Community Cats

Community cats, also known as free-roaming or unowned cats, are a unique and often misunderstood population. Unlike indoor pet cats, they live their lives outdoors and are not reliant on a single owner for care. Instead, they often rely on the community for food, whether it's through dedicated caretakers who provide regular meals or through scavenging for food in their environment.

Community cats are typically not socialized to humans. This means they are not accustomed to human interaction and may be fearful or wary of people. As a result, they are not usually suitable for adoption through traditional shelter programs, as they may not adjust well to indoor living or human companionship.

Despite these challenges, community cats can live fulfilling lives outdoors. With the help of compassionate caretakers who provide food, water, and shelter, these cats can thrive in their outdoor environments. Many communities have implemented Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs to help manage community cat populations in a humane and effective way. TNR involves trapping community cats, spaying or neutering them to prevent further breeding, and then returning them to their original locations.

By supporting community cats through TNR and other humane initiatives, communities can help ensure that these cats live healthy, happy lives while also managing their populations in a responsible manner.

View our Community Cat Policy and our Kitten Policy .

What Is A Community Cat Colony?

A colony comprises community cats residing in a specific area. A managed colony is overseen by a caretaker who ensures their welfare, including TNR procedures, health monitoring, and provision of food, water, and shelter. Caretakers play a crucial role in controlling community cat populations. Unmanaged colonies rely on scavenging and often lack TNR intervention. The objective is to sterilize all colonies through TNR programs.

What Is TNR?

TNR stands for Trap, Neuter and Return. TNR is the only humane and effective approach for managing community cat populations. TNR stabilizes the population, addresses problem behaviors (such as spraying or yowling), and improves the lives of individual cats. With TNR, community cats are humanely trapped by volunteers and private residents. They are then taken to a veterinarian for an exam, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, ear tipped, and returned to the location where they were found.

Montgomery County supports TNR to manage community cats.

TNR vs. Trap And Remove

Traditional trapping and euthanizing of community cats is ineffective, inhumane, and more costly than TNR. TNR prevents new kittens, gradually reducing outdoor cat populations. Recent studies suggest (worldwide) it costs an estimated $16 billion annually to trap and remove cats vs. $9 billion annually for effective TNR programs.

How to Identify a Community Cat

Cats that have already been through a TNR program will be ear-tipped. Ear-tipping is a way to visibly identify a community cat without having to touch or approach them. Ear-tipping is the humane, safe surgical removal of the top quarter inch of the left ear. The procedure is performed by a licensed veterinarian during the spay/neuter surgery. Ear-tipping prevents an already spayed or neutered cat the stress of re-trapping and an unnecessary surgery.

Want to Help Community Cats?

There are tons of ways that you can help community cats in Montgomery County! If you wish to support Montgomery County's community cats, please visit for more information on how to get involved.



Low Cost Spay/Neuter Clinics

You can visit our complete list of low cost spay/neuter clinics in the area by visiting our Financial Rescources page.

Additional Resources:


Alley Cat Allies - Nationwide

Trapping Assistance

Montgomery County Community Cat Coalition

Rock Creek Cats
- Garrett Park, MD

Frequently Asked Questions

Kitnapping begins with good intentions. When someone discovers a litter of kittens without their mother, they may take the kittens away to ensure their safety and bring them to the local animal shelter for rescue and care. However, in most cases, the mother cat is likely nearby, simply out hunting for food and has not forsaken her litter. The kitten's best chance for survival is with their mother. If you have found kittens and you aren't sure what to do, check out this guide from the ASPCA.

MCASAC is always here as a resource for you, your neighbors, and the animals in Montgomery County. Please do not hesitate to contact MCASAC for more information.