Community Cat Frequently Asked Questions


What is a Community or Feral cat?

Community cats are unowned cats who live outdoors where there are available resources like food and shelter. Community cats, also called feral cats, are generally not socialized or friendly to people. They live full, healthy lives with their feline families (called colonies) in their outdoor homes.  They are used to living outdoors and are naturally skilled at finding shelter and food all on their own.   While some community cats tolerate a bit of human contact, most are too fearful and wild to be handled. 

The 3 most common complaints about Community Cats are:

  • There are to many
  • The smell
  • The destruction

TNR "fixes" all of these problems.


What is TNR?


Trap–Neuter–Return or "TNR," is the most humane and effective method known for managing feral and stray cats and reducing their numbers. The cats, who typically live together in a group called a colony, are trapped and brought to a veterinary or spay/neuter clinic. They're then spayed or neutered, vaccinated and ear tipped. After they've recovered from their surgeries, the cats are returned back to their original territory where a caretaker provides regular food and shelter.

Because the cats can no longer reproduce, the colony has the potential to decline in size over time. Spaying and neutering also greatly reduce nuisance behavior. Once the cats are fixed, fighting, yowling and other noise associated with mating stops almost entirely. The foul odor caused by unaltered males spraying to mark territory disappears and the cats, no longer driven to mate, roam much less and become less visible. The cats themselves are healthier and less likely to spread feline diseases. Meanwhile, rodent control is maintained by the cats' continued presence. 


What is a colony caregiver?

 A feral cat caregiver provides food, water, shelter, monitors for newcomers to the colony and monitors the health of the cats. The caregiver humanely traps the cats in a feral cat colony and gets them spayed or neutered and ear tipped for identification. 


What is ear tipping?

Ear tipping is a surgical procedure that an outdoor cat undergoes when it is spayed or neutered  It's a quick cut that removes the tip of the left ear.  Ear tipping is the universal sign to let people know that the cat has already been spayed or neutered.  It prevents a cat from being trapped a second time, and put under anesthesia unnecessarily. 

Ear Tipping is highly recommended for outdoor cats.


How can the community benefit from free roaming cats?

Cats are natural born hunters. Free-roaming cats find many of their meals in rodents that are living around your community. Having feral cats controlling the rodent population can prevent rodents from making their way into homes and businesses.

Since cats are territorial, an established, stable, sterilized, colony of feral cats will deter other stray and feral cats from moving into the area. This decreases the risk of encounters of an unaltered cat, and will virtually eliminate problem behaviors like fighting, spraying, and yowling.

TNR is cost effective. When you can control your colony with altered cats, your cats will not invite new cats up to 3 miles away to want to move in and cause new expenses to alter, feed or provide vet care for because your cats are not spraying to attract strays.

Often cat caretakers are elderly men and women, a population at risk for depression, loneliness, and isolation. Cats relieve these conditions and often bring a sense of happiness, compassion, and purpose to people who care for them. Just as companion animals have been shown to extend life expediencies and relieve stress, caring for feral cats can improve the health and happiness of the caretaker. 


What is a stable cat colony?

 Feral cats often live in colonies.

  • A colony is a group of feral cats that live together in one territory, often near food sources and shelter. 
  • When a human decides to care for a feral colony, it is often called a managed colony. 
  • When ALL the cats in the colony are spayed or neutered it is called a stable cat colony. 

A stable cat colony is usually territorial and will prevent other cats from taking up residence and using their resources. 

When someone removes an established cat colony, other cats will soon take advantage of the unguarded resources and the new colony will quickly begin to make babies. This is known as the vacuum effect. 


What if I remove all the cats from their territory?

 The Vacuum Effect will happen.... 

Well documented among biologists, the vacuum effect describes what happens when even a portion of an animal population is permanently removed from its home range. Sooner or later, the empty habitat attracts other members of the species from neighboring areas, who move in to take advantage of the same resources that attracted the first group (like shelter and food). Killing or removing the original population does nothing to eliminate these resources; it only creates a “vacuum” that will inevitably draw in other animals living nearby. 

Trap-Neuter-Return stabilizes feral cat populations. The cats are humanely trapped, vaccinated, and neutered, so no more kittens will be born. They are then returned to their original location to live out their lives in their outdoor home. Not only is Trap-Neuter-Return the humane option for feral cats, it also improves cats’ lives by relieving them of the stresses of mating and pregnancy. In the end, unlike catch and kill, TNR works. 


Why is a feeding schedule so important?


An evening feeding schedule is the key to the success of any TNR program. Feeding around 5PM or any afternoon before dusk will work best. It allows the caregiver to monitor and manage the colonies needs. Cats are very smart and resourceful. They will learn your schedule and they will be waiting for you to feed them. Feeding before dusk also prevents attracting bugs, pests and wildlife such as skunks and pesky raccoons. Feed your colony from a bowl so any left over food can be easily cleaned up. Leaving out food will cause your cats to not show up at your designated feeding time. 



Feeding in the evening gives a caregiver an added advantage. A cat must have an empty belly before surgery. Trapping the night before the spay/neuter surgery allows the caregiver to control food and water intake ensuring the cat is safe to under go anesthesia. 


How do I start trapping?

5-7 days before your spay/neuter appointment wire a trap open. Use stinky bait like can food, tuna in oil or even cat nip to lure the cat into the trap. Place the food in the opening of the trap. Each evening move the bait closer to the back of the trap to train the cat to go into the trap to eat. On the evening before the spay/neuter appointment set the trap so it will trip when the cat goes in. Remember to not put to much food in

the trap so the cat will have an empty stomach before the surgery. Use newspaper or cardboard in the bottom of the trap for paw comfort.


