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Living With Community Cats

A HOPE was integral for the establishment of responsible cat management programs in Santa Rosa County, which has effectively reduced the cat population throughout our community. 

Such programs include Trap, Neuter and Return (TNR), as well as Return to Field (RTF)—both nationally recognized cat management programs.

The information below explains these programs as well as easy solutions to common cat problems.

We strongly encourage you to review local ordinances in relation to feral/stray cats. These cats are best suited for getting fixed, vaccinated against rabies, and ear-tipped in order to become a "community cat" and live their life, where you found them, which is their HOME. Community cats should never be relocated unless they are in danger. Cats will travel MILES to return and will likely get hit by cars or suffer other tragedies on their way HOME.

Santa Rosa County, Florida Community Cat Ordinance

Have more community cat questions? Email our TNR Coordinator at

Want to register your cats and get some more assistance?

What is a Feral Cat or Community Cat?

-Feral cats are members of the domestic cat species just like pet cats; however, they were never socialized by humans or they have lived outdoors for so long that they have reverted to a wild state. Adult feral cats typically cannot be handled and are not suitable for adoption into homes. The kittens of feral cats may be able to be handled and socialized if efforts begin when they are less than eight weeks of age.

**Free-roaming cat populations, sometimes referred to as “community cats,” generally consist of a mixture of truly feral cats, semi-socialized cats and lost and abandoned pets.

Click HERE to watch a video!


Community/feral cats multiply rapidly. Two unneutered/unsterilized stray or feral cats can reproduce at an alarming rate. From as early as six months old, each new female born into the expanding colony can give birth to two or more litters of kittens each year. Each litter can have as many as 3 to 5 kittens, so the number of cats can quickly add up!



Trap-Neuter-Return is an effective and humane way to stabilize community cat populations. Cats are humanely trapped and taken to a veterinarian, where they are spayed or neutered (sterilized), vaccinated and ear-tipped. Kittens and socialized cats are placed into adoption programs. Healthy, adult feral cats are returned to their territory.

Return to Field:

In a Return-to-Field program, healthy, un-owned cats that are brought into the shelter are sterilized, ear-tipped, vaccinated, and put back where they were found. Upon determination that the cat is healthy and capable of living independently or in a managed colony, the cat shall be returned and released to the original point of pick-up or another suitable location.


Easy Solutions to Common Cat Problems

Cats are yowling, fighting, spraying, roaming, and having kittens....

Reason: These are all mating behaviors displayed by cats who have not been spayed or neutered. Cats will breed prolifically if they aren't sterilized.


  • Practice TNR. Male cats are less likely to compete, fight, spray and roam. Females are less likely to yowl and will stop producing kittens.

  • Typically, once a cat is spayed/neutered, within three weeks the sex-drive hormones will leave the cat’s system and such behavior usually stops.

  • To combat urine smell, spray the area thoroughly with white vinegar or other products that use natural enzymes to combat the smell. 


Cats are climbing on my car....

Reason: Cats like to perch on high places.


  • Putting cat shelter and food in a secluded place discourages them from climbing on your car.

  • Purchase a car cover.

Feeding cats attracts insects and wildlife....

Reason: Food is left out too long and at inappropriate times of the day.


  • Keep the cat feeding area neat to avoid insects.

  • Feed cats daily at the same designated time, during daylight hours. They should be given only enough food for them to finish in one sitting. All remaining food should be removed within 30 minutes.


Cats are digging in my garden....

Reason: It is a cat’s natural instinct to dig and deposit their waste in soft or loose soil, mulch or sand.


  • Scatter fresh orange and lemon peels or spay citrus-scented fragrances.

  • Add coffee grounds or pipe tobacco as natural deterrents.


Cats are sleeping under my porch, shed, etc....

Reason: They are looking for dry, warm shelter.


  • Block open areas with lattice or chicken wire, but be sure to search for anyone hiding first!

  • Provide a shelter like a small doghouse hidden away.


Cats are getting into my trash....

Reason: Cats are scavengers and are looking for food.


  • Place a tight lid on your trash can.

  • You or your neighbors can feed the cats. Cats that are not hungry will not scavenge. Feed during daylight hours at a consistent time in an out-of-the-way place.


Cats are lounging in my yard....

Reason: Cats are territorial and will remain close to their food source.


  • Apply cat repellent fragrances around the edges of your yard.

  • Install a motion-activated water sprinkler.

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