Savannah's Paw Tracks

Autobiography of a Former Shelter Cat

When Community Cats Cannot Go Back


You may remember that Mom L does some volunteering with a RTF (return to field) program. She is doing it now with our county municipal animal services.

Tabby in Feral Den & then released—zooom!

When the county shelter cannot return a community cat (feral) to the location where it was trapped, this presents a dilemma for the cat. Everybody knows that we cats are territorial so moving cat who has only known one specific outdoor territory is a real challenge.

Now you ask “why can’t you simply RTF community cats once they have been trapped, brought to the shelter for spay/neuter, vaccinations, etc.?” Here’s the conundrum. When a member of our community traps one or more community cats and takes them to the county municipal shelter, they fill out a form. On that form they are asked “do you want the cat(s) returned?” and “if returned will you feed them?”  If the trapper says “NO” to both those questions, then what does the municipal shelter “do” with said community cat(s)?”

My county animal services has a Working Cats program which ought to be the answer, right? But, what happens when there are no barns, wineries, warehouses and such wanting working cats at the same time the community cats arrive at the shelter and cannot be returned? It’s a problem for lots and lots of public animal shelters across the USA. Many shelters euthanize community cats without even trying to return them or find them a working cat job.

Thankfully, my county shelter doesn’t do that. But then what can Mom L do when she talks with the community member who trapped the cats and he says “don’t bring them back!!”. Re-homing community cats is hard, but Mom L and a friend, Miss Lisa, took on the task.

First task at paw—find someone who is willing to take on three community cats as backyard cats. Miss Lisa knew someone who had a small colony about two miles (3.2 kilometers) from where these three cats were trapped and they agreed to add three more to their small backyard colony of seven cats.

Second task at paw—build an outdoor enclosure that will hold three cats with litter box, food and water dishes. The cats must remain enclosed at least two to four weeks. This helps them start to realize this location is where they will get their food.

Mom L and Miss Lisa had to zip tie two wire cages together to make enough room for three cats to live for two to four weeks. That took them about two hours! You can see the enclosure being assembled in the photos above.

Next they had to cover it to make it den like for the cats. We cats like to find dark places when we are scared. So Mom L places a small cat carrier inside the enclosure so one or more cats could get inside that. Next they placed lots of “pee pads” down and then soft blankets. Finally they covered the enclosure and weighted down the covering so the wind wouldn’t blow it away.

Cat enclosure for re-homing community cats

Third task at paw—introduce the cats to their new temporary home. Mom L transported them from the animal shelter in their feral dens.

Needless to say, the cats were very worried and scared. (photo taken through the Plexiglass)

What’s happening to me??

Each cat was transferred to their new enclosure and allowed a few moments to decide what to do and where to go.

Oh no! Another new place and I don’t recognize any smells!

We are hoping that these three cats will remain close as they all came from the same location. When they are released the new feeders will do all they can to keep them in the resident colony. But, re-locating community cats is extremely hard. The cats may flee when released and become lost and not find their way back to the yard where they will be fed regularly. Doing this is always a last resort. Mom L tried everything she could do to find another feeder in the area where these cats were originally trapped. But no one wanted them. There were no working cat placements and these cats had been at the shelter for over a month. They needed to have a placement and be allowed to live free.

Keep your paws crossed with hope that these three community cats (all definitely feral and untouchable) will accept their new location. And of course, we hope the resident cat colony members will allow them to join this colony.

Have you ever had experience trying to re-locate community cats? Please let me know in comments. We can always use new ideas.



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19 thoughts on “When Community Cats Cannot Go Back

  1. How wonderful that your mom was able to find a kind lady willin’ to take those three kitties into her backyard community. I have my paws crossed (all four of ’em!) that the kitties will adapt well and stay close to their new home. PURRS

  2. Whoa! I thought the biggest obstacle would be to get the new colony cats to accept these. If’n these guys know they’re getting fed, why would they want to leave?

  3. I have never tried to relocate community cats. It sounds incredibly stressful and fortunately I have never faced that situation. I took in a feral kitty who was unable to be returned because she was deaf and from a very high traffic area. But she was relocated to inside my house. LOL. Although she was young at the time, she never fully socialized. She lived with us for 17 years.

  4. I dearly hope the cats can integrate and be part of the clowder. No, none of us like to move – but with lives at stake there is an added element of worry.

    Good fortune go with you fur friends.

    Marjorie and Silver Kitten

  5. Memories of Eric and Flynn on said:

    Your mom and Miss Lisa are doing a wonderful job for the ferals. I hope this works and the three cats stay together in their new location.

  6. 15andmeowing on said:

    I will be praying that they all adjust.

  7. The Island Cats on said:

    We hope these community cats adjust to their new home. This definitely is not an easy thing to do.

  8. The Swiss Cats on said:

    We cross our paws and hope that these cats like their new place and decide to stay. Your mom does a pawsome job ! Purrs

  9. This is such an important process without which these guys wont have the chance of a life. Great job to Miss Lisa and you for undertaking this. Another fine report too, thank you.
    Toodle pips & purrs

  10. Savannah, your mom is doing such wonderful work. We are purring and praying for the kitties that she is so compassionately helping!

  11. chrisscatmeow on said:

    It’s great to have kind,caring people like your mom and Lisa. Doing their best to help these feral cats. I never really thought about it before I always assumed they would be returned too where they were trapped.

  12. S & S….de veree best two de three mousecatteerz…..we troo lee hope they adjust; ore better yet; sum one comez forwerd frum ther old stompin groundz ta help out ♥♥♥

  13. Mary McNeil on said:

    Oh Savvy – kudos to your Mom & Lisa and their whole organization for doing this for these kitties ! If only we could communicate well enough to reassure them why this is being done. Purrayers & POTP for all involved,

  14. Yes, that’s a tough one and we hope they learn quickly that they are home now.

  15. Carole Schulman on said:

    Savvy I am grateful for you mom! That about says it all. I am truly grateful. People have no idea how involved this is, including me.

  16. ATCAD on said:

    We are purring that it works.

  17. My paws are SO crossed that these kitties will decide to stay where they’ve been placed. I know it’s really hard to find community cats a new home and it makes me sad when people insist that they can’t come back.

  18. oh I hope the cats will like the new area… we all are creatures of habits and we don’t like to move… paws are crossed that all things work like eggs-pected….

  19. smseattle on said:

    Savannah, thank you so much for this post. I’ve tried to learn about community cats and this post really made me think. Bless Mom and Miss Lisa for helping!

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