracle®, Fizzion Pet Stain & Odor Remover®, or Simple Solution®
Provide Acceptable Space
- Provide outdoor shelter. Shelters should be hidden to keep the cats safe, and placed in secluded areas far from areas they aren’t welcomed.
- Place ‘litter boxes’ (wood frames with sand or peat moss—not actual cat litter, which would absorb water) in strategic areas to give cats a bathroom option. Be sure to keep these litter boxes and areas clean and change out the contents regularly.