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General Information

What is a Community Cat?

Any outdoor free roaming cat that has been evaluated and sterilized by a licensed veterinarian, ear tipped, vaccinated for rabies, microchipped, and released back into the area from which it was captured.

What if I have more questions?

We're here to help. You can contact our Community Cat Coordinators any time by e-mailing OperationCAT@allencountyspca.org or calling the Community Cat Hotline at 260- 440-8893.

What is a free-roaming cat?

Any cat not restrained and without acceptable identification. Free-roaming cats or kittens have no identifiable owners. It is estimated that there are thousands of felines living in our region that have to fend for themselves. These cats are reproducing at an alarming rate, adding to the already heavy burden of pet overpopulation.Community cats are typically not adoptable. They have a home—outdoors. These cats live and thrive in every landscape, from the inner city to rural farmland.

What is Operation C.A.T.?

Operation CAT aims to reduce shelter death through targeted sterilization of Fort Wayne and Allen County's free-roaming cat population. Operated collaboratively by Fort Wayne's Animal Welfare Coalition, Operation CAT utilizes a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) model and strives to humanely catch, sterilize, rabies vaccinate, microchip and ear-tip free-roaming and stray cats. This proven method is the only way to save lives and improve our community’s free-roaming felines’ health and reduce overpopulation at the same time.​

For Caretakers

What is a Community Cat Provider?

A person who provides food, water, shelter or otherwise cares for Community Cats and complies with Administrative Rules for Community Cat Providers. A person so identified shall not be considered the Owner or Harborer of a Community Cat.

What is required of a Community Cat Provider?

There isn't an application process, but you must comply with Administrative Rules for Community Cat Providers to prevent nuisance problems that could be reported for enforcement action.

  1. Confine free roaming cats and arrange for surgical sterilization, ear tipping, and vaccination for rabies by a licensed veterinarian, microchipping and documentation of the foregoing with our Department prior to release back to the community;
  2. Seek veterinary care at your own expense for a Community Cat which appears to require medical attention for serious illness or injury; Coordinate with an Animal Welfare Organization or the Department to arrange for impound of the sick or injured cat for euthanasia.
  3. Make reasonable effort to work with the Department or designated Animal Welfare Organization to resolve nuisance complaints using humane deterrents and/or removal of Community Cats identified as a Public Nuisance; and
  4. Community Cat Providers found to be in violation of this Chapter or managing an excess number of Community Cats as determined by our Department may have their Community Cat Provider designation revoked at the discretion of the Department.
  5. It shall be unlawful to provide food, water, or shelter to Free Roaming cats in excess of thirty (30) days unless the provider presents acceptable documentation showing implementation of the requirements of a Community Cat Provider.

For Concerned Citizens

What happens to Community Cats?

When community cats enter shelters, they drain the already limited resources and take up space. This is very stressful for the cat and costly for the community. By spaying or neutering a free-roaming cat, and returning it to the area that it is from, we can begin to sterilize that area and reduce the number of cats entering shelters. TNR – Trap Neuter Return is a proven plan that is effective in reducing the amount of free-roaming cats in our community.

Won't Community Cats suffer if we return them?

Cats have lived outdoors for thousands of years—in fact, outdoor cats are part of our natural landscape.Under this program, free-roaming cats that are thriving are returned to their environment. If the cat is healthy, we know it has found a food source and shelter, just as other wild animals have.

What about our cold winters?

While it’s hard to imagine living outdoors during our winters, we know cats have adapted and manage to survive year round. Similar programs have been successfully implemented in all types of climates across the U.S. and Canada. We do provide resources and information for Community Cat Providers to equip them for caring for colonies during inclement weather.

Don’t outdoor cats kill birds and wildlife?

It has been argued that cats should be collected from the community, impounded and euthanized in shelters to protect wildlife and public health.Although community cats often hunt to survive, this program will reduce the impact on birds and wildlife by gradually decreasing the cat population over time.

What should I do if I find a cat with a tipped ear?

A tipped ear indicates that the cat has already been sterilized and vaccinated, so you can simply leave that cat alone. Ear-tipped cats that are surrendered will be returned to the community.

