• Colony care assistance while sick or away

  • Colony care site clean-up help

  • Assistance in addressing neighbor concerns


  • Access to cat food-bank

  • Free cat shelters and shelter making supplies

  • Opportunities to network and meet other local caretakers

  • Discounts on emergency medical care for feral cats

  • Opportunities to earn colony care awards

Colony Management

It is a critical goal of Laurel Cats to teach, promote, and support good feral cat colony management. Far too many colony cats are poorly managed with practices such as incomplete TNR, poor feeding habits and little or no medical care. The result is sick and unhappy cats, upset neighbors and property managers, and animal rights groups and other natural TNR allies coming out against TNR and supporting euthanasia instead.  When colonies are poorly managed, everyone suffers.

Best Management Practices

Laurel Cats endorses a series of thirteen best management practices for managing feral cat colonies. Following these practices improves the health and happiness of the cats while minimize conflict with neighbors and other concerned citizens.

1. When appropriate, seek permission from the property manager or owner to care for colony cats on their property.

Managing a colony on private property without permission is generally a bad idea as it typically  results in a deep divide of mistrust between the caretaker and the property manager. The result is often the property manager not understanding what is going on and believing that the caretaker is the cause of his cat problem, not a free solution to it.  Caretakers may be threatened with fines or arrest and generally don't spend the needed time with the cats to properly monitor their health or locate new individuals who need TNR.  They are often unable to place shelters and feeding stations on the property.

2. Humanely trap all colony cats and have them all altered, vaccinated against rabies and ear-tipped (removal of tip of left ear during surgery).  If any new cats should join the colony that have not been ear-tipped, endeavor to TNR these cats within 30 days.

Colonies that are only partially TNRed are a huge problem.  It is not uncommon for a single fixed cat to have 5-10 offspring in a year.  Leaving one female cat unspayed can negate the time, work and money used to sterilize the rest of the colony.  All female cats must be spayed and any new cats that join the colony must be spayed quickly before they too have kittens.

3. Return all TNRed colony cats to their colony/home site following full recovery from surgery. Exceptions may be made for kittens if they are less than 8 weeks old and a home suitable for fostering feral kittens is readily available. Otherwise kittens should be returned to the colony as well.

It is extremely difficult to relocate adult feral cats and fostering feral kittens poses problems for the uninitiated as well. Returning all cats to their colony is generally the best option for all.

4. Provide sufficient food and water to all colony cats, daily, year-round, and in the most sanitary way possible.
5. Feed cats during specific time windows only.  Food should not be left out overnight or other extended times when it might attract rodents and other unwanted wildlife.

Leaving food out over extended periods of time tends to attract unwanted wildlife to a colony.  It also makes it difficult to census and asses the condition and needs of the cats. Establishing specific feeding windows with the cats not only excludes the wildlife but gives the caretaker an opportunity to see all of the cats during feeding time and determine if there are new cats needing TNR or cats needing medical assistance.

6. Provide the colony cats with adequate shelter.

Cats without adequate shelter generally live in the storm drains throughout town.  Many of these cats are killed during heavy rains and snows.  Providing alternative shelter for these cats prevents this tragic loss of life.

7. Keep records on each colony cat, including proof of rabies vaccinations.

Keeping records on the cats simplifies future medical visits should a cat become injured or ill and also helps to alleviate the concerns of neighbors about the care of the cats.

8. Make efforts to exclude colony cats from the property of neighbors, if neighbors so request.

We can help you help your neighbors keep cats out of unwanted places.

Sometimes cats go places they aren't wanted.  It is critical to address these sort of small problems before they become big problems. Numerous humane deterrents are available to keep cats out of specific areas.

9. Work with neighbors to resolve complaints regarding colony cats.

Working with neighbors to address cat complaints is a critical part of colony management.  Addressing small problems early can prevent big problems down the road.

10. Provide a replacement caretaker during a primary caretaker's temporary or permanent absence.
11. Seek help for ill and injured colony cats.

Cats can and should be retrapped if they are ill or injured.  Euthanasia may also be required in the case of some very sick or injured cats.

12. Maintain a clean, neat, sanitary, and odor free colony care area.

Dirty and stinking colony care areas are not only bad for the cats but likely to upset neighbors and property managers.

13. Upon request provide annual census data on the colony to authorized representatives of Laurel Cats.

Being able to quantitatively measure the effectiveness of TNR is critical to leveraging needed grant funds for local TNR as well as to our efforts to move TNR to county wide programs.


Get help implementing best management practices!

We strongly encourage all colony caretakers to join the Caretaker Alliance. Membership is free but all members must pledge to follow these guidelines.  In return, members receive the support and assistance they need to implement these best management practices.