Outdoor Cats/Ferals

The Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter believes that a healthy cat is an indoor cat. Indoor cats enjoy longer, safer and healthier lives than those that are outside. If you love your cat, keep her indoors and provide plenty of interaction and play time.

Within the County there is no leash law for cats. Because of this and many other factors, you can expect to see cats roaming in your neighborhood. Additionally, there are many free-roaming cats that do not have a home. These are cats that were domestic pets or were born as a feral cat.

Outdoor cats are frequently the source of property damage for neighbors, particularly within gardens. Please click for some suggestions on how to reduce property damage from uncontrolled outdoor cats.

Cats are a nonnative (descendents of small African cats introduced to North America by settlers from Europe) predatory species that injure and kill millions of birds and other native wildlife each year in the United States.

A cat's instinct to hunt is independent of hunger.  North American birds, reptiles and small mammals have coexisted with native predators long enough to evolve defensive strategies, but have not been exposed to domestic cats long enough to evolve defense. Feral cats can also out compete wild predators in an area, damaging ecosystems.

Feral Cats
Feral cats will not approach people and will seek hiding places to avoid them...and they don't meow, beg or purr. They also generally don't make eye contact and may crawl, crouch and stay low to the ground while protecting their body with their tail. Born to a life outside on their own, many feral cats have never had human contact. They group together in colonies wherever they can find food and water such as near dumpsters, parks, behind restaurants, schools and stores, and even in your own backyard.

Other free-roaming cats (known as strays) may be former house cats that have been lost or abandoned. These cats may blink, walk up to you with tail up, and may readily approach houses, porches or cars. Strays will likely live alone and not be part of a group and may appear dirty and disheveled. They also may be vocal and meow. Abandoned cats that are left alone do not “regain their instincts” and thrive. Instead, starvation and the stress of continued reproduction cause great suffering.

Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)
Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is a management plan in which feral cats are humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated and returned to the location where they were trapped. Friendly cats and kittens young enough to be socialized are removed from the colony for foster and adoption. Unsocial cats are given an ear tip, a permanent visual identifying mark, at the time of surgery to identify them as an altered, owned, and cared for cat. When all the cats are sterilized, nuisance mating behaviors may disappear. After being returned home, the caretaker provide daily food and water, warm dry shelter, and lifelong care. The cats’ quality of life improves. Spay-Neuter saves lives!

IMPORTANT! Feeding outdoor cats attracts more cats and insects and wildlife.

Cats need to be fed under proper guidelines:

·Keep the feeding area neat and free of leftover food and trash is of utmost importance.

·Cats should be fed only at a designated time, during daylight hours. They should be given only enough food for them to finish in one sitting. All remaining food should be removed.

·If another person is feeding, ask them to follow these guidelines too.

Below is the Santa Cruz County Ordinance (also applies to all Santa Cruz County jurisdictions) regarding the care of feral cats:

6.10.040 Care of feral cats.

A. It is unlawful for any person within the unincorporated area of the county intentionally to provide food, water or other forms of sustenance to a feral cat colony unless the person furnishes the director of animal control services with a signed statement agreeing to the following conditions:

1. Register with the director of animal control services as caring for feral cats;

2. Regularly feed the cat colony, including weekends and holidays;

3. Regularly and frequently trap the cats over the age of eight weeks and have them spayed or neutered;

4. Arrange to have all trapped cats tested for feline leukemia and feline   immune deficiency virus, and to have those who test positive humanely euthanized or isolated indoors;

5. Identify all trapped cats by tipping their ears; and

6. Arrange to have all trapped cats vaccinated for rabies in addition to any other vaccination or immunization requirement imposed by the state. (Ord. 4490 § 3 (part), 1998: Ord. 4305 § 1 (part), 1994)