Community Cats - Michigan Humane Society

Community Cats

Community Cats

The Michigan Humane Society is committed to embracing new and effective initiatives to save more animal lives. Exciting new research indicates that, oftentimes, it is appropriate and humane to leave outdoor cats alone. Typically, cats who call the great outdoors “home” suffer significant stress and illness when forced to live in a shelter environment. These cats are often unhappy as housecats, as well. Not sure what to do if you have found a cat living outdoors?

The MHS Community Cats initiative is designed to improve the lives of unowned, healthy, free-roaming cats in our community and reduce the unnecessary euthanasia of healthy cats that are not suitable for adoption. Please note that the healthy and friendly/socialized cats in our care are always placed in traditional loving homes.

What is a community cat?

Community cats are unowned cats that live outdoors in the community. They have established their home or “niche” within the community, rather than in a traditional home setting.

What happens to community cats at MHS?

Cats that would not be appropriate or happy as house pets are sterilized, ear-tipped, vaccinated, and released in the same outdoor location where they were found.

MHS will only release cats that meet all three of these criteria: 1. Unowned/free-roaming with no identification and adapted to their outdoor environment; 2. Healthy and 3. Behaviorally or temperamentally unsuitable to live in a traditional indoor home because they are afraid of people, highly destructive and unhappy indoors, or otherwise unsuitable for indoor living. 

Why return healthy, unowned (sterilized) cats to the community?

Euthanizing healthy unowned cats whose habitat is outdoors is not the most humane way to help these cats, nor is it the best way to help their human neighbors. Removing these cats from the community often creates a “vacuum” effect whereby the remaining unsterilized cats may reproduce more quickly, causing the number of cats to grow. However, when you return cats that have been sterilized, they are unable to reproduce, effectively decreasing the free-roaming cat population over time. Sterilization also reduces or eliminates the nuisance behaviors associated with intact cats such as howling, fighting and spraying.

Will community cats suffer if we return them?

Under this initiative, only unowned cats that are thriving (in addition to the other above criteria that must be met) are returned to their environment. If the cat is healthy, we know it has found a source of food and shelter in the community, just as wild animals have.

What about our cold winters?

While it’s hard to imagine living outdoors during our winters, we know cats have adapted and manage to survive year-round. Similar programs have been successfully implemented in all types of climates across the U.S. and Canada.  

Don’t outdoor cats kill birds and wildlife?

Although community cats often hunt to survive, this program will reduce the impact on birds and wildlife by gradually decreasing the cat population over time.

What should I do if I find a cat with a tipped ear?

A tipped ear indicates that the cat has already been sterilized and vaccinated, so you can simply leave that cat alone. Healthy ear-tipped cats that are surrendered will be returned to the community.

What should I do if I see a cat living outdoors?  

While it may be well-intentioned, bringing a healthy outdoor cat to a shelter is not always the best option. MHS recommends that you do your best to locate the cat’s potential owner before you consider bringing the cat to a shelter. Please also carefully consider the following:

• Does the cat approach you (a possible friendly housecat) or run and hide from you (a possible feral or neighborhood cat)? Friendly housecats may be on their way home. Feral or neighborhood cats are typically happy in their current environment.

• Does the cat have a collar? If the cat has a collar and ID tag, consider taking her to the local animal control or shelter to have her ID tag traced or to have her scanned for a microchip.

• Does the cat appear healthy? Cats that look healthy are most likely doing just fine in their current living situation and can be safely left alone. Those that appear sick or injured can be taken to the appropriate animal control (for the city in which the cat was found) for assistance.

Still not sure what to do when you’ve found an outdoor cat or kittens? Call MHS for advice at 1-866-MHUMANE (866-648-6263). Knowing your best option could help save an animal’s life.

Does the Michigan Humane Society have a Trap-Neuter-Return program?

Yes, MHS currently operates a low-cost Trap-Neuter-Return program to assist feral cat caregivers. Please click here for more information and how you can get involved in the program.

What if I have more questions?

Call the Michigan Humane Society at 1-866-MHUMANE (866-648-6263).

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