SPAY/USA's Official Policy on Feral Cats

To Whom it May Concern:

SPAY/USA'S official policy on feral cats is that it is important to have a humane policy in place so that these, like any other “companion animals,” have humane human protection. We are firmly against abandonment, and our policy should not be construed as supporting abandonment, ever, of housepets under any circumstances. Because ferals have no “legal” owner, they are a public issue which should be resolved with public help; dogs often are housed in shelters while new adopters are sought.

The same kind of public concern and assistance should be afforded cats. However, because many of these feral cats are wild and would not do well in a cage, it may be kinder to leave them where they are being fed if the area is safe for them, the food source reliable and shelter available.

It costs money to round up, house, feed, then adopt or euthanize pound animals. Some of this funding would be wisely used to reduce the numbers of feral cats through the support of safe, clean and efficient spay clinics that specialize in altering ferals. As these cats are sterilized, the problem behaviors that annoy citizens - nighttime howling, fighting, odorous spraying and marking, and of course endless “littering” -- stops. The cats calm down, stop spraying and marking and fighting - and reproducing. At the same time that the cats are altered, they are given rabies shots which help make them a barrier to the spread of rabies in the region. The public benefits, the animals feel better, children of the region are taught that humane solutions are better than destructive ones - it is a win-win-win situation.

  • Mass killings of feral cats are no solution at all.
  • In safe urban areas, feral cats can live; however, we feel that if the cats are in jeopardy in high traffic areas, areas of high crime and cruelty, or other situations likely to result in harm to them, it is kinder to remove them and to try to find other solutions. There are things worse than death - long-term suffering with no hope of end is one.
  • It is difficult to estimate how many ferals have a difficult life. Our job is to minimize that number by
    • minimizing offspring by altering every one we can catch,
    • placing cats that are sociable,
    • seeing to it that they have good food and water and shelter - and that we educate the public to respect them.
  • Unlike domestic or pet cats, ferals are wild, and unless “socialized” do not seek or want human companionship. If they do not want this companionship it is not cruel to deprive them of it as long as their needs are met and they are reasonably safe from harm
  • When these cats are spayed/neutered, they should be given a killed virus rabies vaccine both for their own good and for public benefit.
  • Outdoor cats help keep down populations of mice and rats which are a very real threat to human health (Hanta virus, bubonic plague and so on)
  • To indicate that a cat has been “done,” a 1/4” tip should be removed from the left ear of the cat if the cat will be put back in the colony. Cats to be homed will not need such a mark.

SPAY/USA's Official Policy on Feral Cats
Easy To Administer Feral Cat Program


TNR: Working with Feral Cats
TNR: Working with Feral Cats (Espanol)
Feral Cat Q & A For Veterinarians


Public/Private Strategies for Cat Population Control
The Neighborhood Cats TNR Kit

Articles Related to Other Feral Cat Issues:

Where Cats Belong - and Where They Don't