Managing Stray Cats: Recommendations from the Humane Society of Huron Valley

. September 2, 2020.
Stock photo courtesy of Francesco Ungaro.
Stock photo courtesy of Francesco Ungaro.

Whether you’re new to the Ann Arbor area or a longtime resident, you’ve probably come across a stray cat. This year has seen a serious uptick in how many stray cats the Humane Society of Huron Valley (HSHV) has taken into the shelter, but taking stray cats in isn’t the only solution to neighborhood cat colonies. There are many options to consider and various factors to take into account when managing stray cats, so we researched some of the easiest most popular methods used locally. 

According to the HSHV website, community cats fall into two categories: unsocialized cats and stray cats. “The most common are ‘unsocialized,’ cats – those who are born outside and have never had a traditional owner. These cats do not trust humans and will not let people get close enough to touch them. Stray cats are cats who have lived with humans at some point in their lives, even if they now live outside. They may have gotten lost, run away, or even been abandoned. Stray cats are typically comfortable around humans, and can often be taken in for adoption.”

The HSHV says that if you have a community cat near your home, it is not cause for concern and might actually be helpful. “Like all cats, community cats are predators. This means they provide significant help managing rodent populations…It is exceptionally rare, in fact, almost unheard of, for community cats to attack or menace humans unless they are provoked…(However,) It is possible that community cats will interact with outdoor house cats…They may try and mate with an indoor cat that is not fixed, and they may guard territory they see as their own.”

But what can you do to help the population of community cats? One popular program is the Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) program that the Humane Society of Huron Valley has in place. This year has seen an increase in interest in this program, potentially due to people being more present to observe cats in their neighborhoods. 

The HSHV states, “Ultimately, TNR reduces community cat populations over time. It is the only method that has been scientifically proven to work – culling or moving cats has been repeatedly shown to be ineffective. Further, TNR ensures that the cats that are around are fixed and vaccinated so they are not contributing to overpopulation or disease. And as a bonus, community cats continue to defend their territory, helping reduce the tendency for other unfixed, unvaccinated cats to move in.” If you have community cats near your home, contact the Community Cat Coordinator at HSHV for assistance. The TNR program charges its services at cost ($20 for the basic TNR cat service-or contact HSHV for potential financial assistance). For found kittens, visit this link for next steps.

The TNR program in Washtenaw County has seen success. The HSHV website says, “Over 11,000 cats have been sterilized through HSHV’s TNR Program since 2007. (Due to that), the number of stray and abandoned kittens coming into our shelter has dropped 36% since HSHV started a TNR program.” You can quickly tell if a cat has already been through the TNR program based on whether it has been “ear tipped.” The HSHV website states, “Ear-tipping is the humane clipping of a community cat’s left ear, leaving it flat instead of pointy. This does not impact the cat’s hearing or cause any significant or lasting pain, and allows us at a glance to tell the cat has already been fixed. We view it as a badge of honor for a cat – it indicates that the kitty has a human who loves it and cares for it.”

If you do have a cat community living near you, here are five easy ways to humanely deter them from disrupting your space, according to Alleycat.org:

  1. Talk to your neighbors. Determine whether the cats are pets, stray, or feral, and if they have been spayed or neutered. (If not, contact the Community Cat Coordinator at HSHV)
  2. Apply nontoxic deterrents around your yard (ideas for this here).
  3. Put a tight lid on your trash can.
  4. Block gaps in the foundation of sheds and porches.
  5. Use a cover to keep paw prints off your car.

In addition to cats, you may come across other wild animals. On their website, the HSHV lists several ideas to prevent wildlife destruction to your property. 

For a $75 fee (+$35 for each additional animal & $25 for live trap), HSHV can humanely remove and release the following animals (if healthy & live):

  • Opossums
  • Skunks
  • Woodchucks/Groundhogs
  • Squirrels
  • Birds
  • Snakes
  • Bats  (single bats only – Please contact the health department at 734-544-6700 first if you or someone else has been exposed to a bat)
  • For the removal of any other animals or animal infestations, consider contacting a private local animal removal company.\

If you have a sick or injured wild animal in Washtenaw County, call HSHV first at 734-661-3512 to be directed to the appropriate wildlife rehabilitation facility. In most animal cases, local animal control will refer you to HSHV, however, to request removal of a dead animal from public property, you can call Washtenaw Metro Dispatch at 734.994.2911.

3100 Cherry Hill Rd, Ann Arbor. 734-662-5585. hshv.org