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Working as part of the bigger picture

Helping individual cats is very rewarding but it is important to consider the bigger picture to try to understand the many factors that influence the type and number of cats that need help, to place what you are trying to do in context and to identify the Cat Friendly Solutions that will work best for you. Below are the key areas to consider.

Where do all the unowned cats come from?

Cats have to come from somewhere, often common sources (see below), but there may be other specific issues in your own area.

Where do all the feral or street cats come from?

  • There are no population management solutions for street cats, or those in place are ineffective, so cats are not neutered and are breeding successfully and numbers are increasing
  • There is a freely available food supply (people are feeding the cats) and/or ineffective food waste disposal, ensuring that cats have enough nutrition to reproduce
  • The pet cat population is not neutered in sufficient numbers and is breeding, unwanted pets and kittens are entering the community of street cats
  • Numbers may increase if the street dog population is well managed and predation on cats is reduced

Where do all the unowned stray/abandoned/inbetweener/pet cats come from?

  • People abandon or relinquish high numbers of pet cats for many reasons
  • Pet cats are not being neutered and are producing kittens which are unwanted as pets
  • Veterinary neutering is not available or is very expensive so limiting the number of cats neutered
  • The cats available for homing are not suitable or desirable as pets, so they get stuck in homing centres

What are the needs of the cats you are dealing with?

Think about the cats in your area – what is the makeup of the population you have and in what proportions? Do you have a large population of feral and street cats? Do you have a large number of stray, abandoned or relinquished pet cats? It may be that you have a combination of both populations.

What are the issues?
  • Large numbers of cats can be seen as a cause of problems for the community/municipality because of:
    • Public health worries about disease or hygiene problems
    • Nuisance caused by noise/smell/waste
    • Concerns over impact on wildlife/vulnerable species/ecosystems
    • Animal lovers demanding solutions for cats seen to be suffering
    • Animal organisations become overwhelmed because of larger numbers of cats
  • Cat welfare is poor because:
    • They are suffering because of disease or malnutrition
    • They are suffering because of people/animal attacks
    • They are housed in overcrowded homing centres
    • They are staying a long time in homing centres
Dr Kate Hurley answers a query from a concerned member of the public regarding zoonotic disease potential when caring for cats in the community.

Minimizing zoonotic disease risk when caring for community cats

What is being done? Can you collaborate with other organisations or individuals?

If you are considering or already trying to help cats it is probably because there is a big and obvious problem that you want to address to reduce suffering. Therefore, this is likely to be more than one or two people can handle. If you really want to make a difference, consider the types of cats, consider the possible solutions and find out what is already being done: Are there others helping? Are there gaps in the welfare solutions which you could help with? Are there local influences/rules which will hinder or help your progress? What is already being done?

Individuals can make a big difference but finding out what would make that difference is important. For example, you can collaborate with:

  • The local community
  • Government – local/national
  • Animal organisations (eg a community-based group of volunteers, an individual organisation/charity/NGO, or a coalition of organisations)
  • Wildlife organisations
  • Veterinarians
  • Local businesses
  • The tourist sector


> Finding solutions according to the cats’ needs

Our thanks to the Petplan Charitable Trust for their support in the development of this website

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