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. They will probably have a clean, well-kept coat. 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. Unaltered 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. The cats are also 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 will disappear. After being returned home, you provide daily food and water, warm dry shelter, and lifelong care. The cats’ quality of life improves. Spay-Neuter saves lives!

Project Purr, a local all-volunteer nonprofit feral cat advocate organization, can provide information and resources to help you care for a feral cat or feral colony 831/423-MEOW. Project Purr offers a NEW low cost spay/neuter/return program for feral cats in both north and south Santa Cruz County for Santa Cruz County residents only, regardless of income. This program is for feral (unsocialized) cats and kittens over 4 months of age, and includes FVRCP and rabies vaccines, parasite control and mandatory identifying eartip. A $25.00 co-pay from you for each cat is required, and Project Purr will pay your balance.

Please call Animal Hospital of Soquel, 2651 Soquel Avenue in Santa Cruz 475-0432 and East Lake Animal Clinic, 740 East Lake Avenue in Watsonville 724-6391 for more details.

Cats must be presented for surgery individually in humane traps. Humane traps are loaned FREE of charge (refundable security deposit required) by the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter 454-7200 at both the Santa Cruz and Watsonville shelter locations.

Businesses located in Watsonville City and Freedom can obtain vouchers for free spay/neuter of feral cats and kittens through Friends of Watsonville Animal Shelter (FOWAS) at the Watsonville shelter at 580 Airport Blvd in Watsonville 454-7200.

For more information on how you can help feral cats and Trap-Neuter-Return please visit www.projectpurr.org or www.alleycat.org.