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Community Cats

Sometimes when we see a cat in the community, we might think they need our help. Here are some tips on what you should – and shouldn’t – do when coming across a community cat.

What is a community cat?

Community cats are the felines we see in our community. These cats come from a variety of backgrounds. Some community cats are feral. Some community cats were previously owned and abandoned. Other community cats are owned but are outside near their home.

Community cats go by many names: neighbourhood cats, stray cats, roaming cats and more. Essentially, every cat that you encounter while outside is a community cat.

How can I help community cats?

When you see a cat in the community, the first question you must ask is: Is the cat healthy? If the cat looks healthy and uninjured the best thing you can do is leave them alone. It is best to leave the cat alone because:

  • If the cat is abandoned but looks healthy, they are likely being cared for. Removing them from the area and bringing the cat to a shelter removes them from a familiar food and water source;
  • If feral, bringing the unsocialized cat to an animal shelter can lead to euthanizing;
  • If lost, a cat has a much better chance of finding its way home when in its community and not removed. Less than 1% of cats brought to an animal shelter in Canada are returned home, according a 2011 report from the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies.
  • Bringing a healthy cat to an animal shelter uses shelter resources that can be better used for animals in need of immediate, life-saving attention and care.

The cat I see doesn’t look injured and/or unhealthy. What should I do?

If the cat looks healthy and uninjured, the best thing to do is leave the cat alone. If the cat is in need of medical assistance, call the WHS Intake Department at 204-982-2025.

I don’t like when the community cats come into my yard. What can I do to deter them?

It’s important to remember that removing a cat from your area will not reduce the number of cats. If there is a nearby food or water source, more cats will move into the area.

However, there are plenty of humane ways to deter community cats from entering your yard. Community cats are likely using your space because its providing a source of food or shelter. Removing food sources and blocking access to hiding places can deter a community cat. You can also:

  • Use a variety of cat deterrent products like Scarecrow, Catstop, StayAway, and ShakeAway.
  • Sprinkling cayenne pepper, coffee grounds, pipe tobacco, lemongrass oil, lavender oil, citronella oil, eucalyptus oil, and mustard oil on the ground have been known to deter cats.
  • If cats are spraying on your property, it is critical to use a non-toxic odour eliminator.
  • If the cat is digging in your garden you can lay chicken wire on the ground for prevention.

For more information, visit our Yelp Line page: Discouraging Roaming Cats.

I don’t mind having community cats in my yard. What can I do to help them?

The WHS offers a Trap, Neuter, Return program for cats in non-residential areas. It is designed to improve the lives of community cats and reduce their numbers. Cats in non-residential areas are trapped by people like you, brought to a veterinarian for a spay/neuter surgery, vaccinated, and then released back into their community.  Check your municipality bylaws regarding the legalities of harbouring feral cats.

In Manitoba we experience extreme weather – both hot and cold. Here’s tips for caring for community cats in cold weather and hot weather.

Thank you to UC Davis Veterinary Medicine and Koret Shelter Medicine Program for the resources and information on community cats.