Community Cat Help

Have cats in your neighborhood? Perhaps they've been having kittens under your porch, trailer, or shed, and you don't know what to do. Or maybe they're just climbing on your car or yowling outside your window. Here are some resources on the VHS community cat program and how we can help you.

What is a community cat program?

Community cat programs are designed to serve cats that will NOT be surrendered to a shelter. “Community Cat” is used to describe any free-roaming, outdoor cat. They reside primarily outdoors in people's neighborhoods, outside of businesses & restaurants, in wooded areas, apartment complexes, and so on. They are often referred to as “feral” cats even though some are not truly feral. Some community cats are not socialized with people, while others are friendly They do not have specific legal owners. Oftentimes they live in colonies of multiple cats, and many colonies have "caretakers" who provide food and water to them. That does not make them the owner of the cats. Community cats are protected under the City of Evansville Animal Control Ordinance.

What does the VHS do with these cats?

Shelters are overwhelmed with adoptable cats & kittens already. So if a cat is happy, healthy, and thriving in its current environment... even if it means they're outside... then they may not need to be taken to a shelter where they'll become stressed inside a cage and more susceptible to illness.

Therefore, if you have community cats in your neighborhood or at your workplace, our goal is to:

1) Snip 'em
We'll spay or neuter them so they do not continue to reproduce in the area.

2) Tip 'em
We'll tip their left ear, as shown, so they are recognizable from a distance as community cats. This is done under anesthesia during a routine spay/neuter and pain medication is provided, so once they wake up, the ear heals quickly and is not overly painful. Ear tips save stress for the cats and time & resources for people, because if an ear-tipped cat ends up in a humane trap, trappers will be able to immediately tell that they're fixed and can just re-release them!

Some examples of what ear-tipped cats look like:

Industry standard is to tip the left ear, not the right, and it should be a clean cut straight across. If you notice a cat with a crumply or injured-looking ear, that is not the same as an intentional ear tip.

3) Chip 'em
In some cases, we will microchip community cats so we know where their home colony is, should they accidentally end up in a shelter. In our industry, this is called Return to Field.

Can I trap cats and get them fixed myself?

Yes! Our Low-Cost Spay & Neuter Clinic has offered TNR services for many years. You can either use your own trap, or rent one from us. Learn more about this program here.

What if I don't want the cats on my property? They're bothering me!

Since community cats are protected from the city's leash law under the city Animal Control Ordinance, no agency will remove the cats simply because you don't want them there. Cats choose their territories for a variety of reasons. Usually it’s because of a food source or the shelter an area provides. Removing cats doesn’t address whatever drew the cats to the area in the first place, so new cats will move in or the remaining cats will breed again to capacity. It is a vacuum effect. We’ve seen communities that have spent lots of taxpayer money rounding up and euthanizing or relocating all the cats, only to have a new group move in a year or two later and continue producing more unwanted kittens. People also may not harm them, since animal cruelty is a level 6 felony.

If you are having problems with community cats being nuisances, the VHS can connect you with some resources to help with the specific problem you're having. Follow these steps:

1) First & foremost, cats who are spayed or neutered and have a reliable food source are much less likely to exhibit nuisance behaviors like yowling, spraying, and fighting. They are also less likely to roam further away in search of a mate, and will likely stay closer to their food source.

2) Be sure you are NOT feeding the cats on your own property. This will only encourage them to keep coming back for food. If they don't find a food source near you, they will likely move along pretty quickly!

3) If the cats are all fixed and you're not feeding them, and you are still having issues such as cats pottying in your flowerbeds or leaving pawprints on your car, then please contact us at (812) 426-2563 to inquire about deterrents.

So what if I find a stray cat? What do I do with it?

  • If it is ear-tipped and is not sick or injured:
    Leave it be! Give the cat a scratch behind the ears and send it on its way. It's probably just visiting you looking for food.

  • If it is ear-tipped and it IS sick or injured:
    Call 911 to dispatch an Animal Control officer.

  • If it's NOT ear-tipped:
    Get the cat scanned for a microchip. It could be someone's lost pet. This can be done for free at any animal shelter or veterinary clinic during business hours. If no microchip is found, contact the VHS at (812) 426-2563 to determine the best course of action.

  • If it is one or more very young kittens, contact the VHS at (812) 426-2563 to determine the best course of action. This could include bringing the kittens in to be socialized and adopted (depending on their age) or trying to find and trap their mother (if they are newborns.) A lot of factors come into play when dealing with young kittens and many situations are unique. We're here to help!