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What is a Community Cat?

“Community Cats” is a term used to describe outdoor, unowned, free-roaming cats. These cats could be friendly, feral, adults, kittens, healthy, sick, altered and/or unaltered. They may or may not have a caregiver. By this definition, the only outdoor free-roaming cats who are not community cats are those who have an owner.  

Community Cats Face Many Challenges:

  • They must endure weather extremes such as cold and snow, heat and rain.
  • Community cats face starvation, infection and attacks by other animals.
  • Unfortunately, almost half of the kittens born outdoors die from disease, exposure or parasites before their first year.
  • Community cats face eradication by humans. Poison, trapping, gassing and steel leg-hold traps are all ways that humans—including some animal control and government agencies—try to kill off community cat populations.

If a community cat survives kittenhood, his average lifespan is less than two years if living on his own. If a cat is lucky enough to be in a colony that has a caretaker, he may reach 10 years. Community cats who live in a managed colony—a colony with a dedicated caretaker who provides spay/neuter services, regular feedings and proper shelter—can live a quite content life.

How to Help Community Kittens:

  • It is important to trap community kittens and, whenever possible, foster and socialize them until they are old enough to be adopted out. Whenever possible, kittens should continue to nurse until four weeks old—this can be done in captivity.
  • Do not let community kittens run loose in your house—they can hide in tiny spaces and are exceptionally difficult to find and catch. Confine the kittens in a dog crate, cat condo or cage with a small litter box, food, water and something snuggly to cuddle in.
  • Food is the key to socializing. Give the kittens a small amount of wet food by hand at least twice a day—eventually the kittens will associate your presence with food. For those who are wilder, start by offering baby food or wet food on a spoon through the cage.
  • Younger and less wild kittens can be picked up right away. Make a kitty burrito by wrapping a kitten in a towel, allowing her head to stick out. Once the kittens no longer run away from you but instead come toward you seeking to be fed, held and petted, you can confine them to a small room.  
  • Be sure to expose the kitten to a variety of people.


While GRI strives to support robust adoption programs for cats, it is a fact that WAY TOO many cats who have no home remain at risk across the Northern Neck. Community cats exist because of generations of human action and inaction; therefore, humanely addressing the needs of these cats and implementing programs which help prevent their reproduction, are the responsibility of the communities in which they live.  GRI and many animal welfare organizations like ASPCA encourages cat advocates, animal shelters and rescues, local government officials and the public to work together, and believes that lawful TNR programs, are a humane and effective approach for managing and controlling community cat populations.



PO Box 257 •  Kilmarnock, VA 22482  •  (804) 480-2066 •  garfieldsrescue [ at ]