I feed 12 cats but I only need to trap one of them.... How do I catch specific cat?

If you are trying to trap a specific cat you can try the water bottle trick. Tie a string around a water bottle, a stick or any other item that will prop the trap door open. If you are feeding on a schedule the cat will appear when you are  ready to trap. When the cat you are targeting goes all the  way into the trap, pull the string and you will catch the cat. If 2 cats go in and one of them is the one you are targeting, still pull the string. Don't miss an opportunity to trap your target.


How can I keep the cats from feeling stressed?

 Use a sheet or blanket to cover the trap. The cover helps the cat feel hidden and it is less stressful.

Leave the cat in a covered trap. Do not try to pet the cat. Feral cats bite and scratch to defend themselves.  


Do I need to make a spay/neuter appointment?

You will need an appointment before you set the trap to make sure the clinic has the availability to fix the cat.

Drop the cat off at the clinic at 8am on your appointment date using the Louisville Rd entrance. When the cat has recovered, a volunteer will return the cat to the address you have given. 


What should I use in the trap for bait?


  • Catnip (smear fresh catnip on trap plate)
  • Try other types of bait, such as tuna in oil, mackerel, canned cat food, sardines, anchovies, or cooked chicken.
    Catnip (smear fresh catnip on trap plate)
  • ALL CATS LOVE A LASER POINTER! You may be able to guide some cats into a trap with a laser pointer. You can use a pointer from quite a distance away, too. Use the laser to emulate the movement of an insect, to draw the cat’s attention inside the trap.
  • Hang a piece of cooked chicken from a string above the trigger plate. The cat will likely need to step on the trigger to reach the chicken. Tie the chicken in the far right corner of the trap so that the cat must “reach” to get the chicken.


Can I just call the shelter to come trap all the cats?

Unfortunately we do not have the man power to feed on a schedule or monitor traps for all the feral cats in Bowling Green/Warren County.  Feral cats do not trust humans, but they do have tolerance for the ones that provide them a resource.  

HOWEVER, We will help you figure it out. Anyone that is feeding can be promoted to a colony caregiver.  We are happy to lend support whenever you need it because we know that we can NOT accomplish the goal to spay/neuter these cats without you on our team.


Do I need to give more food and water in the winter?

Keep in mind, Cats need to eat more in the winter.   

The extra food helps them maintain their body heat.


Feeding your cats on a year round schedule (preferably early evening before dusk), will keep them healthy and strong. Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re feeding the kitties:

  • Adult cats will eat about a half a cup of dry food everyday.
  • If the cats eat all the food in 15 minutes or less, they may need more. If there’s always food left after 30 minutes, you might be giving them too much.
  • Cats love canned wet food, but dry food is just as nutritious and helps prevent tooth decay.
  • Don’t leave uneaten food out for more than 30 minutes—it attracts bugs, pests and wildlife.
  • Keep the feeding area clean and in one maintained location—it’s better for the cats’ health and the community will appreciate you.
  • Don’t worry if some cats eat before others. Felines with seniority in the cat community may eat before others who are lower on the social scale. You shouldn’t try to manage this interaction. It’s a cat thing.


Cats need fresh water every day, in all weather conditions. 

During the winter, there are tons of ways to keep water from freezing, like using heated water bowls and shielding the bowls from wind.

In the summertime, water is extremely important, so make sure the cats have ample sources.


How do I keep them warm in the winter?

We have found that an old insulated cooler with a 6 inch hole cut for an opening makes the best winter home for a cat.

we recommend spray painting them to match their surroundings so they are less noticeable to someone or something that may not like the cats being there. 


What can I use to insulate my cats winter house?


  • Hay holds water, will mold and does not insulate. 
  • Blankets freeze when they get wet from the weather giving the animal a bed of ice to sleep on. 
  • Carpet freezes when it gets wet from the weather giving the animal a bed of ice to sleep on. 
  • Straw repels moisture, making it ideal for keeping cats and other animals warm and comfy all winter long. Straw resists the wet and keeps a shelter warm, and is the best choice for insulation and bedding.

Check the bedding in the winter house often (more in wet weather). Refresh straw as needed. Place a rubber mat or plastic bag under the straw which can be removed and washed/disinfected when you change the bedding.


What do I do if I catch a skunk?


Most wildlife, such as possums, skunks, and raccoons only come out at night. If these animals are interfering with your trapping efforts, change your feeding schedule to earlier in the day. 

If you accidentally catch a skunk, hold a sheet in front of you, down to your toes, as you slowly walk towards the trap. Skunks have poor eyesight. Move forward slowly, pausing after a few steps. If the skunk is nervous, she will warn you by stomping her front feet, so pay attention! If this happens, remain very still, giving the skunk 15 seconds or so to calm down. Drop the sheet over the cage. Skunks don't like to spray if they can't see their target. 


What do I do if I catch an injured wildlife?

If you trap a wild animal in or around Bowling Green that seems injured or for some reason you don't feel comfortable releasing it, call Lori Dawson with Wild-4-Life 270-991-1289 


Does the Shelter lend out traps?

Our shelter has a limited supply of traps to lend out. You can barrow one for 7 days for a refundable $50 cash deposit.

Traps are also available for purchase at TSC and Harbor Freight in Bowling Green,i n the case you would like to purchase and have your own traps. If you need help, we can also put you in touch with experienced trappers that are happy to give you advice if needed.


How do I keep the cats from peeing in my neighbors mulch?

If the cats in your colony are bothering your neighbors you can place deterrents on their property for about 2 weeks.  Cats will quickly learn to stay away from that area so your neighbors will be happier. It is best for the cats and this program that everyone involved is happy and that the cats are performing as assets to our community.