Community Cats


The Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program, is an effective and humane method used to stabilize community cat populations.  The behaviors associated with mating (howling, spraying and fighting) will lessen or stop altogether once spayed/neutered. Simply trapping cats to eradicate/euthanize is not the answer, it is only a matter of time before new cats will move in. MHF has TNR'd colonies in Culpeper, Fauquier, Loudoun, Orange, Prince William, Rappahannock, and Warren County.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) are answered at the bottom of this page. 



Need assistance?  Start Here:


1. Fill out a Community Cat Assistance Form (preferred method). 

Once submitted you will receive a call back so that MHF can discuss with you the best way we can assist.

Alternatively, please call Ashley, the Community Cat Coordinator @ 540-364-3272 or

2. Visit MHF to borrow a trap


Traps may be borrowed from MHF by leaving a refundable deposit. Deposit may be paid by cash, credit card or check.  

A $75 deposit is required to borrow 1-3 traps and $150 for 3 or more traps. All cats must arrive in a humane trap or carrier.


Paperwork must be completed before borrowing a trap, if you would like to save time, please fill out the following paperwork before arriving:


3. Please notify MHF before trapping.


Arrangements must be made in advance so that a space is available for housing. Appointments at vet clinics must be secured days in advance as well.


Services your cat(s) will receive include:

  • Sterilization (spay/neuter)

  • Rabies vaccine

  • FVRCP (feline booster shot) **Piedmont Small Animal Clinic charges extra for this vaccine.

  • Ear tip (A small portion of the tip of the left ear is removed to provide visual confirmation that they have been sterilized)


4. Trap the cat the day or night before surgery.


Please notify MHF of any kittens or the possibility of kittens on site.


5. Drop-off at MHF

When you arrive at MHF to drop-off cat(s), staff will be available to assist and answer any questions. The agreed donation amount must be paid at the time of drop-off. 

6. Pickup cat(s) at MHF


You will be given an estimated day of pick-up. The Community Cat Coordinator or the Vet Tech will remain in contact with you and notify you when your cat(s) will be ready!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Difference between a stray & a community cat?

A stray cat is a pet cat who is lost or abandoned but continues to be comfortable around people.  Community cats are the offspring of lost or abandoned pet cats or other community cats who are not spayed or neutered. They are typically too fearful and wild to be handled.


Why are there community cats, where do they live & where do they come from?

Female cats can begin reproducing at five months of age and can have up to 2-3 liters per year.  Communities with community cat colonies are often towns or neighborhoods in rural areas with food sources (open dumpsters and people who feed) as well as communities with a high volume of rental housing which can lead to pet cat abandonment.  Community cats typically live in a colony: a group of related cats. Community cat colonies increase in size due to kittens being born into the colony. Colonies do not allow outside/unaltered cats to join their group. The colony occupies and defends a particular territory.  Community cat colonies self- regulate their numbers by not allowing outside cats to join them.  Trap- Neuter-Return (TNR) is a non-lethal strategy to reduce the number of community cats and improve the quality of life for cats, birds, and people.


What is Trap- Neuter- Return (TNR)?

Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is the only responsible and efficient strategy for improving the lives of community cats and reducing their numbers.  Community cats are humanely trapped and transported to a facility to receive medical care /surgical procedures including: spay or neuter, vaccines for rabies, internal and external parasite control, testing for Feline AIDS and/ or Leukemia, as well as the surgical ear tipping of one ear (cutting the ear straight across/ removing the tip).  Ear tipping is the universally- recognized sign of a cat who has been TNR’d.  Cats are returned to their territories as healthy/ non-reproductive cats.


Why can’t animal shelters rescue community cats and what are the problems associated with shelters taking in community cats?

Community cats are not adoptable. Families prefer cats that are accustomed to being handled. With thousands of lost, injured, abandoned and relinquished pet cats, most shelters are already at capacity with the number of cats for which they can provide care. Community cats brought to an animal shelter, especially those who cannot be identified as members of a known TNR’d colony, are euthanized right away or after a mandatory holding period.  Community cats that are trapped and taken to animal shelters cause a higher euthanasia rate of pet cats in shelters due to space constraints & resources. 


Would it be better if community cats were moved and euthanized?

If a community chooses to simply trap and remove all the community cats in a colony, other community cats will eventually move into the vacant territory to take advantage of the food source and shelter now made available.  It is an endless cycle to attempt to eradicate community cat colonies.

The effective approach is TNR.  When community cats are TNR’d, their nuisance behavior is greatly reduced or eliminated and they self-regulate their numbers by protecting their territory and not allowing newcomers to share their food and shelter sources.  TNR improves the quality of life for existing colonies, prevents the birth of more cats, and reduces the numbers of cats over time.


Why don’t feeding bans work to eliminate community cats?

The logic behind bans against feeding community cats is that if there is no food available, the cats will go away.  Community cats are territorial animals who can survive for weeks without food and will not easily or quickly leave their territory.  They are very resourceful!  Secondly, if there are dumpsters and people who care about cats, there will be food available to cats. Therefore, feeding bans do not work to eliminate community cats.


After TNR, how do you prevent the problem of more community cats?

Asking landlords to require that all tenants show proof of spay/neuter of their pet cats is helpful. This practice truly benefits everyone. Colony caretakers are essential to a successful TNR program.  Colony caretakers are individuals and businesses who are willing to monitor the colonies to watch for newcomers or illnesses as well as to provide food. Lastly, business owners and private homeowners must become vigilant about keeping all dumpsters closed and as clean as possible. These practices combined will ensure a successful TNR program.