What You Should Know
Community (a.k.a. feral) cats should not be relocated outside their natural range (200 feet or 2/3 of a city block) and trapping and relocating a cat is considered abandonment. Please keep in mind that a cat that seems feral might still be someone's pet and, as such, is their personal property. There are no leash laws for cats, and cats are permitted to roam freely.
Willful abandonment of an animal is prohibited. (Penal Code section 597s)
It is illegal to intentionally kill an animal. (Penal Code section 597)
Poisoning of animals is specifically prohibited. (Penal Code section 596)
Cats in Your Neighborhood:
Community cats are cats that are unsocialized and avoid human contact because they have never had human contact or over time have lost contact with people. These cats may have been former house cats (pets) or may have been born to former house cats or other community cats. Feral cats can still have a caregiver—someone who is providing food and shelter—or they may seek food and shelter on their own and consider the neighborhood to be "home." Whatever their origin, most survive where there is food and shelter and do well in a variety of settings, from urban to rural.
Cats living in the neighborhood, whether friendly or feral, owned or not, are referred to as "community" cats. Because feral cats are unsocialized and therefore not adoptable, bringing feral cats to the shelter is not the best option, as they will most likely be euthanized.
Removing cats from an area is not a good long-term solution, as the void left by the cats removed will soon be filled by more cats—or other species, such as raccoons, opossums, or skunks (the "vacuum effect"). It is an ineffective use of taxpayer dollars to trap, hold, and then euthanize community cats. The most effective and humane way of dealing with community cats is leaving the cats where they are and having them spayed or neutered. It prevents unwanted kittens, therefore breaking the breeding cycle, allows the cats to live out their lives in their own territory, and over time actually results in a reduction of the cat population. Left in their natural habitat, cats are beneficial by providing natural rodent control.
Cats in Your Yard
Cats are highly adaptable and have coexisted with humans for thousands of years, avoiding people but living in close proximity to them. And while you might not mind the cats roaming the neighborhood, you might not like some of the things they do in your yard. Like any wild animal, most stray and community cats live where they find food and shelter. And just like dealing with wildlife, controlling food sources and shelter and using humane deterrents is effective in keeping stray or feral cats from being a nuisance. Something as simple as not feeding your pets outdoors may work, but you may have to experiment with a variety of solutions to find the combination that works best for your situation.
Start out by talking to your neighbors to determine whether the cats you are seeing are owned, stray, or community cats, if they are spayed or neutered, and if there are people in the neighborhood feeding them. Cats that are ear-tipped (missing the very tip of one ear) have been spayed or neutered. Often working with your neighbors can be more effective than trying to find solutions on your own.
If You See Kittens
If you find kittens who are alone, determine if the mother has actually abandoned them. She could be looking for food or just hiding nearby. The only way to determine this is to wait. Leave the kittens alone and observe from a distance or a hidden spot. Often the mother will return within a few hours. Be patient. Kittens that are being cared for will seem healthy and content. Removing kittens when there is a mother to care for them may actually decrease their chances of survival. Kittens that have to be bottle-fed are at a much higher risk of not surviving.
Tulare County Animal Services has healthy cats who would love to be put to work! These cats are unsuitable to be house pets but would flourish in a barn, horse stable, warehouse, garage, garden shed or other appropriate indoor/outdoor location.
All cats are spayed/neutered, microchipped, and vaccinated. You only need to provide daily food and water, protection from the elements, and long-term care. After a short period of secure confinement, the cats should be acclimated to their new surroundings.
In return for your care, barn cats will help keep rodents away from feed, grain, and food storage areas. Not only will you enjoy watching these cats work, you will be providing them a much-needed home. And, because these cats are already spayed or neutered, you won't have to worry about litters of kittens appearing!
Contact us at (559) 636-4050 if you are interested in adopting a barn cat for your property.