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Frequently asked Questions

Q: There are lots of cats in my neighborhood, they don’t belong to anyone. They use my yard as a litter box and keep me up at night fighting and yowling. How can I get rid of them?

A: In the past, animal control organizations have advocated the policy of trapping and euthanizing free-roaming/unowned cats. However, studies have shown that the most effective way to reduce the number of cats in an area, and to stop annoying behaviors associated mating (yowling, fighting and spraying) is through Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). Cats are trapped, spayed or neutered so that they will stop reproducing, and given vaccines so that the overall health of the population is improved.

Trapping and removing the cats does not work as a long-term solution, because as soon as a cat is removed, a new (unfixed) one will move in to take over the food source. Cats are territorial in nature and will keep out other cats from the surrounding areas. Once they have been neutered, the population will decrease naturally. They will stop annoying mating behaviors, but will continue to keep the neighborhood free of rodents.

Q: There are cats getting into my trash and making a mess. How can I stop this from happening?

A: The cats are hungry and looking for food. They are opportunistic scavengers and will feed on rodents, insects or trash, etc. if no regular food source is available. To deter cats from your property, trash should be properly covered and secured, or you will attract raccoons and possums in addition to cats.

You can find more tips on keeping cats away from your yard and garden here.

Q: There are cats using my yard as a litter box and digging in my garden. How can I stop this from happening?

A: A cat’s natural instinct is to eliminate in soft, loose, soil-like mulch, sand or peat moss. To discourage them from digging in your garden try:

You can find more tips on keeping cats away from your yard and garden here.

Q: A cat had kittens in my yard/under my house. What do I do?

A: The first thing you need to do is determine whether their mother is around, and the age and health of the kittens. Kittens born in the wild can be socialized and adopted if they are captured when they are between 4–10 weeks old. If they are too young, they will need extra care, so if possible, it is best that they stay with their mother during this period.

Do not take them to your local shelter if they are too young. Shelters do not have the resources to take care of kittens that are too young to be weaned (before 4–5 weeks old). During “kitten season” (March-September), rescue groups and shelters are filled with kittens and it can be difficult to find foster homes for the kittens. If possible, consider fostering the kittens yourself. For more information on caring for, socializing, and finding homes for kittens see the Island Cat Resources & Adoptions (ICRA).

If the kittens are too old (over 10–12 weeks), there is a chance they will never become fully socialized, in which case it would be best to trap and neuter them before they get old enough to start reproducing. Fix Our Ferals has low cost spay/neuter clinics for feral cats and other resources available to help with this.

Determine if there is a mother cat:

Although ideally mom and the kittens could be trapped and live indoors in a safer environment (a garage or cage or bathroom- if the mom is feral the whole family can live in a large cage) until the kittens can eat on their own, trapping mom and all the un-weaned kittens can be difficult, since she moves the kittens around so much. It would be easy to trap mom and then realize that her kittens aren’t where you thought they were! The kittens would not only be lost, but also vulnerable, since if they are under 4 weeks, they cannot eat on their own—they either need to nurse or be bottle-fed.

If you see no visible health problems, go ahead and leave food out for the mom and just monitor her as she cares for her kittens until the babies are eating solid food and are 5–6 weeks old.

What to do if there isn’t a mother cat:

What to do if there IS a mother cat:

Determining a Kitten’s Age

Determining a Kitten’s Health

Q: When can a cat get pregnant?

A: Cats can get pregnant as early as four months of age, but six months is more common. They will mate with siblings or parents if that is who is available when they go into heat. The best age to have a cat fixed is around three months, by that time they should have reached at least three pounds and can be spayed/neutered and receive their first rabies shot but still avoiding the risk of them reproducing.