Outside Cats

Cats that reside outdoors are often referred to as “community cats” and sometimes as “feral cats.” The term feral describes a pet that has not been socialized with people and will react fearfully, potentially even to the point of aggression if provoked. Not all outside cats are feral though, they have ranging degrees of socialization with people, depending on their background and experiences.

The true number of outside cats in Orange County is unknown. Based upon research, PetSmart Charities recommends the formula of dividing the human population by 15 for an estimate of how many outside cats are in an area. For Orange County, that would place the estimate for outside cats around 93,000.

Some of these cats may have been born and raised outside, not knowing any inside life. Others may have previously been owned cats that were abandoned outside at some point by their family. Cats that have adapted to outside life typically become great hunters, helping neighborhoods reduce their rodent and pest issues.

Orange County Animal Services encourages spay and neuter for these outside cats so that they do not continue to breed and create unwanted litters of kittens. It’s imperative these cats are sterilized and vaccinated so they can live healthy lives.

Orange County Animal Services has a trap neuter return program as well as a barn cat option for those looking to aid the community cats.

Community cats can reproduce quickly and may, in large quantities, become a nuisance to their surrounding area. Animal Services recommends trap-neuter-return (TNR) services to sterilize and vaccinate community cats.

Animal Services is proud to offer a TNR program to residents concerned about emerging cat populations. This program is ideal for residents who are amenable to the cats remaining on their property, but would like to have them sterilized and vaccinated.

The Animal Services TNR program is free to Orange County residents for up to five cats per household per year. The Animal Services enforcement team takes lead on the program and will set the trap and transport the cat(s) to and from the clinic. This program is best suited for smaller populations. Please call 3-1-1 to begin.

The Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando launched a targeted trap neuter return program in 2018, specifically in zip codes 32807 and 32822. For more information on their program, please visit their website.

Care Feline TNR is another excellent resource for those looking for support with TNR projects. The non-profit group has worked with Orange County Animal Services since the 1990’s and helps provide colony caretakers with spay/neuter resources. For more information on CARE Feline TNR, please visit their website.

What is a working cat? Working cats are un-socialized cats who would not acclimate to a home environment. They are not socialized with humans and are often stray cats who prefer the company of other cats to people. Working cats can thrive in a number of outdoor settings, such as a barn or business type setting. Spaying and neutering these cats and placing them back outdoors where they are most comfortable is a practical alternative to euthanasia, as these cats are often not adopted from shelters due to their lack of socialization with humans.

Benefits of a working cat: Working cats help with pest and rodent control, and can also provide companionship for other animals (such as a barn cat in a farm setting to keep the other animals company). They are ideal for warehouses, barns, farms, backyards, and businesses. Hiring a barn cat is saving a life!

What do working cats need? They just need a caretaker, shelter, food and water, an area to get acclimated to their new environment at first, and basic veterinary care (such as flea control and staying up to date on vaccines). Other than the basic necessities, they are relatively low maintenance and do not require extensive care.

How do I acclimate a working cat to a new environment? Cats do require a transition period as they are acclimating to their new environment. They cannot just be released freely into the new space without a proper transition. To help your new working cat adjust to its new environment, you will need a few basic supplies such as: A large crate or kennel, food, water and litter.

You can start by housing the cat in the crate or kennel in its new environment (such as a barn, yard, warehouse, etc). Keep a smaller cat carrier in the larger crate/kennel to give the cat a hiding space. Make sure to keep the necessities (food, litter, and water) in the larger crate, and refresh them daily. Continue to do so for 2-3 weeks while the cat adjusts to the new area, while remaining in the enclosure. After 2-3 weeks, you can open the door and let the cat out of the larger crate. Continue to keep food and water in the crate (with the crate open), as well as in the cat’s new environment. Keep the crate available to the cat during this time. After about 2 weeks, the cat should be fully adjusted to the new environment and the crate can be removed. Continue to provide the cat with fresh food and water daily.

What do I do if I’m interested in adopting a working cat? Email AnimalServices@ocfl.net. We can provide you with more information about cats who would be candidates for adoption as a working cat. We will spay/neuter, vaccinate and ear notch the cats, you would just need to come and pick them up when they are ready! If you have a large yard or a lot of land, warehouse, brewery or business, adopting a working cat could be beneficial to you.

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