It’s About Community…Community Cats, That Is
Last week I had the honor to spend time meeting with Dr. Julie Levy, DVM, PhD, who was attending a meeting with me focused on measurement of spay/neuter impact. Dr. Levy is a powerhouse in the field and the director of Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine. While discussing the measurement of unowned cats, Dr. Levy was adamant about using a term – Community Cats.
What is a “community cat” and why should we use that term as opposed to feral or stray or even free-roaming? ”Feral” is a term that should be reserved for cats who are truly unsocialized. Determination of a truly feral cat is still an area with many unknowns.
The “Is it Feral?” research conducted by the ASPCA’s Dr. Kat Miller, Dr. Margaret Slater, Dr. Kathy Makolinski and myself focused on an assessment to determine if a cat is unsocialized or a frightened pet, and we expect to have quite a spectrum of cats who might best thrive in a colony situation but are not feral.
I asked Dr. Levy why she prefers “community cats” as opposed to “feral,” “free-roaming” and the like. She told me, “The term ‘community cats’ acknowledges their niche in the community. It also embraces all types of un-owned free-roaming cats, including both feral and socialized cats who mingle in colonies, backyards, and front porches.”
While we may all hope for the perfect home for all cats – and for cats living without a home to be a thing of the ancient past – the reality is far from that nirvana. Cats are dying in shelters by the millions – and a community cat philosophy is likely a way to help save many more lives. Community cats put some responsibility on the community in which the cats live. Be it innovative programs like Feral Freedom, or some of the great barn cat programs – programs that trap, neuter and return or rehome socialized cats – these programs help to keep cages in shelters open, and send cats back to thrive in environments where they had been thriving.
Has your shelter or coalition embraced the concept of community cats? I would love to hear your thoughts.