Ventura County has a large population of owned and unowned cats who live partially or completely outdoors. These cats can loosely be described as “Community Cats.” These cats range in temperament from domestic house cats, to feral (or wild) cats. Over the years, Ventura County Animal Services has implemented a number of programs and forged beneficial partnerships in an effort to find appropriate placements for these cats. Before exploring these programs, please note that cats do not always fit perfectly into one category. Cats may move between phases of temperaments throughout the course of their lives. It our responsibility as a community to know what is the best pathway forward for each type of cat. We’ll begin with the typical house-cat and end with feral (or wild) cats, all while providing expert advice and guidance regarding the appropriate handling of these cats:
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. If you notice an outdoor cat who appears sick, injured, thin, or unkempt, please call us and bring the cat in so we can help them. If you see outdoor cats who appear healthy and in good condition, they should remain in the area where they were thriving as they are likely being cared for by someone nearby. Most outdoor cats are owned by someone nearby and usually make their way home before nightfall. If you bring a domestic cat to an animal shelter, on average, they have only a 5% chance of being reunited. Why is this number so low? Owners of outdoor-access cats often don’t get alarmed as quickly as they would a missing dog. Cat owner may only begin looking for their cat on day four or five, by which they could have already been adopted out if they were brought to a shelter. Cats (and all other animals) brought to VCAS are typically held for five (5) days to allow their families time to reclaim them. This is why is it so important to allow healthy/happy cats to remain in the area.
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. If you see a community cat, do not immediately bring them to the shelter. 66% of cats who are reported as “missing” actually return home, on their own, if left undisturbed. If you see a community cat, observe them. If they appear sick, injured, thin, or unkempt, please bring them to VCAS for care if they cat be handled and placed into a carrier. If they cannot be handled, please see Feral cats below.
Feral cats (also known as wild cats) have had 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 unless they are young enough to be domesticated by humans. Feral cats who appear sick, injured, thin, or unkempt, should be humanely trapped and brought to VCAS for care. Please do not attempt to trap cats (feral or otherwise) without learning the process. Doing so without this knowledge could place undo harm and stress upon cats. Please email the Community Cats Coalition servicing Ventura County at email@example.com if you are interested in humane trapping.
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 have reached a certain age, however, they generally cannot be domesticated. If you found kittens, please follow this guide to know when it is appropriate to move or remove kittens from their mom.
Overpopulation and TNR
There is an overpopulation of community cats in our county. We see and hear them regularly in our neighborhoods. Some of these cats may be domestic and owned by someone nearby, while others are feral and live entirely on their own.
Community cats play an important role in our community, such as rodent protection. Their population, however, has become unmanageable. Years ago, the common method of controlling the overpopulation of community cats was humane euthanasia. Aside from this method being contrary to our life-saving mission, it was highly unsuccessful in managing the population. Why? Removing community cats from an area creates a sort of vacuum which then allow cats from further away to come in and fill the space. This is the reason why years of euthanizing these cats has not helped to control the population.
The only proven method of reducing the overall population of community cats has been the implementation of a county-wide TNR effort in conjunction with other positive live outcome solutions. TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) solves this vacuum problem by returning cats to where they were found after they have been spayed or neutered. A spayed or neutered cat has the added benefit of keeping unaltered cats from entering their domain.
With your help, we will continue to bring down the population of community cats in Ventura County. To learn more about how you can help, please explore the CAT PROGRAMS AND RESOURCES section above.