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What are community cats?
Community cats (also known as feral, stray or free-roaming cats), are the most-at-risk animals in shelters throughout the U.S. In fact, 70 percent of the animals killed in shelters are cats. In 2016, 79 percent of the animals killed in Utah shelters were cats, which translates into approximately 6,300 cats killed in shelters throughout the state.
Since community cats are at great risk of being killed if they enter shelters, Best Friends helps ensure that they do not end up there by organizing and operating humane trap/neuter/return (TNR) programs. Trap/neuter/return is a comprehensive management plan in which healthy community cats are spayed or neutered, vaccinated and then returned to their outdoor communities.
Trap/neuter/return: What it is and why it works
Evidence accumulated over the last 20 years shows that trap and kill programs are not only inhumane, they are ineffective in controlling the population of community cats. With trap and kill, any remaining cats continue to breed, and the population continues to grow.
TNR programs, which involve spaying or neutering and returning community cats to their colonies, have proven to be an effective and humane method of reducing the number of community cats over time by stopping them from breeding. Not only does TNR save tax dollars by reducing the number of animals entering government-operated shelters, it also helps ensure that each cat has a happier, healthier life. In addition, a comprehensive TNR program helps minimize breeding-related behaviors, such as late-night howling and urine spraying.
Community cat services offered by Best Friends in Utah
From our Lifesaving Center in Sugar House, Best Friends in Utah provides a variety of services to help the public with cat-related issues. We offer free consultation with one of our experts to resolve neighborhood community cat conflicts, along with information about humane deterrents to keep cats away from areas where they are unsafe or unwanted.
Also available from the Best Friends Lifesaving Center (located at 2005 S 1100 E, Salt Lake City) are:
* Vouchers for free or discounted spay/neuter
- Click here for the application for owned pets.
- Click here for the application for outdoor community cats.
* Pet food for qualifying Utah residents.
* Winter shelters to keep community cats safe from the elements.
* Trap loans and instruction (Tuesday and Thursdays 4pm to 7pm and Saturdays 11am to 3pm - Please come to the back door and ring the bell.)
Make a donation to help Community Cats
Donate items from our Community Cat Amazon Wish List.
Donate Community Cat winter items:
- Large styrofoam coolers
- Gorilla Tape
Please call 801-574-2445 or 866-PETS-FIX or email email@example.com for more information.
Find more information about TNR and community cats on our community cat resource page.
Community cat spay/neuter voucher program
Since community (feral or free-roaming) cats are happiest living outdoors and are at great risk of being killed if they enter shelters, our community cat spay/neuter voucher program was created to keep them out of shelters, while gradually reducing their numbers. Through this program, we offer free spay and neuter vouchers, redeemable at participating veterinarians, to qualifying Utah residents. Certain restrictions may apply. (Note that we offer a limited number of vouchers per month, with priority given to residents of Salt Lake County, Davis County, Utah County, Weber County and Washington County.) If the application link below is not available, all vouchers for the month have been allocated. Please check back at the first of next month to apply. All caregivers must pay $2.50 per cat for the rabies vaccine. This fee will need to be paid to the vet at the time of spay/neuter surgery.
Click here to fill out our outdoor community cat spay/neuter voucher request. You may also contact us for a printed form at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additional spay/neuter resources may be available from the following shelter and rescue partners (click the name to visit their site for more info):
CAWS - Community Animal Welfare Society
Cache Humane Society
Nuzzles & Co
Salt Lake Spay & Neuter Clinic
Orchard Animal Clinic
Best Friends Spay and Neuter Clinic
Our outdoor community cat spay/neuter voucher program is designed for community (feral and free-roaming) cats only and is not intended for pet cats or cats who will be placed into homes as pets. See the low-income assistance program section for help getting your pet cat spayed or neutered. Please contact us at 1-866-PETS-FIX or email@example.com with any questions.
Community cat programs in your backyard
More than 20 percent of cats entering shelters in Utah are killed, and most of those are community cats (stray, displaced or free-roaming cats). For Utah to become a no-kill state, more emphasis must be put on decreasing the number of cats who enter shelters, and the best way to do that is to focus on implementing trap/neuter/return (TNR) programs.
TNR has proven to be the only effective long-term solution to keeping community cats out of shelters and decreasing their numbers. That’s why Best Friends has community cat programs across the country, including right here in Utah. Best Friends in Utah works with six of the state’s largest animal shelters — Salt Lake County Animal Services (SLCoAS), West Valley City Animal Services (WVCAS), Murray City, West Jordan, Davis County Animal Services (DCAS) and Weber County Animal Services (WCAS) — on community cat issues. These partnerships have increased the save rates of cats in these areas and we continue to work with other communities around the state to adopt this model.
