Stray/Feral Cats & Kittens
Contra Costa Animal Services (CCAS) accepts intake of sick, injured, unweaned, and abused cats and kittens. CCAS does not accept stray healthy/friendly cats and kittens over one year of age. This allows CCAS to prioritize public safety and humane care for cats while providing services for cats in the community.
Stray cats are friendly cats that may appear to be unowned or abandoned, when in fact they could be owned cats out roaming the neighborhood. Many people assume that a stray is lost or abandoned, when in fact the cat knows exactly where it is! Cats reported to be lost by their owners were 13 times more likely to return home by non-shelter means (return on their own, found by the owner or a neighbor) than if the cats were brought to the shelter. If you see friendly cats in your yard, it’s best to leave them alone as they may actually belong to someone in the neighborhood.
Additionally, Contra Costa County residents who would like to help healthy cats/kittens over eight weeks of age in their community by having them spayed/neutered and returned at no cost can utilize the CCAS Community Cat program.
If you find a healthy, friendly cat or kitten over one year of age in your neighborhood and you want to help, here are some simple steps you can take:
- Play detective – ask around your neighborhood to see if anyone recognizes them. Does it have a microchip or a collar and tags?
- Contact CCAS for help determining your next steps - we can be reached at 925-608-8400, or by email at ASDWEB@asd.cccounty.us.
- Consider fostering them yourself - place flyers up in your neighborhood to find their owner or a new home.
- Bring them to CCAS, as part of our TNR program, to be spayed/neutered and vaccinated, and care for them outdoors, providing food, water, and a warm outdoor cat shelter. Trap, Neuter, and Return, or TNR, is the most effective and humane way to control the free roaming cat population.
It takes a little time and work, CCAS is here to help you. Addressing cat overpopulation in a humane and effective way is well worth the time and effort and fulfilling way to make a difference in your community.
CCAS’ Community Cat Program is focused on empowering residents to address pet overpopulation in their neighborhoods, while also ensuring the public health and safety of the people and animals in their community. We also provide traps to help community members trap feral cats and kittens.
What is a Feral Cat?
Feral cats are those that are unsocialized and avoid human contact because they have never had human contact, or over time have lost contact with people. Feral cats can still have a caregiver, someone who is providing food and shelter, or they may seek food and shelter on their own, and consider the neighborhood to be "home". Most survive where there is food and shelter and do well in a variety of settings.
What is a Stray Cat?
Stray cats are friendly cats that may appear to be unowned or abandoned, when in fact they could be owned cats out roaming the neighborhood. Many people assume that a stray is lost or abandoned, when in fact the cat knows exactly where it is! Cats reported to be lost by their owners were 13 times more likely to return home by non-shelter means (return on their own, found by the owner or a neighbor) than if the cats were brought to the shelter. If you see friendly cats in your yard, it’s best to leave them alone as they may actually belong to someone in the neighborhood. Do not feed them or else they will not go home.
What are Community Cats?
Cats living in the neighborhood, whether friendly or feral, owned or not, are referred to as "neighborhood" or "community" cats. Removing cats from an area is not a good long-term solution as the void left by the cats removed will soon be filled by more cats - or other species such as raccoons, opossums or skunks (the "vacuum effect"). The most effective and humane way of dealing with community cats is leaving the cats where they are and having them spayed or neutered. It prevents unwanted kittens, therefore breaking the breeding cycle, allows the cats to live out their lives in their own territory, and over time actually results in a reduction of the cat population. And left in their natural habitat, cats are beneficial by providing natural rodent control.
- Download info on CCAS’ Community Cat Program Information (PDF)
- For more information, please call: 925-608-8400
If you are a property owner or manager and a cat has been abandoned by their owner (cat is left in an apartment by a tenant, they moved out and left the cat outside) please contact the shelter immediately at 925-608-8400 for the proper procedure to handle this situation before bringing the cat to the shelter.
Click on the links below to download more information:
- Resources for Stray/Feral Cats (PDF)
- Stray Feral Cat Do’s and Don’ts (PDF)
- Finding Motherless Kittens (PDF)
- Cat Deterrents (PDF)
- The Vacuum Effect - Why Catch and Kill Doesn’t Work (PDF)
- Why Trap-Neuter-Release Feral Cats (PDF)
What to do if you Find Kittens
If you find kittens who are alone, determine if the mother has actually abandoned them. She could be looking for food or just hiding nearby. The only way to determine this is to wait. Leave the kittens alone and observe from a distance or a hidden spot. Often she will return within a few hours. Be patient. Kittens that are being cared for will seem healthy and content.
Removing kittens when there is a mother to care for them may actually decrease their chances of survival. Kittens that have to be bottle fed are at a much higher risk of not surviving. As the kittens get older, the mother will spend less time with them. To determine the age of a kitten, visit Alley Cats Allies kitten progression page. If it appears the mother has truly abandoned them or something has happened to her, the kittens are in danger, or they seem to be in distress, then they need intervention. Depending on their age, you may decided to provide care for them until they are old enough to be adopted, or they may be old enough to find them homes. If they are older than 4 months, they are good candidates for Trap-Neuter-Return.For more information about caring and finding homes for kittens, see alleycat.org/kittens
Spay/Neuter, Community Cats
CCAS offers FREE spay and neuter surgeries, vaccinations and microchips to local trappers and citizens who trap feral cats or find friendly/healthy cats that will later be returned to the community from which they came. If you wish to bring in community cats for spay/neuter surgery, please note the following:
- Please visit our Spay/Neuter Clinic page before bringing a cat to ensure that our clinic is open on that day.
- Spaying/neutering is done Tuesday-Friday on a first come basis.
- Drop off is between 7:30am and 8am and pick up is the same day between 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
- All cats, friendly or feral/unsocial, brought in for participation in the CCAS TNR program must be in a trap, one cat per trap. (**cats in carriers WILL NOT be accepted**)
- We are able to take 4 cats total per day from the community.
- Only two (2) cats per person/address per day will be accepted.
- Only kittens over eight weeks of age are accepted through this program.
For more information on additional community resources for spaying and neutering, see below:
- Contra Costa County Spay/Neuter Resources for Cats (PDF)
- CCAS/SNIP Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Clinic - the SNIP program provides low cost spay & neuter services for feral, and homeless cats in Contra Costa County. This link will take you to a schedule of upcoming clinic dates.
The documents below will provide you with information on caring for a colony of feral cats, along with how to trap the cats.