Tens of thousands of stray and feral cats, collectively called community cats, live in the outdoor spaces of New York City. They live in groups called colonies, and they establish themselves near human activity — in backyards, around businesses, in parking lots, etc. — attracted by a food source such as trash or rodents. Community cats have no owners, though many people care for them by feeding and sometimes providing outdoor shelter.
Feral cats are not socialized to humans. They are timid and fearful around people and are not suited for adoption. Stray cats are lost or abandoned pets who may become feral or may be suitable for rescue and re-homing. Left unfixed, all of these community cats will breed prolifically. Because most of these cats are not suited to living indoors, bringing them to a shelter is not the humane answer. Taking them to a shelter also doesn’t solve the population problem — if cats are simply removed from an area, others will soon move in and breed. This is called the “Vacuum Effect.”
The most humane and effective approach to managing the growing population of community cats is Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). In TNR, entire colonies of community cats are trapped, sterilized, vaccinated, eartipped, and returned to their territory of origin. TNR halts reproduction and many of the nuisance behaviors associated with unneutered cats, such as yowling, fighting, and marking territory. The cats are healthier, free from the stresses of mating and motherhood. TNR also includes colony management to ensure the cats’ well-being and their peaceful coexistence with the rest of the community.
Community cat overpopulation in NYC is too big a job for any single agency to handle, so the NYC Feral Cat Initiative (NYCFCI) urges community cat caretakers to make sure their own colonies undergo TNR. If every neighborhood takes care of TNR then the population problem will be solved.
The NYCFCI provides free TNR certification training and support services to promote TNR and responsible colony management. Resources available to Certified TNR Caretakers include free spay/neuter, free trap loans, free transport of cats and traps, specialty training workshops, free community outreach materials, free cat food and straw, free TNR Caretaker Update newsletter, free networking opportunities, and a free dedicated NYCFCI help desk.
Anyone who cares about community cats can get involved in helping them. The NYCFCI offers free training workshops and networking opportunities to help you help the cats.