Easy-To-Make Cat Shelters
Large Styrofoam coolers make great community cat shelters. Many people will ask their veterinarian to save the large coolers they get their vaccines shipped in because they are extra thick and are perfect for kitty shelters. Hospitals, fish markets, and even grocery stores may be glad to donate large coolers. Some farm stores sell extra large coolers manufactured for deer meat storage. If the coolers are less than 1 ½ inches thick, you can cover them with layers of bubble wrap or insulation. When using insulation be certain that it is the kind that has paper on both sides, and make sure none of the fibers are exposed when your shelter is completed (you can gorilla tape over any exposed areas near the door hole).
To begin, turn cooler on its side and cut a circular entrance (or possibly two) with 6” diameter. Place entrance hole 1-2 inches below the line where the lid meets the cooler body and place it at one end of the longer side of the cooler. The lid can be sealed with liquid nails. Two entrance holes are recommended if the shelter is in an area where predators may pose a threat to the cats.
Next, wrap the shelter (think Christmas present!) with a 6 mil weight black plastic. You can purchase this at any home improvement or garden store. Tape all seams with tape such as gorilla tape that withstands cold temps and water.
After wrapping, locate your door hole and cut a hole in the plastic like a pie, then tape all around the entrance.
Best Friends in Utah may be able to provide pre-made winter cat shelters ($10 suggested donation) or caregivers may make their own shelter with Styrofoam coolers or Rubbermaid storage bins. For availability call 801-574-2413 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Making The Most of Your Winter Shelter - Important information
You can make a curtain over the door holes by using bubble wrap or excess plastic. Use two layers. Cut the wrap to make fringes (leave the top few inches solid, and cut vertically to make the fringe). Then tape your curtain over the door holes.
If your winter shelter is exposed to the elements it is best to put a piece of plywood over the top of the shelter as well as another piece of wood (or similar material) put at a slant over the doorway. You may also prop the shelter above ground on a pallet. Another option is to make an igloo-type tunnel over the doorway using a smaller cooler or other material. You can also create an awning out of plastic, cardboard and gorilla tape to further keep rain/snow out. It is very important to do what you can to keep moisture OUT.
If placing shelters near a building or on a porch, it is best to face the entrances near the structure wall with enough space for the cats to enter and exit as opposed to facing outward toward the elements. If you have multiple shelters, you may face them toward each other with a board on top.
If the shelter is placed outside, straw makes great stuffing inside the shelter as it absorbs moisture better than fabric. Cotton fabrics such as towels and sheets can get wet and freeze, making the shelter cold. If the shelter is in a garage or other very dry area, towels, fleece or kitty beds work well. You can buy fleece or fake sheepskin at fabric stores and cut to fit. Check your shelter frequently to ensure it is staying dry. You may also try Mylar emergency blankets layered in between fleece.
When you first put the shelter out, put some catnip inside and if you have a bubble wrap fringe, it’s best to tack part of it up at first so the cat can easily see the entrance. Placing the shelter on a pallet works nicely to keep it a bit up off the ground, but is not always necessary. The shelters should be weighed down with bricks or boards as they are lightweight and can easily shift in the wind. It is important to make them secure so they do not tip forward or possibly trap cats inside.
You may consider making a little laminated sign that says something like: “This shelter is part of a humane Trap, Neuter, Return program for community cats, please do not remove. If you have questions, please call…” Always get permission from property owner before placing a shelter on property other than your own.
Electric heated pads
Low watt heated pet beds are available in several sizes through many suppliers such as Amazon. Models are Lectro and K&H pet pads. You may also consider heated water dishes to prevent water/food from freezing and to ensure they stay hydrated during the winter. See “Alley Cat Allies Winter Weather Tips” for more information.
Remember, no matter how “wild” a cat may seem, they are still a domestic animal that needs your help. They need warmth just as much as we do. Thank you for caring!
Find more resources on caring for community cats at http://bestfriends.org/
Relocating Community Cats
We sometimes need to relocate community cats from an unsafe or undesireable area. If you are interested in having community cats placed on your property, or if you or someone you know would like to help a group of cats, please contact us at email@example.com or complete the online application at http://bit.ly/appforworkingcats.
If you're looking for help relocating community cats near you, please note that relocating cats — especially as a colony — is an enormous undertaking that can be very stressful for the animals, as well as the people who care for them. Therefore, it should be considered only as a last resort, usually when the cats are in immediate danger. In the vast majority of cases, it’s best to return community cats to the location from which they were trapped. Another major and often overlooked downside to relocating a colony is the risk of a new one moving in. And if the new cats aren’t sterilized, their number could quickly surpass that of the original colony.
Learn more at https://bestfriends.org/resources/relocating-feral-cats.
Make community cats count!
If you care for community cats, let us know about the colony with Cat Stats -- the free, easy-to-use online system from Best Friends for tracking cat colonies.
When you use Cat Stats, you can improve our trap-neuter-return programs, help cats live healthier, happier lives and more. Plus, you could win free cat products!
Get started at catstats.org/SLC and click on "create an account".