Community Cats

About Community Cats

What is a community cat?

A community cat is either a stray, homeless or feral cat. It is a term that describes the many different cats living outdoors and not having an owner. There are an estimated 10-15,000 community cats living where we live, work and play AND an estimated 5,000 more in inaccessible wilderness areas (over 200,000 acres), equaling a total of 15-20,000 stray, abandoned or feral cats on Kauai.

About Colony Management

Responsible management of existing community cat colonies includes: humane trapping; spay and neuter of colony cats; daily monitoring and treatment for illness or injury; removal of kittens for socialization to make them adoptable; removal of friendly dumped or abandoned adults for adoption; euthanasia of cats whose suffering cannot be alleviated; ear-tipping and microchipping cats following spay or neuter; returning cats to the location from which they were trapped (provided they do not face imminent risks); and providing daily care that includes food and water, as well as monitoring for arrival of new animals. The goal of any community cat management program is to maximize the quality of the lives of colony cats while decreasing and gradually eliminating the colony over time through attrition.

Community Cat FAQs

Stray cats and homeless cats are almost the same. They are cats that have been socialized to people at some point in their lives, but they have left or lost their indoor homes, as well as most human contact and dependence. These cats can become feral if their contact with humans continues to dwindle. Under the right circumstances, stray or homeless cats CAN become pets again, but they will require a period of time to re-acclimate to human contact because they almost certainly have become wary of humans after spending time away from them.

A feral cat is one who has either never had contact with humans, or whose contact with humans has diminished over time. A feral cat is not socialized to people and survives on its own outdoors. The vast majority of feral cats are not likely to ever be indoor pets. A feral cat’s kittens CAN be socialized to humans if they are removed from the mother at an early age and put into foster care for adoption into homes.

Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is a humane, effective approach for stabilizing colonies of community cats. Community cats are trapped, spayed or neutered, and returned to their outdoor home. The cats are also eartipped (see next question) to provide a visual indication of spaying or neutering. The M, or manage, part of TNR means that colony caregivers take responsibility for monitoring the health and welfare of their colonies of community cats. Cats that have been spayed or neutered are also microchipped, in case a colony cat is trapped and turned into the Kauai Humane Society. With the visual indication of spaying or neutering (the eartip), plus the microchip identification, these colony cats are identified as being taken care of, and are not put down. In addition, colony caretakers know the cats in their colony well, and can administer medications in food as needed, or can trap sick cats to be seen by a veterinarian. In some cases, colony caretakers may also make the decision to euthanize a very sick or suffering cat after trapping it. Colony caretakers also manage their colonies by being on the alert for new cats that are dumped or abandoned into their colonies. The caretakers then TNR these new cats and remove any kittens for socialization.
Eartipping describes a surgical procedure in which a small portion of the tip of a community cat’s ear is surgically removed during the spay or neuter procedure. Eartipping is done while the cat is anesthetized and is not painful for the cat. It is a very effective way of identifying spayed or neutered cats from a distance, to make sure they are not trapped to undergo surgery a second time. A left eartip is a male cat and a right eartip is a female cat.
According to the Alley Cat Allies website, the outdoors is the natural habitat for community cats, and these cats can live long and healthy lives outside. A number of scientific articles indicate that community cats have lifespans that compare with pet cats and that only a small percentage of community cats examined in spay and neuter clinics needed to be euthanized because of sickness or trauma.
Because community cats include stray and homeless cats, as well as feral cats, the answer to this question is somewhat complicated. Please see the above question and answer on the difference between these types of cats. Stray and homeless cats can be re-socialized to humans. A feral cat, however, has never had any contact with humans or regular contact with humans has diminished over time. These cats are not socialized to humans and cannot be touched, except sometimes by their regular caregiver. Cats like these simply are not happy being in situations where they are around humans. Certainly, there are a number of stories about feral cats who were adopted and learned to tolerate, and even appreciate, human company after months to years. But this long process is stressful for both the cat AND its prospective owner.

Kittens born in the wild to feral cats that are removed at 4 – 6 weeks of age can be socialized and become pets. However, Alley Cat Allies cautions that kittens more than 12 weeks old may never socialize completely or at all. In fact, Alley Cat Allies recommends against attempting to socialize feral cats older than 12 weeks, noting that it is both dangerous and stressful for the cat and the human involved.

Any cat brought into the Kauai Humane Society is scanned for a microchip. If a microchip is present, Kauai Humane Society contacts the owner of record for the microchip. For those cats microchipped to Kauai Community Cat Project, we reclaim the cat from Kauai Humane Society and return it to its colony. But the sad fact is that many community cats are destroyed because they are not eartipped, not microchipped, and not socialized to humans — and therefore deemed unadoptable. Some cats trapped and brought into the Kauai Humane Society are strays, and they are put on hold for 3 days to see if anyone claims them. If not, and they are not socialized, they are often put down. Some cats trapped and brought in are microchipped, but the owners have moved away or cannot otherwise be contacted. These cats are put on hold for 10 days, and if no one claims them and they are not socialized, they are also destroyed.
While it might seem that catching and killing cats is a good way to get rid of cats in an area, it turns out that this cruel practice does not work. And the reason it doesn’t work is something called the vacuum effect. When cats are removed from a location, survivors and new cats move in and begin breeding. In addition, there are many people who say that TNR does not work as a method of reducing the number of cats in a colony over time. But the sad fact is that new cats are constantly arriving into colonies: cats that have been abandoned or dumped, or have otherwise wandered in. So there is a nearly endless supply of new cats, and that means that it is very difficult to keep the number of colony cats from increasing in a colony that is managed through TNR.
Please contact us at [email protected] or please consider making a donation to help us continue our mission to help Kauai’s community cats.