Community Cats Program

The Community Cats program at the SF SPCA is a TNR program that provides spay/neuter and vaccination services for San Francisco’s feral cats.

Since the 1980’s, the Community Cats program has worked hard to control the population of un-owned, feral cats throughout San Francisco. Community Cats trapped in San Francisco are spay/neutered at no-cost to volunteers (but volunteers still need to make appointments in advance). The Community Cats team is now accepting applications. We look forward to hearing from you!

What is a Community Cat?

A Community Cat is any free-roaming cat that lives outdoors (or indoors AND outdoors) in our community. Community Cats do not have an owner, but they may have human caretakers who feed and monitor them. These cats may be “feral” (unsocialized), or they may be friendly. They’ve been born in the wild, or they are lost or abandoned pets.

What is TNR?

TNR stands for trap, neuter (or spay), and return. Community cats are humanely trapped, brought to a spay/neuter clinic for surgical sterilization, then returned to their original location once they’ve recovered from surgery. Community Cats are not placed into an adoption program, and we do not attempt to socialize them.

Why TNR?

TNR is the most humane method to reduce feral and free-roaming cat populations. TNR also provides an effective alternative to euthanasia of otherwise healthy cats. Spaying and neutering cats decreases health complications and undesirable behaviors (like yowling and fights between cats).

What services do Community Cats receive on their appointment day?

In addition to being spay/neutered, Community Cats also receive one-time vaccination, one-time flea/tick medication, left ear tip, microchip, and a general health inspection from our veterinarians.

Why do Community Cats receive tipped ears?

A Community Cats receives a tipped ear at the time of their spay/neuter appointment so that trappers will know they’ve already been spay/neutered. The cat will receive the tip at the time of surgery, when they’re under anesthesia, so they will not feel any pain.  An ear tip is required for all Community Cats that come through our program. If an altered Community Cat with a tipped ear finds their way into a trap or new colony, the trappers take one look at that ear and they know “tipped means taken care of.”

Why aren’t Community Cats removed from the community after their surgery?

Stray and feral cats populate an area when there’s food and shelter to support them. If the cats are removed, other cats will find the vacant space and move in for the same reason as the original cats- there’s food and shelter. This is called the vacuum affect. The new cats will have more kittens, and repeat the cycle. With TNR, the original cats are returned to the territory after they’ve been spay/neutered, so that new cats will not move into that area. These cats, who’ve received spay/neuter, will not continue the process because they cannot have kittens.  

Where can I get a humane trap?

We’ll rent you a trap for a deposit of $75 that will be returned when you return the trap to us. Volunteers do not need to pay the $75 deposit. If you’d like to rent a trap, please email us at communitycats@sfspca.org. If you don’t know how to use the trap, that’s okay! A tutorial and best practices for trapping will be shared with you at the time of rental.

How does the SF SPCA’s Community Cats program work?

First the trapper (that’s you) monitors the cat. Once the cat’s routine is observed, the trapper can rent or buy a humane trap. If you’d like to rent a trap from us, please email communitycats@sfspca.org. Then the trapper will make an appointment for spay/neuter, and set up the trap the night before. In the morning the trapper takes the feral cat to their spay/neuter appointment. Once the cat is finished with surgery, the trapper picks the cat back up and keeps them to recover overnight. In the morning, the cat is released to the same area they were trapped.

What do I do if see a Community Cat in my neighborhood?

If you see or take care of a Community Cat that needs spay/neuter, start by filling out this form.

Since the 1980’s, the SF SPCA Community Cats program has worked to control the population of un-owned, feral cats throughout San Francisco.  Our program is a TNR program that provides spay/neuter and vaccination services for feral or free-roaming cats (community cat).

If you need assistance with a community cat in your neighborhood, you can get support by completing this form.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

First the trapper (that’s you) monitors the cat. Once the cat’s routine is observed, the trapper can rent or buy a humane trap. If you’d like to rent a trap from us, please email communitycats@sfspca.org. Then the trapper will make an appointment for spay/neuter, and set up the trap the night before. In the morning the trapper takes the feral cat to their spay/neuter appointment. Once the cat is finished with surgery, the trapper picks the cat back up and keeps them to recover overnight. In the morning, the cat is released to the same area they were trapped.

What services do Community Cats receive on their appointment day?

In addition to being spay/neutered, Community Cats also receive one-time vaccination, one-time flea/tick medication, left ear tip, microchip, and a general health inspection from our veterinarians.

TNR stands for trap, neuter (or spay), and return. Community cats are humanely trapped, brought to a spay/neuter clinic for surgical sterilization, then returned to their original location once they’ve recovered from surgery. Community Cats are not placed into an adoption program, and we do not attempt to socialize them.

Why TNR?

TNR is the most humane method to reduce feral and free-roaming cat populations. TNR also provides an effective alternative to euthanasia of otherwise healthy cats. Spaying and neutering cats decreases health complications and undesirable behaviors (like yowling and fights between cats).

Why do Community Cats receive tipped ears?

A Community Cat receives a tipped ear at the time of their spay/neuter appointment so that trappers will know they’ve already been spay/neutered. The cat will receive the tip at the time of surgery, when they’re under anesthesia, so they will not feel any pain.  An ear tip is required for all Community Cats that come through our program. If an altered Community Cat with a tipped ear finds their way into a trap or new colony, the trappers take one look at that ear and they know “tipped means taken care of.”

A Community Cat is any free-roaming cat that lives outdoors (or indoors AND outdoors) in our community. Community Cats do not have an owner, but they may have human caretakers who feed and monitor them. These cats may be “feral” (unsocialized), or they may be friendly. They’ve been born in the wild, or they are lost or abandoned pets.

Stray and feral cats populate an area when there’s food and shelter to support them. If the cats are removed, other cats will find the vacant space and move in for the same reason as the original cats- there’s food and shelter. This is called the vacuum affect. The new cats will have more kittens, and repeat the cycle. With TNR, the original cats are returned to the territory after they’ve been spay/neutered, so that new cats will not move into that area. These cats, who’ve received spay/neuter, will not continue the process because they cannot have kittens.  

If you see or take care of a Community Cat that needs spay/neuter, start by filling out this form.

Where can I get a humane trap?

We’ll rent you a trap for a deposit of $75 that will be returned when you return the trap to us. Volunteers do not need to pay the $75 deposit. If you’d like to rent a trap, please email us at communitycats@sfspca.org. If you don’t know how to use the trap, that’s okay! A tutorial and best practices for trapping will be shared with you at the time of rental.

Changes to our feral queens policy

Are you interested in becoming a community cat volunteer? Learn more by attending a volunteer information session!

Volunteer trappers’ responsibilities:
  • Monitor community cats and sometimes their neighborhoods
  • Transport cats to/from their spay/neuter appointments
  • Monitor and then release cats post-surgery
  • Training is provided by community cats’ staff and volunteers
What do I do if see a Community Cat in my neighborhood?
If you see or take care of a Community Cat that needs spay/neuter, start by filling out this form.

Appointment and Rental Trap Information

FIV & Felv Policy

Resource Library

Ready To Adopt?

[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]