Outdoor Kittens & Cats

How to Help Community Cats

Help! I've found kittens!

Healthy Kittens

Kittens should stay with mom to nurse for a minimum of 5 weeks. Though we try, humans are not a substitute for a mother cat’s care. You can help by offering shelter, food, and water until the kittens are old enough to eat on their own. Once the kittens reach this milestone, you can contact CommunityCats@nycacc.org for assistance rehoming them. Don’t wait too long; kittens have a window of socialization that closes around 9 weeks. It’s essential to rehome kittens when old enough to eat independently but young enough to get used to living with people.

Sick or Injured Kittens

If you come across a visibly sick or injured kitten, it’s important to reach out immediately. Please text ‪(203) 529-5372 or email CommunityCats@nycacc.org so we can assess the situation and determine if the cat requires assistance. Remember, handling or physically restraining an aggressive or fearful cat is not advisable. Your prompt action can help ensure the best possible care for the animal.

It’s a sad reality that kittens are one of the most vulnerable populations in animal shelters. Many of them end up there, often due to the actions of well-meaning animal lovers. This highlights the importance of responsible actions and understanding the needs of these animals.

Still Unsure

Give it some time if you haven’t seen the kittens’ mom and are still unsure if they are in danger. Mom may be off hunting or not want to come around if people are present. Watch for her to come back for a few hours.

PRO TIP: Leave a ring of flour around the kittens. Check in a few hours if you see Mom’s footprints in the flour!

Trap-Neuter-Return is the best option if the mom and kittens cannot be easily picked up and handled (under-socialized or feral).

Outdoor cats might not be lost or stray!

Healthy Cats

If you come across a healthy cat in your neighborhood, don’t be too quick to assume it’s a stray or has been abandoned. The cat might belong to one of your neighbors and likes to explore the outdoors. Please note that ACC doesn’t accept healthy stray cats. We kindly recommend that you return the cat to where you found it so it can easily find its way back home.

Sick or Injured Cats

If you spot a cat that is visibly sick or injured, please text ‪(203) 529-5372 or email CommunityCats@nycacc.org so we can determine if the cat needs assistance and, if so, how to provide it. Do not try to handle or physically restrain an aggressive or fearful cat.

Still Unsure

If you’re still unsure if the cat is lost or abandoned, check for a tipped ear, collar, or microchip (at a shelter or vet clinic). If they have a tipped ear, you’ve found a community cat! It means they live outdoors, have a caretaker, and have been sterilized and vaccinated. If the cat has a collar or tags, consider contacting the owner to find the cat’s home.


You can always report the cat as found on Petco Love Lost to ensure word gets out that this cat is roaming your neighborhood. If you contact an owner or a community cat caretaker, you can remove the listing from Petco Love Lost later.

Community Cats

“Community cats” are free-roaming, outdoor cats with no verifiable signs of ownership. Community cats can be feral or friendly, young or old. Here in New York City, they live in our urban areas, parks, and backyards. They likely reside in your neighborhood, and you may not even know it.

In shelter environments, community cats accustomed to roaming miles daily are confined to small habitats in highly populated indoor spaces, which can lead to extreme stress and illness. Despite the use of traditional sheltering methods and the work of many people and organizations dedicated to caring for animals, the volume of cats entering shelters continues to increase. This is due to various factors, including uncontrolled breeding, abandonment, and the lack of resources to care for these cats in the community.

The feline pets we keep today are still virtually identical to those who have thrived outside for millions of years! A study that compared the DNA of cats throughout history shows that no significant differences exist between the genetic makeup of wild and domestic cats. As a result, they remain perfectly capable of thriving in the wild.

These facts demand that we challenge old ways of thinking and utilize innovative solutions that are in the best interest of community cats. 

A New Solution: Comprehensive Programs

Leading animal welfare organizations are successfully implementing comprehensive community cat programs. These programs, designed to meet the unique needs of individual cats, have proven to be effective in reducing the cat population over time. By focusing on spaying/neutering, vaccinating, and returning healthy community cats to their outdoor homes, these programs are making a significant difference.

Community Cat Programs rely on years of scientific research, discussion, and debate among those in the animal welfare community who have dedicated their lives to doing what’s best for animals. The process involves trapping the cats, spaying/neutering them to prevent further breeding, vaccinating them to protect their health, and quickly returning them to their outdoor homes. The programs only apply to healthy cats and those with easily treatable conditions who demonstrate living well outside. The programs do not apply to unhealthy cats who show signs of having been recently abandoned, were relinquished by their owners, or were found in a location that presented an immediate danger. 

By developing Community Cat Programs, shelters have taken the next step in our commitment to doing what’s best for the cats who need us. However, the success of these programs relies heavily on the community’s support and involvement. This requires innovative solutions that push us to evolve how we think about our role in caring for animals in need!

Interested in helping the cats in your community?
Email us at CommunityCats@nycacc.org to learn more!