Relocation is Sometimes the Last Resort for Unwanted Community Cats

The Humane Society of the United States estimates that there are 30 to 40 million community cats living in the United States. Community cats include those who were born and raised in the wild and those who were lost or abandoned and resorted to wild ways in order to survive.

Leading animal welfare organizations agree that utilizing the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) method is the most humane way of managing community cat colonies. Using this method, cats are humanely trapped and spayed or neutered and vaccinated against rabies. The cats are then returned to the colony to live out their lives being cared for by volunteers who provide food, water and adequate shelter while monitoring the health of the cats. According to the ASPCA, this method has proven to be the least costly and most humane, efficient way of stabilizing community cat populations.

Unfortunately, TNR doesn’t work in every community. Sometimes the cats cannot be returned to the property where they were trapped. In New Jersey, the nonprofit NJ Strays works with local TNR programs to relocate community cats whose lives are in danger. The organization has also been asked to help relocate cat colonies in New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

Last year NJ Strays relocated 93 community cats to homes and businesses where they could live out their lives in peace. The relocation takes place between April and October before the weather turns cold. The organization already has a waiting list of 120 community cats in need of new homes for this year.

“Relocation is the absolute last resort—we push first to have the cats returned to the community where they were trapped or found,” said Adriana Bradley, founder and executive director of NJ Strays.

There are many reasons why community cats have to be relocated including:

  • Caregivers retire and relocate or pass away and there’s no one to care for the cat colony.
  • Colonies are too close to major highways or main roads and the lives of the cats are in danger.
  • New construction in areas where colonies are established require that the cats be removed.
  • In some neighborhoods, people poison community cats so they have to be relocated to a safe environment.
  • Animal control in some townships receive complaints about feral cat colonies. The goal of NJ Strays is to remove and relocate these cats before they enter the shelter system.

“In kill-shelters community cats are at high risk for euthanasia and in no-kill shelters, they are likely to sit in cages for years because they are not highly adoptable,” Bradley said.

According to the ASPCA, each year approximately 3.2 million cats enter animal shelters. Of those, 860,000 are euthanized. Community cats who end up in shelters make up a large percentage of cats euthanized throughout the country every year.

In addition to ferals, NJ Strays is willing to relocate friendly and semi-friendly community cats into safe outdoor living situations. This can be controversial, Bradley said. Even within her own organization, new volunteers will object because they believe that friendly and semi-friendly outdoor cats should only be adopted into families that will keep them indoors.

“At this point when we are killing so many cats we need to find solutions where we are giving them an opportunity to live,” Bradley said. “I’d rather know that I am placing 100 cats in good outdoor homes where they are loved and cared for than putting them in shelters where they are at high risk for euthanasia because nobody wants them.”

In addition, experts at Best Friends say that just because a community cat is affectionate toward a caregiver doesn’t mean that he or she will respond well to living indoors with unfamiliar people. Colony cats often form strong bonds with one another and being separated can cause them stress.

Bradley’s inspiration for placing friendly and semi-friendly cats into good outdoor homes came from her own outdoor cats Fresh and Mr. Sadie who live on her 9˝-acre property. Fresh, who is 16 years old, already lived on the property when Bradley moved there three years ago. The family adopted Mr. Sadie to keep him company. Despite the fact that there are as many as 30 dogs on the property at any given time—Bradley is a dog behaviorist—Mr. Sadie rules the roost.  Both cats prefer to live outdoors and enjoy greeting Bradley’s clients.

“During the cold season Fresh and Mr. Sadie spend the time inside their heated house,” Bradley said. “Their two-bedroom condo only cost $80 to build and just $19.99 for a heated water dish.”

Mr.SadieandFreshMr. Sadie and Fresh prefer to live outdoors on the property of Adriana Bradley, founder and executive director of NJ Strays.
Photo courtesy of Adriana Bradley 

What makes a good outdoor home for community cats?

NJ Strays has relocated community cats to a wide variety of homes including:

  • On farms where the cats help to control vermin and enjoy the shelter of hay barns.
  • A number of cats were placed in a storefront of a gardening center where they greet clients when they come in to shop. The employees are delighted to take care of the cats.
  • A courtyard in New York City that had problems with mice. The cats have access to a heated basement and laundry room and enjoy hanging out with residents in the courtyard during the day.
  • Several cats have been placed in business warehouses where they help keep the rodent problem in check and receive lots of attention from employees.
  • Homeowners who cannot have cats in the house because of unfriendly dogs or family members with allergies have adopted outdoor cats from NJ Strays.

catsinhaybarnHay barns provide adequate shelters for outdoor cats living on farms. 

The requirement for adopting community cats:

  • Farms, businesses or homes must not be too close to a main road
  • Cats have to be provided with adequate shelter
  • Cats have to be provided with food, water and medical care

Relocating cats is not an easy process and volunteers at NJ Strays took a year to study the process before launching the program. Now when an adopter is approved, the volunteers jump into action, trapping the cats and transporting them to the new location. The cats have to be kept in crates for two to five weeks to help them acclimate to their new location and caretakers. NJ Strays provides support to adopters throughout the process and volunteers return to the property when the cats are ready to be released.

“We have been very successful with relocation, and as we grow we would like to share our knowledge with other groups,” Bradley said. “If we want to save more cats we have to work together. One organization or one little group is not enough.”

NJ Strays focuses on reducing shelter intake to decrease euthanasia among animals at local shelters. The organization believes in and supports the No-Kill animal movement in New Jersey. Services are offered free of charge and NJ Strays welcomes donations and sponsorship of community cats.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

73 comments

Danii P
Danii Pabout a month ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Leo C
Leo Custerabout a month ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Roslyn M
Roslyn M1 months ago

This is a very sad situation, & a difficult one to solve.

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Janis K
Janis K1 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Isa J
Isa JOSSERAND HURE1 months ago

The same case in France....

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Renata B
Renata B1 months ago

My heart break when I think of stray cats (or any other animal): our towns, cities, the entire world has become terribly dangerous to any non-human inhabitant thanks to our species.

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Sarah Grayce P
Sarah Grayce P1 months ago

Thanks .. cute pix.

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Carole R
Carole R1 months ago

Relocation is better than death. We get lots of dogs and cats here in PA from the south and they find good homes.

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John B
John B1 months ago

Thanks Vera for sharing the important information.

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Rita Odessa
Rita Delfing1 months ago

The rescue I volunteered with also did this on a smaller scale, this group totally gets what needs to happen, please spay and neuter, cats will go into survival mode but they shouldn't have to. People who poison them need to dealt with they are the real monsters.

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