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two outdoor cats eating dry kibble from a food dish

Common Concerns About Community Cats

Community cats are free-roaming cats who may be friendly or may be unsocialized due to lack of human interaction. Since people reach out to us with concerns about these cats, we’ve compiled common questions along with our answers below.  Read on to learn about common concerns and how to address them.

Do the cats pose a health risk?

According to Stanford University and University of Florida studies, community cats pose little risk to human health or other cats.  Although they aren’t natural carriers for rabies, community cats are vaccinated against rabies as part of Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). Also, the British Medical Journal states that cats are not a risk factor for toxoplasmosis transmission to humans. Eating undercooked meat is the primary risk factor. And although ingesting cat feces could lead to toxoplasmosis, we don’t know anyone who would do this!

Are community cats dangerous?

Community cats may be wary of people, so they’re less likely to approach strangers or attack anyone unless cornered. For this reason, parents and caregivers should teach children not to approach or touch any unknown animal. To learn more about research relating to community cats and public health, please visit The National Feline Research Council.

The area where they eat is messy.

Keep the area clean by removing leftover food and trash. Also, use only plastic or stainless steel bowls that won’t tip or blow away. And never put food directly on the ground, because hard surfaces can damage cats’ teeth. The most common problem we see in outdoor cats is broken teeth due to eating off hard surfaces. This is not only extremely painful, but it also causes the cats to eventually become unable to eat. Feed cats in a sturdy bowl in a discrete location. If that isn’t possible, put the food only on soft ground, but never on concrete, pavement or other hard surfaces.


The area where they eat attracts insects, wildlife, and unwanted attention.

Although the smell of wet food attracts wildlife and insects, there are things you can do to prevent that.  First, only feed cats dry food since it doesn’t have a strong odor. Second, feed the cats only what they will eat within 1 hour  (¾ dry cup per cat). Third, pour out and refill the water bowl daily to prevent mosquitoes. 

To prevent unwanted attention, feed cats in a discreet location when no one else is around. Additionally, avoid attracting attention by calling “here kitty kitty!” Instead, help the cats keep a low profile. Remember that out of sight equals out of mind!

The Rubbermaid bins and shelters are ugly.

People complain that bins, shelters, and feeding stations are an eyesore.  It’s best to not use them in apartment complexes, at townhomes or at commercial sites. Only use these things at a single residence home.

There are too many cats around!

Spaying/neutering the cats using TNR will decrease the amount of cats around. TNR involves trapping the cats, spaying or neutering them, vaccinating them and returning them to the same location.  

TNR has several benefits.  Not only does it reduce the numbers of cats without hurting them, it also keeps new cats from moving into the neighborhood.  Neutered cats make better neighbors, because there is less yowling, fighting and “spraying” by tomcats.  Also, it prevents more litters of kittens.

Cats are sleeping under my crawlspace.

This is happening because the cats are seeking shelter. Prevent them from getting in by physically blocking or sealing their entrance using chicken wire or lattice. Make sure the cats aren’t already inside when you do this!

Cats are getting into my trash.

Provide a regular food source in a discrete location, so the cats have enough to eat. Also, cover trash cans with tight-fitting lids to avoid attracting wildlife, dogs and cats.

Cats are hanging out in my yard and digging in my garden.

You can make your property less appealing by using motion-activated water sprinklers such as The Scarecrow or a repellent such as Shake Away. 

Then, create a physical barrier.  Try using Cat Scat plastic mats, heavy plastic carpet runners (pointed side up), decorative rock ground cover or thorny branches. Or create barriers using lattice fencing or chicken wire placed on top of soil.  You can also use pine cones or plant stakes embedded into the soil every 8 inches. Alternatively, place pine straw and peat moss in another area to entice the cats away from the garden.

I smell cat pee.

Neutering cats is the best way to eliminate the smell and their desire to spray and mark. In the meantime, spray the area thoroughly with white vinegar to decrease the smell.

I hear the cats making lots of noise, and they are fighting and yowling.

This behavior is associated with mating, so TNR the entire colony.  As a result, the hormones will leave their system in 2 to 3 weeks, and the behaviors will stop.

Cats are walking on my car

Although this may be annoying, the cats are not harming or damaging your car. If the paw prints are really bothering you, use a car cover to protect the car from paw prints.

The cats might have fleas

When you have the cats spayed and neutered ask the clinic to treat them for fleas. Or, if the cats let you handle them, use a spot-on flea preventative for cats such as Advantage®.

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