The Uniqueness of the Community Cat Conundrum

Marcy was different. Unlike domesticated cats, she wasn’t used to being within the confines of a house. Nor was she familiar with human interaction. So when she was found as a stray and brought into a local shelter, her emotional well-being declined immediately.

You see, Marcy is a community cat. The community cat population represents a unique challenge to the animal welfare community because most shelters and rescue groups seek to find homes for every homeless animal. This has always been the goal because “home” is perceived as a safe place that can provide food, shelter, attention and love – all the things every animal needs, right?

Wrong. Well, wrong in the case of feral cats. Unlike domestic animals, community cats do not thrive in the traditional “home” environment – they prefer to dwell in outdoor settings and are not socialized to humans.

Where then, does a shelter’s responsibility to helping community cats fall on the spectrum of ending animal homelessness? For decades, this conundrum stumped shelters and rescue groups alike. Until recently.

A new way to help.

New programs have recently been developed that finally give shelters a placement option when community cats are brought into their care. These “Barn Cat Programs” as they are commonly called, have been strategically launched to position the community cat population for success in their preferred outdoor arena.

San Diego Humane Society recently implemented a similar program, cleverly titled “Wild at Heart.” Through this new placement alternative, after receiving a spay or neuter surgery (and any other veterinary care they may need) at the shelter, community cats are then placed on one of two tracks:

Shelter-Neuter- Return
If feral cats are brought in from a safe area where they had been thriving in the past, they will be returned to their outdoor habitat.

Outdoor/barn home adoption
If community cats are brought in and Shelter-Neuter-Return is not an option because the area is not safe or there is no known address from where they came, they become available for adoption into local barns or other secure, outdoor settings. Cats naturally drive out mice and other vermin, so this arrangement is mutually beneficial for both the cats and barn owners!

It’s this very program that changed Marcy’s fate. The caretakers at San Diego Humane Society immediately recognized that Marcy was a community cat. Soon after she became available for “adoption” through this new program, Marcy went home with a woman who had a large barn on her property in a rural part of the county.

Now, Marcy spends her days with secure access to food, water, shelter and medicine if needed…all within the comfort of the outdoor setting she has always considered “home.”