Community Cats (Free-roaming abandoned and feral cats)

Community Cats (Free-roaming abandoned and feral cats)


Position statement: 

Humane Canada™ encourages and supports evidence-based initiatives to address the issues associated with community cats—to reduce unowned cat numbers, improve the welfare of the cats themselves, and minimize any potential public health risks. Humane Canada™ believes that well-managed trap, neuter, and return (TNR) programs are an important strategy in the management of community cats. Managed cat colonies should not be located in wildlife refuges or breeding areas, or near habitats of threatened or endangered species. Humane Canada™ encourages continued research into the dynamics of cat populations and TNR programs.


Community cats include unowned neighbourhood and barn cats, strays which were previously owned but are now lost or abandoned, and feral cats. Feral cats are descended from domestic animals that have been forced to fend for themselves and are not sufficiently socialized to be handled by people. As such, their care is society’s responsibility.

Humane Canada™ recognizes that cats (particularly females) will live in groups (colonies) where resources are available. Thus, colonies may be comprised of both feral and more-or-less socialized cats. Given the poor quality of life that unsterilized (male and female) colony cats typically lead, as well as broader concerns about environmental impacts and potential public health risks, the goal of colony cat management programs should be to gradually eliminate cat colonies by sterilizing (spaying and neutering) a high proportion of the colony and "aging out" their members. In this scenario, colonies will be maintained in a healthy state and prevented from reproducing, leading to the eventual attrition of members.

Humane Canada™ supports a multi-faceted approach to dealing with community cats, including regular colony monitoring; trap, spay/neuter, vaccinate and release; removal of suitable cats and kittens for rehabilitation and adoption; permanent and visible identification of all cats; and, where appropriate, monitoring for disease and the euthanasia of sick animals whose health is deemed by a veterinarian to be unrecoverable or whose illness poses jeopardy to other cats.

Based on the advice of shelter medicine specialists, it is not recommended that TNR programs and shelters routinely test healthy cats for the retroviruses feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). In addition to low rates of disease, low likelihood of transmission between adult cats, and poor survival of the virus in the environment, the cost of testing is substantial. Moreover, the chance of a false positive result increases when testing a healthy cat. FeLV/FIV tests are more useful when used on cats with clinical signs consistent with FeLV or FIV, in which case the test results are more reliable. [For further explanation, please click here.

Humane Canada™ believes it is essential to address the underlying reasons for the existence of cat colonies. The incidence of abandoned and feral cats can be reduced through ongoing public awareness and education initiatives that emphasize, among other things, the importance of sterilization and the consequences of allowing cats to roam freely.

Community Cats (free-roaming abandoned and feral cats)
Community Cats (Free-roaming abandoned and feral cats)
Humane Canada (also known as the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies) is Canada's federation of SPCAs and humane societies, representing the largest animal welfare community in Canada.