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Striped gray cat with green eyes
Black cat with white feet and an eartip
Brown striped cat with an eartip

Program History

In July 2016, Pet Community Center and Metro Animal Care and Control (MACC) launched the Community Cat Program, a collaborative effort modeled after successful programs in other cities to reduce shelter euthanasia and humanely reduce the population of cats living outdoors.

We first piloted the Community Cat Program in 2014 in two Davidson County zip codes, 37138 (Old Hickory) and 37216 (Inglewood). Pet Community Center provided approximately 550 free spay/neuter surgeries to outdoor cats living in the two target zip codes and any community cat who entered the shelter from those two zip codes.  The year before the program started, the annual stray cat intake at MACC (which includes lost/found/stray) in Old Hickory was 124 cats and in Inglewood was 87 cats.  Two years later intake in those neighborhoods was 23 (Old Hickory) and 15 (Inglewood). A reduction of 81% and 82% respectively.


How Does It Work?

The Community Cat Program uses a process called return-to-field (RTF).  For more information about the research behind, procedures, and the impact of RTF, please click here. Below is an outline of our RTF program with MACC.

  1. If a cat is found or trapped outdoors and is brought to MACC, the finder/caretaker fills out a questionnaire about the cat at intake. If any red flags present themselves on the questionnaire (such as the possibility of the cat being a lost pet), it is investigated by the Community Cat Program staff.  In order to qualify for return-to-field, outdoor cats must meet the following criteria:

    • They are free-roaming and lack identification.

    • They are a healthy weight (a good indicator that they have someone in their neighborhood feeding and caring for them) and injury-free (as determined by MACC and PCC veterinary staff).

    • Kittens under 8 weeks old do not qualify for the program. Kittens 8-12 weeks old may qualify only if a caregiver is identified. Kittens 12-16 weeks old may qualify only if there is an identified food/shelter source.

    • Efforts are made to locate a colony caregiver at the time the kittens are returned. Kittens must be returned to the exact impound location or colony site.

    • All cats who do not meet these criteria remain in the care of MACC and do not participate in the community cat program.​

  2. The finder/caretaker is given printed information about the Community Cat Program and notified that qualifying cats will be returned to their original territory after they recover from spay or neuter surgery.  The cats also receive rabies vaccinations, FVRCP vaccinations, and left ear tips (the universal symbol of a sterilized and vaccinated outdoor cat).

  3. A veterinarian at MACC determines if cats are too ill to participate in the program or if they need treatment before entering the program. Treatment options are available for many cats that present with minor and treatable wounds and illnesses. Cats that are deemed too ill to participate are held for the mandated stray hold and then euthanized.

  4. After intake, the cats stay at MACC overnight until the next business day at Pet Community Center.

  5. PCC staff pick up the cats from MACC and transfer them to the spay/neuter clinic for surgery.

  6. The cats recover from spay/neuter at PCC overnight or longer if deemed necessary by the veterinarian or staff.

  7. Pet Community Center staff or trained volunteers return the cat to its original territory and leave door hangers on the homes in the area, offering free trap-neuter-return services for any other cats in the area.​

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