TLC for Community Cats

Group Photo
Kristina Trojak and her team of volunteers

March 28th is National Respect Your Cat Day, a day to celebrate all the hugs and snuggles with your favorite feline companion.  This March 28th, we also want to call out community cats, who also deserve love and TLC.  It’s easier than one might think to provide a safe, warm shelter for these furry friends.

“Community cat” is a term used to describe outdoor, unowned, free-roaming cats. They can be friendly, feral cats, healthy or sick, altered or not. Basically, a community cat is any cat without an owner. They thrive in their outdoor homes, and are naturally skilled at finding shelter and food on their own. 

Because of this, community cats face a few challenges, including:

  • Enduring extreme weather conditions
  • Lack of food
  • Infection
  • Attacks from other animals

So this National Respect Your Cat Day, remember the community cats in your area. 

Community Cats Vs. Stray Cats

But isn’t a community cat the same as a stray cat? In short, no.

Community cats are born and raised in the wild, and have adapted to life in this manner. A stray cat, on the other hand, is considered a domesticated pet who was lost or abandoned. While stray pets are usually tame and well-socialized, community cats usually keep their distance from people. 

TNR and Community Cat Shelters

Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) is one way shelters and rescues control the cat population, and can cut down on the number of community cats.  However, community cats still face the elements. As such, you might find them hiding under your car or under your porch in the winter months, as they look for a warm place to sleep or to hide from the sun in the summer months.

Fortunately, though, there is something we can all do to help community cats in our area, and future Eagle Scout, Kristina Trojak (Pennsylvania), is building community cat shelters and educating others on how simple the process can be. 

I was a volunteer, working alongside Kristina, to build these cat shelters, and was amazed at how a few simple materials can be assembled to create a safe and warm nook for cats. We used Rubbermaid-type storage bins, though styrofoam coolers could also be repurposed for this project, as well as duct tape, non-toxic styrofoam as insulation, and straw, and within a few short hours, we had assembled twelve cat shelters, ready for placement in the local community. 

To make a cat shelter:

  • Measure and cut a six-inch hole a few inches off of the bottom of the tote
  • Duct tape the edges of this hole to smooth out any jagged edges
  • Measure and cut styrofoam to fit the container, try to make it so the styrofoam pieces hold each other up with tension, so you don’t have to use duct tape which may come loose and fall on the cat
  • Cut the entrance hole out of the styrofoam
  • Duct tape the edges of the styrofoam hole 
  • Fill about halfway with straw (push down where the cats will enter)
The start of the project: cutting holes in the containers
Finished shelters, ready for placement in the community

One thing Kristina cautions, is to know the difference between straw and hay, because it makes a difference for our cat friends. While the terms “hay” and “straw” are often used interchangeably, hay is a crop that is grown and harvested as feed for horses and cattle. Straw, however, is a byproduct of wheat. Straw repels moisture, making it ideal for keeping cats dry in their shelter.  Blankets or towels are not good options for this, because they don’t repel moisture or hold in heat. One way to tell the difference is to look at the color. Hay is actually green in color, while straw is yellow. 

Kristina also teaches us that the placement of the shelter is important to keep cats safe from predators, like unleashed dogs or other larger animals.  Also, be sure to keep the shelter weighted down and hard to move. 

Community cat shelters are easy to build, and are one relatively simple thing we can do to help cats in our area. 

Do you have community cats in your area? Talk with us over on social media and let us know. Also, this National Respect Your Cat Day, share your favorite photo of your furry cat friend. Find us on Facebook and Instagram, and use hashtag #harmonycats!

For more information on community cats, and shelters, visit:
https://www.aspca.org/animal-homelessness/shelter-intake-and-surrender/closer-look-community-cats

2 thoughts on “TLC for Community Cats”

  1. So nice to learn how valuable these cats are to communities. I really enjoyed reading your article!

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