Ventura County has a large population of owned and unowned cats who live partially or completely outdoors. These cats range in temperament from domestic house cats, to feral, or wild cats. Ventura County Animal Services has implemented a number of programs and efforts to help manage the population of these types of cats and find appropriate placements for them. Before we outline these programs, please familiarize yourself with the variety of cats in our community.
Domestic cats (also known as house cats) are cats who can be handled and who likely have someone caring for them. These cats are typically found in homes, but some have outdoor access. Domestic cats often seek human contact and are readily available for pet adoption.
Community cats are cats who can be described as outdoor, unowned or free-roaming. These cats can be friendly or feral, adult or kitten, healthy or sick, altered or unaltered. Community cats may or may not have a caregiver.
Feral cats (also known as wild cats) have very little to no human contact. They tend to be fearful of people and survive outdoors alone or in packs. Feral cats are not likely to become domestic cats unless they are young enough to be domesticated by humans.
Feral kittens are similar to feral cats. The main difference is that some of these kittens can be made to accept human touch over time and even seek affection. If successfully domesticated, these cats can be adopted out to the general public. Once kittens are over a certain age, they generally cannot be domesticated.
Years ago, the common method of controlling the overpopulation of community cats was humane euthanasia, or sometimes called the “catch and kill” method. This method of population control was not only unsuccessful in managing the population, but it was contrary to our life-saving mission. The only proven method of reducing the overall population of community cats has been the implementation of a TNR (or Trap, Neuter, Return) program in conjunction with other positive live outcome solutions.
Being trapped, then undergoing surgery can be very stressful for feral/community cats. This video tutorial explains how to humanely trap a community cat in order to minimize the amount of stress they experience. Trappers must schedule a TNR Surgical Appointment before the cats are trapped. Each cat must have their own separate appointment. Those who miss their appointment will need to reschedule on their own. Cats must arrive in a humane trap, as carriers or other enclosures will not be accepted. TNR cats will not be staying at the shelter overnight, thus drop-off and pick-up times occur on the same day. For assistance in scheduling, please call (805) 388-4275.
Step 1: Safety First
Never attempt to handle a feral cat, and keep them away from children and other pets. If you or anyone are bitten, seek immediate medical attention and quarantine the cat.
Step 2: Trapping
Each cat must arrive at VCAS in a metal humane live trap and covered with a towel to keep them calm. Cardboard or plastic pet carriers are not permitted. One cat per trap, please.
Step 3: Holding the Cat Overnight
Choose a place where the cat will be safe overnight while in their trap. This should be a warm, dry, well-ventilated area.
- Keep the cat calm and covered with a towel.
- Water should be made available at all times. Use a bowl that cannot be tipped easily.
- Kittens younger than 4 months may be fed one (1) teaspoon of wet food at 6:00am on the morning of surgery while cats older than 4 months must fast for four (4) hours before surgery.
- Monitor the cats throughout the night and in the morning.
Step 4: Surgery Day
- Transport safely. Never transport cats in an open truck bed or in a closed, unventilated car trunk.
- Check in at the front office. Be prepared to provide your full name, address, phone number, and the location where the cat was trapped.
- Owned animals are not permitted and will be rejected for surgery.
- Be available during the day to answer phone calls in the event of an emergency.
- Please note there is always a risk involved when an animal undergoes anesthesia. Caretakers are required to sign a release which hold Ventura County Animal Services, its staff, and its facilities harmless should a cat experience complications or death due to surgery. Any cat deemed to have a serious, untreatable medical condition that would make it inhumane to release back to their colony, may be humanely euthanized at the discretion of the veterinarian on duty.
- Return to the shelter for pick-up, and check in with the front office staff.
- A staff member will inform you of any special instructions before you leave the facility with the cat. VCAS will not be responsible for complications arising from the use of medications obtained elsewhere.
- Keep cats safe and warm while recovering at home. Cats should be housed in a comfortable, temperature-regulated environment. Anesthesia lowers a cat’s body temperature. Make sure cats are not too hot or too cold. Elevate traps with wood blocks and place newspaper on the ground underneath to catch falling waste.
- Monitor cats after surgery. Check on them throughout the night and before release. Check the surgical site, if safe, and watch for steady breathing. In the rare occurrence of an adverse reaction, please call (805) 388-4341.
- Food and water. Wait until cats are fully awake before offering food or water. Open the trap door just enough to slide in a tuna-sized can of food as well as a water dish. Wet food is preferable.
- Sutures are absorbable and do not need to be removal.
- Lethargy and unsteadiness are normal during recovery.
- The following are not normal behaviors: Vomiting, continued bleeding/discharge from the surgery site, and shivering the next morning. If any abnormal symptoms occur the morning after surgery, do not release the cat. Call (805) 388-4341, immediately.
- Releasing cats the morning after surgery. Keeping cats longer than one night can result in unnecessary stress. Lactating females should be released the night of surgery so they can return and nurse their kittens as soon as possible. A staff member will inform you if your cat is lactating. Always release cats in the area where they were trapped. To release the cat, point the front of the trap away from you so it opens to an area as free of obstructions as possible (i.e. not facing a busy street.)
Thank you for helping to reduce the overpopulation of feral and stray cats in your community!