The St. Joseph Animal Shelter believes that the best way to serve healthy, free-roaming cats is to manage their populations through humane and effective programs that support both them and the people who care for them. The shelter supports community organizations that provide Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) through which free-roaming cats are trapped, spayed, or neutered, vaccinated, and returned to their location of origin. These cats are "ear-tipped" so caretakers and members of the public will easily recognize that they have been sterilized. The shelter is not currently providing TNR services to the community but can offer support services to citizens and organizations that are actively trapping through resources such as food and field support services.
Just because a cat is outdoors doesn't mean that it is lost. Many families allow their cats outdoor access, and this is allowed in the City of Saint Joseph. If it is healthy, someone is caring for it. Less than 5% of cats brought to shelters are found by their owners. For this reason, we do NOT accept healthy stray cats unless you have proof of recent abandonment.
We used to think the best thing we could do for cats found outdoors is bring them to the shelter. We've since learned that it's usually best to keep healthy cats in their neighborhoods.
Here are some reasons why the St. Joseph Animal Shelter supports Community Cats:
- We don’t assume that the cats we see around our neighborhoods have no home, or no one who loves and cares for them. They may even have a team of caretakers. Many times, free-roaming cats are cared for by multiple neighbors.
- When we bring free-roaming cats into shelters unnecessarily, we may be unintentionally taking them away from the people and families who love them. This creates a well of distrust between the community and the shelter.
- Removing the cat from the neighborhood and taking them to a shelter, often located far from their home, reduces the likelihood of that cat being reunited with their people. This disproportionately impacts marginalized communities that may not be able to have indoor pets in rental homes.
- Studies show that cats are 10-50 times more likely to be reunited with their families when they are left where they are found rather than being taken to the shelter because many people do not know about their local shelter or do not think that their cat could be at the shelter.
- Indiscriminately removing cats may also lead to more intact cats moving into the area.
- Most people care about both cats and wildlife and want neither to be harmed. Community cat programs can reduce risks to wildlife by reducing the number of outdoor cats through spay and neuter efforts.
- Abandonment laws, defined as intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence leaving an animal without proper or necessary care, do not apply to community cat practices.