Feral Cats


If you have a feral cat related article you found helpful or interesting that isn’t list below and would like to suggest it, please email us at

Newly Published Bioeconomic Model Yields Strategies to Better Manage Free-roaming Cat Populations

Portland, Oregon (January 25, 2022): Animal lovers who care about both cats and wildlife are offered a solution in a new study published open-access in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.


Experts in population modeling, economics, wildlife conservation, and animal welfare collaborated on the bioeconomic research, which shows the projected cumulative costs, plus long-term decreases in free-roaming cat (FRC) populations, associated with different management interventions.


“The work helps answer crucial questions for the animal welfare community, policymakers, and conservationists,” says co-lead author Valerie Benka, Director of Programs for the Alliance for Contraception in Cats & Dogs, which facilitated the research. “It gives insight into what must be done to see lasting change in cat populations, as well as the related cumulative costs for organizations.”


The model simulations show that Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) can work extremely well, but the best outcomes and economic efficiency require that sterilizations be “frontloaded” and performed intensively early in the intervention. Authors defined that as quickly sterilizing 75% of intact cats, and continuing to sterilize that proportion of remaining (or new) intact cats over time—something that will yield a high percentage of sterilized cats in the community with many fewer sterilization surgeries needed in the maintenance phase. Gradual TNR interventions can be costly without yielding significant reductions in population numbers long-term. They also aren’t as effective at reducing numbers of “preventable” cat and kitten deaths relative to doing intensive work up front.


The model shows that removal of cats successfully reduces populations over time. Removal for adoption is highly effective, but very costly. For results to be significant and cost-effective, cats must undergo lethal removal at a scale not widely practiced because of the constant and intensive killing required, and the desire of communities for more humane alternatives. The model shows that the more sporadic removal typically seen in communities is both costly and minimally effective.


“One big take-away from this research is that TNR works—and works well!—but it must be done strategically and intensively at the start for positive long-term results,” explains Margaret Slater, Vice President of Research at the ASPCA®, and co-author of the study. “The results are a call to action for TNR advocates, animal welfare organizations, and grantmakers to reflect on how they implement and fund TNR.”


And no matter the intervention, abandonment and immigration of new cats can quickly undermine progress, speaking to the importance of identifying sources of new FRCs, supporting vulnerable owners and pets, and focusing on access to veterinary care in underserved populations.


“This paper comes at an important time and aligns well with research from the DC Cat Count,” explains wildlife biologist Dr. John Boone, who participated in both initiatives. “The DC Cat Count brings valuable new ways to calculate numbers of cats in communities. This modeling work shows us what to do to manage them.”


The complete article can be read at no cost here. For those seeking practical take-aways from the modeling without all the technical background, the study authors created this user-friendly guidance document. It covers key findings from our research, and the recommendations and guidelines that result. More information on the research can also be found on ACC&D’s website.


About the study collaborators: This study is the product of an unprecedented joint effort by experts in cat welfare, wildlife conservation and veterinary medicine. Contributors come from the Alliance for Contraception in Cats & Dogs (ACC&D); American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA); Conservation Planning Specialist Group (CPSG); Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University; Great Basin Bird Observatory; Hunter College Program in Animal Behavior and Conservation; United States Department of Agriculture – National Wildlife Research Center (USDANWRC); and University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine. ACC&D coordinated this study; the work was made possible by grants from the ASPCA, Merial (now Boehringer Ingelheim), and Kenneth A. Scott Charitable Trust.


ACC&D is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance non-surgical sterilants and contraceptives for cats and dogs and to promote their global accessibility. For more information visit

Foxtails – A Cute Name For a Dangerous Plant

Foxtails, named for their resemblance to, well, fox tails, are the name for a group of grasses that have a bushy tip that’s perfect for seed dispersal. Unfortunately, those seeds can disperse in the bodies of our furry friends, which puts dogs and outdoor cats at risk.

What you can do:

  • remove any foxtails from your yard
  • avoid areas where foxtails grow
  • check your pet after they’ve been outside

Signs to look for:

  • sneezing, runny nose
  • partially closed, reddened eye
  • pawing at ear
  • limping when walking, raised lump on paw
  • gagging, coughing, retching, repeated swallowing

If your pet exhibits any of these symptoms, contact your vet ASAP, because foxtails need to be surgically removed, and they can be fatal.


Four Hazards of Foxtails for Pets By Dr. Fiona Caldwell, a veterinarian and writer for Pets Best

Beware: It’s Foxtail Season in Colorado by Alta Vista Animal Hospital

Food, Water, and Shelter for Feral Cats

Food and Water:

Are you feeding community cats?

Cats need a quality food that is designed specifically for their needs. Most cats need approximately 1 cup of food per day. Dry food is preferred by most colony managers because it does not spoil as quickly. Wet food should be offered as well because it provides more moisture and nutrition, and is a good choice for older cats with dental issues. Cats living outdoors need extra calories to compensate for the energy they expend to survive in an outdoor environment.

Key Considerations for Feeding Stations:

  • Placement – Low profile, discreet, and out of sight from public view.
  • Protection – Keeping food sheltered and dry.
  • Dishes – Should blend in with the environment. Heavy plastic or metal are the best. Clean frequently to avoid bacteria.
  • Observe – Is all food eaten or are there leftovers? Do all the cats look healthy? Are there any newcomers?
  • Water – Always provide fresh, clean water!


Feed only enough food for cats to consume within an hour and try to feed during daylight hours. Excess food and night time feeding will attract more wildlife. It is not in the best interest of wild animals to become dependent on food provided by humans, and cat food does not provide the proper nutrients for other species.

Keep feeding areas free from excess food and debris. Poor colony management can draw concern from neighbors and city officials, jeopardizing the welfare of the cats.

Winter Water Challenges:

  • Water freezing – Click here to learn how to prevent water from freezing during the winter time.


Catios - A Cat Outdoor Enclosure

A catio (think cat + patio) is an excellent way for your furry feline to enjoy the outdoors and get in a little exercise without you having to worry about predators, protecting wildlife, or irritating your neighbors.


Cats who roam outside are unfortunately at risk. If you live on a busy street, you have to worry about traffic (and given some cats will roam up to two miles, traffic will be an issue no matter where you live!


There are also predators of the animal and human variety, and the risk of contracting a disease. Or, heaven forbid, your kitty might bring home some parasitic friends to share with you and your family. Yuck!

Thankfully, a catio is the perfect solution. Catios are outdoor enclosures, typically made of wood and mesh, that can be built in any size or shape to support your cats’ needs. Some people opt to have them built off their house, so their cat can easily access the catio from a window, while others opt for a free-standing option. In addition, you can build your own catio, work with a company to build a catio, or purchase a kit that you just have to assemble. The only limit is your imagination!


And what goes into a catio? Whatever your kitty needs for enrichment! You could put tree branches for scratching, or build a climbing area using tree stumps. A ladder could serve as a way for your cat to access the catio, and you could drape tarps over the top to keep out excess sunlight or rain/snow. It’s important to consider what goes into the catio so your cat is safe from the elements and protected from predators, but also stimulated by the sights, sounds, and smells of the outdoors.


No matter how you look at it, a catio is the perfect solution to allow your furry feline to experience the outdoors without any of the negative repercussions that a free-roaming cat would experience.


Links to Outdoor Shelters