How can I be sure my cat isn't mistaken for a Community Cat?

The best protection is to keep your cats inside and use proper identification in the form of a city pet registration tag and a pet microchip. Make sure you keep your pet’s identification current to the address where you reside. Should you move, contact Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control to update your information. Should you give your pet away, transfer the microchip and registration information to the new owner of the animal. A cat that is found with proper identification will be held at the shelter for the normal 3-day hold period. During this time Animal Care & Control will trace the identification and make every effort to notify the owner that the lost pet has been found. City ordinance still restricts you from owning a free roaming cat.

What if a Community Cat is a nuisance in my neighborhood?

Animal Care & Control may impound Community Cats which are public nuisances, diseased, or not thriving due to loss of resources. The Department shall coordinate with partnering Animal Welfare Organizations and/or veterinarians to offer resource information for establishing opportunities for Community Cats, Community Cat Providers, humane deterrents, and advice regarding Community Cat nuisances.

How can I get unwanted cats off my property?

As unbelievable as it may seem, some people don’t like having cats in their yard, garden, porches, or cars. There are easy things that your neighbors can do, or that you can help them with, in order to live in harmony with the cats who have made their home in the neighborhood. Click here for helpful information about humane deterrents.

How does TNR help taxpayers?

atching and killing cats has been a futile effort used by animal control and shelters across the country for decades. Continuing an approach that is clearly not working is not only a waste of taxpayer dollars, it is also shows blatant disregard for efficiency and value—at a time when the economy is at the forefront of everybody’s mind.Investing in spay/neuter and TNR is an investment in cats’ lives and cats’ health, and it demonstrates a socially-responsible (and compassionate) and efficient approach to serving the animals and the public.

Getting Help

Can I still get help if I live outside of the targeted zip codes?

Absolutely! Operation CAT is open to all areas of Allen County. However, the targeted zip codes (46805 and 46808) are the only areas where our current grant funding enables us to provide free TNR services for interested parties. For all other areas, we are still able to provide trapping equipment and support. If you have questions about what services are available in your area, please submit a request for assistance here, or call our Operation CAT hotline at 260-440-8893.

About TNR

Why return free-roaming cats to the community?

Removing these cats from the community doesn't eliminate the nuisances they create and actually encourages cat populations to steadily grow. When you return cats that have been sterilized, they continue to use resources but are unable to reproduce, decreasing the free-roaming cat population over time. Sterilization also reduces problematic behaviors like fighting and spraying. Euthanizing healthy, feral cats is not an option for Operation CAT.

What is TNR?

Trap-Neuter-Return, or TNR, is the most humane and effective method known for managing feral and stray cats and reducing their numbers. The cats, who typically live together in a group called a colony, are trapped and brought to a veterinary clinic. They're then spayed or neutered, vaccinated for rabies, microchipped, and ear tipped. After they've recovered from surgery, the cats are returned to their original territory where a caretaker provides regular food and shelter.

How does TNR save lives?

Grounded in science, TNR stops the breeding cycle of cats and improves their lives while preventing reproduction. The most dangerous place for an outdoor cat is in a shelter. Since many outdoor cats are not adoptable, they are at extremely high risk for euthanasia. TNR directly reduces a community’s euthanasia rate by lowering the number of births and reducing intake into already crowded shelters.

Does TNR benefit the community?


Once TNR is in place, the cats will no longer reproduce (no new kittens!). The population will stabilize and eventually decline. Spaying and neutering also reduces nuisance behavior among outdoor cats. Fighting, yowling and other noise associated with mating stops almost entirely. The foul odor caused by unaltered males spraying to mark territory disappears and the cats, no longer driven to mate, roam much less and become less visible. The cats themselves are healthier and less likely to spread feline diseases. Rodent control is maintained by the cats' continued presence.

TNR attracts volunteers, funding and other resources. More and more municipalities and shelters are supporting TNR and developing their own programs. Many communities are seeing dramatic drops in cat intake and euthanasia at their local shelters as a result of TNR. Some parts of the country are actually importing kittens from other regions due to shortages thanks to TNR!