Community Cats

Community cats are free roaming feral, stray, abandoned or lost cats living outside with or without an owner. In most cases community cats should be left where they are. If you have found a cat outside and have questions on how you can help, use the drop-down menus below.

 Anti-Cruelty encourages and supports Trap-Neuter-Return, or TNR as BEST CARE. TNR is an alternative to shelter impoundment. The cats are humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and ear-tipped, then returned to their original location.  

This method avoids a stressful shelter stay and unnecessary euthanasia. Community cats can be monitored by colony caretakers and conserve shelter space and resources for animals that truly need our help.  

Why doesn’t Anti-Cruelty accept admission of healthy free-roaming cats?  

Free roaming cats can live normal healthy lives outdoors. They have natural instincts that help them thrive in the environment. Studies show that the median survival rate of colony cats is 6.8 years. 

Providing Best Care to a free roaming outdoor cat is challenging. When brought into the shelter their stress levels escalate and they have increased chance of illness and euthanasia. If they are healthy and happy in their environment, providing Best Care means leaving them there. 

What if the cat is sick or injured?

We are happy to admit any cat in need of medical assistance. To make an appointment or speak with an Animal Resource Specialist please call 312-645-8081.  

What if they are friendly?  

Approximately 20% of free roaming cats are considered pets. If you find a friendly free roaming cat it is probably someone’s pet cat. A cat has less than 2% chance of being reunited with their owner once they are brought to a shelter. More than 75% of free roaming cats return to their home on their own. If you want to help them find their way back home, snap a photo and post it on lost pet sites or social media neighborhood groups.  

Can cats survive outdoors?  

Studies say yes! The median survival span in cat colonies is 6.8 years.  

It is cold out, so I want to bring in the cat I found.  

Cats are excellent resource finders. They seek out shelter when needed, plus they can grow winter coats to help keep them warm. If you feel inclined to assist them in finding shelter, you can build or buy your own by searching for outdoor cat shelters on the web.  

What should I do if I have community cats in my backyard?  

TNR will help keep the colony managed and healthy, while also providing excellent rodent control. We provide traps for those who are willing and able to trap outdoor cats and bring them to our Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Clinic for surgery. 

Cats coming through our Clinic via the TNR program are spayed/neutered and vaccinated at NO CHARGE to the public. The cats are also ear tipped, when a small tip of the ear is removed during surgery so the cat can be readily identified as a TNR cat and therefore already spayed/neutered. They are returned to the trap and then released in the location where they were found. 

To learn more about renting one of our humane traps please contact Animal Resource Specialists at 312-645-8081. 

To learn more about the pick up and drop off procedures for TNR through our Spay/Neuter Clinic please visit our website

I don’t want these cats in my yard.  

TNR or Trap, Neuter, Return is the proven best method for decreasing a cat population in many studies. TNR involves spaying or neutering the cat to limit births of kittens, as well as vaccination to prevent disease. If cats are removed in an area, it frees up resources for more cats to move in – this is called the vacuum effect. If cats receive TNR, the population is stable and slowly decreases over time. Cats who receive TNR show improved health, including weight gain. In areas where TNR was done, less cats are found dead outside, shelter euthanasia decreases, shelter disease decreases, and there is an 84-90% reduction in complaint calls. We are happy to provide equipment and make a FREE TNR appointment for you. Call 312-645-8051. 

It is often difficult to tell just by looking at a cat if they are owned and roaming outside, lost, or feral. Cats that are roaming or lost are 13 times less likely to find their way home if taken to a shelter. 

If you believe the cat you have found is a lost pet, follow these helpful tips;  

  • If the cat looks healthy, please leave them where you found them. This is vital to them finding their way home.  
  • Snap a photo of the cat and post it on Lost Cats of Illinois, your neighborhood Facebook page, NextDoor, Craigslist,, PetBoost, or around the neighborhood to let the owner know where you found the cat.  
  • If the cat is sick or injured, please call 312-645-8081 to bring the cat in.  

Although it may seem like a shelter would be able to provide for them, the truth is mother knows best! Kittens have low survival rates until 4 months of age and neonates have poorer survival without their mom. It is best to leave kittens with their mom until 6 weeks. If you do not see a mother cat, wait at least four hours and monitor from a distance to see if she returns. She could be out looking for food or is in the process of moving her kittens. You can provide cat food and fresh water for mama but let her take care of her babies; she’s the true expert! 

The time of a kitten’s life during which they can be socialized to people is between 3 and 8 weeks of age. When the kittens are weaned, which occurs around 6 weeks of age, you can separate them from mama and bring them into a shelter to be vetted and placed for adoption. If a kitten is 3 months or older, the kitten has a very low chance of socializing to humans, and TNR is best.  

How to age a kitten: 

  • Newborns will have closed eyes and folded ears 
  • Kittens under the age of 6 weeks will be slightly wobbly when moving around and still nursing 
  • Weaned kittens will be coordinated, playful and more confidently exploring their environment 

Check out this resource for aging kittens - Newborn Kitten Progression & Cat Age Chart with Pictures | Alley Cat Allies 

Follow this handy pathway to learn the best ways to help outdoor cats in your neighborhood! I Found Kittens Outside, What Do I Do? | Orphaned Kittens | ASPCA 

Frontiers in Veterinary Science. Rethinking the Animal Shelter’s Role in Free Roaming Cat Management. Article PMC8964341. Dr. Kate Hurley and Dr. Julie Levy, March, 2022.  

MDPI. Frequency of Lost Dogs and Cats in the United States and the Methods used to Locate them. Article PMC4494319. Emily Weiss, Margaret Slater, Linda Lord, June 2012.  

National Library of Medicine. Body Condition of Feral Cats and the Effect of Neutering. PMID: 12578741. Karen C. Scott, Dr. Julie Levy, Shawn P Gorman, Susan M Newell. 2002.  

Europe PMC. Study of the Effect on Shelter Cat Intakes and euthanasia from a shelter neuter return project of 10,080 cats from March 2010 to June 2014. PMID: 25374785. Johnson K.L., Cicirelli J.