Colony Management

We provide the support and resources you need so you can manage your community cats successfully. The most important aspects of a well maintained colony are population control, health and welfare, food and shelter, and being respectful of the environment in and around your colony.

Check out our guide for caring for community cats.

Population Control

Spay/neuter through TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) is the most important aspect of population control and the only way to reduce the population. Here are some ways to manage the population of your colony:

  • If you, or anyone you know is caring for community cats please fill out our TNR Assistance request form and we will call you within 24 hours to assess the situation and come up with a plan with you.
  • Make sure all cats, including any companion cats at or near location get fixed and vaccinated.
  • Remove all kittens eight weeks and under for needed socialization and adoption.
  • If you find a friendly cat, please follow these steps to help find it's owner: take it to a vet to have it scanned for a microchip, place flyers at local pet stores and send to all local vet hospitals, post on social media, bring the cat inside and quarantine to a room until it has an exam by a vet and has been cleared of disease. If someone says the cat is theirs, ask for proof of ownership such as vet records and a picture.
  • Watch for newcomers, kittens, cats that are sick or injured and fill out the TNR Assistance form.
  • Once the cats have been humanely trapped they will go to one of our spay/neuter clinics or will receive an appointment at one of our partner veterinary hospitals.

Our Standard of Care

We believe that community cats deserve the same quality care that companion cats receive (as also required by law), so we negotiated a Community Cat Care Package with our partner veterinary hospitals and the LCVMA at a discounted rate.

Each cat that comes in through one our programs receives:

  • Spay/neuter
  • Rabies and distemper vaccinations
  • Parasite treatment
  • Antibiotics if needed
  • Microchip
  • Ear tip

We appreciate our partner veterinary hospitals for helping us with our mission to save the lives of community cats!

Health & Well Being

As a caretaker, your community cats rely on you to help them live a happy and healthy life. Sometimes issues arise so its important to be aware and know what to watch for. If you suspect an emergency situation, please contact our Coalition partner, Loudoun County Animal Services, at 703-777-0406.

Potential medical issues to watch for:

  1. Lethargy: Lethargy describes a host of symptoms that include laziness, drowsiness, or delayed reactions. If your cat shows these signs for more than a day, it might be a sign of a more serious problem.
  2. Repetitive Vomiting or Gagging: Vomiting or gagging repetitively can be a sign of more than a furball.
  3. Loss of Appetite: Drastic changes in regular eating habits should be a cause for concern. When a cat stops eating, the body starts consuming the fat to stay alive. The liver can handle only so much fat processing before it shuts down, so a loss of appetite can become serious pretty quickly.
  4. Diarrhea: There are many causes of diarrhea, some of which include disease, worms, and allergies
  5. Constipation: When a cat cries or acts differently when peeing, constipation may be the cause. This might be due to a blockage, change in diet or lower urinary tract disease that is more common in males. This can be life-threatening.
  6. Weight Loss or Gain: Reasons can be as simple as stress to more serious conditions such as cancer, diabetes, viruses, parasites, gastrointestinal problems or hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid).
  7. Increased Thirst: Drinking more than usual can be a sign of diabetes, kidney problems or other conditions.
  8. Skin Itching: If the cat is scratching itself a lot it could mean a flea infestation. Outdoor cats are at high risk for fleas. We recommend revolution to help with fleas and ticks. Flea infestation can result in lethargy and anemia and CAN KILL A CAT.
  9. Eye or Nose Discharge: Goopy green discharge from the eyes or nose may be accompanied by sneezing, panting or shortness of breath. These symptoms may be a sign of respiratory infection or illness.
  10. Coughing or Difficulty Breathing: You might notice that your cat seems to be coughing a lot or breathing differently. A change in breathing can mean many things: dehydration, toxicity, respiratory disease, worms, asthma, tumors and more. If breathing sounds different or the cat has labored breathing it is cause for concern.
  11. Difficulty Moving or Weakness: This could be a sign of a very serious problem and needs attention. They could have been hit by a car or attacked by another animal.
  12. Disorientation: If your cat starts to walk around aimlessly, has trouble with easy obstacles or you notice a change in vocalization, these could be signs of a neurological disorder or cognitive dysfunction syndrome.

Food & Shelter

Cats need high protein food specifically formulated for them (not people food) and clean water daily even if they are hunting. Be sure to have a caretaker in place to feed daily and get someone to cover for you if you are unable to feed that day. There are a few tips to remember when feeding your cats:

  • It is recommended to only feed for the number of cats that are there. If you feed for more, more will come. You will need to provide clean water each day as raccoons will clean their paws in the water!
  • Always feed your cats before dark and then remove all remnants of food, containers, etc. so that you do not attract wildlife to the area.
  • Keep the food contained, especially in the summer to decrease the number of ants. Build a feeding station to help contain the food and keep it protected from the elements.
  • Place all food and water in very inconspicuous locations so that the feeding station is not visible.
  • Place your feeding areas on elevated platforms or feeding stations so that skunks and ants are not attracted to your cat’s food. Here are some good tips for building a feeding station from Alley Cat Allies.

Respecting the Environment

Our vision is that community cats can live in harmony with our community. For this to happen, it is important to be respectful of the environment in and around the location of the colony.

  • Never leave cat food cans, empty water jugs, or other trash laying around the location.
  • Use a feeding station so that birds are not attracted to the cat food.
  • Do not put out more food than the number of cats.
  • Do not spill food outside of the bowls.
  • Monitor the colony for newcomers, kittens, injured or sick cats.
  • Keep the location clean and free of trash!