IACS Community Cat Program
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​IACS Community Cat Program​​​​

​About the Program:



Indianapolis Animal Care Services’ Community Cat Program supports and embraces TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return), a program implemented to reduce euthanasia for stray and feral cats that are brought to IACS. Feral cats are not socialized to people and are not adoption candidates. They also are not happy living indoors. Before the Community Cat program, the only option was to euthanize them. These cats are a part of our community and are valued by many residents. Community (stray and feral) cats are the greatest source of cat overpopulation. Almost all stray and feral cats are intact. Unchecked, the ​cats are trapped in an endless cycle of breeding and scavenging for food. This segment of the cat population produces 80% of the kittens that flood the shelters and rescues each Spring.  When cat populations are present, the choice is not between having cats or not having cats. The choice is between having a managed (sterilized, vaccinated and monitored) community cat population, or an unmanaged (breeding, unvaccinated, uncared for) one.  Perhaps the greatest benefit of allowing cats to remain in their neighborhoods is that it gives every community member a chance to participate in the s​olution.




 TNR: Trap. Neuter. Return.​

Trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs are a nationally accepted community-based programs that bypass the shelter entirely.  Community cats are trapped and transported directly to a spay/neuter clinic by citizens, where they are sterilized, vaccinated, and ear-tipped for identification. Following recovery, the cats are returned to the location where they were trapped to live out their lives without producing any more kittens. The population stabilizes, declining over time. Undesirable behaviors associated with mating, such as yowling, spraying and fighting, decreases. The cats live out their lives and over time, the colony reduces in numbers as the cats naturally die off while no new kittens are born into the colony.  In Indianapolis, the FACE Animal Clinic and the Animal Welfare Center offer TNR programs to the public.​




The typical trap-and-kill methods used in the past were cruel, inhumane and ineffective at solving the cat overpopulation issue. It just doesn’t work. Trapping and killing actually perpetuates the problem due to the “vacuum effect”. This “vacuum effect”, which happens when cats are trapped and removed from the colony, allows other cats to move in and take advantage of the newly available resources and to breed as early as 4 months. Attempting to relocate cats also creates a vacuum effect.  TNR solves the problem at its root by making sure the cats are healthy and cannot reproduce.




 An added benefit of allowing community cats to remain where they are is that it will actually increase the chances of lost cats being reunited with their owners. According to a 2007 study by Linda Lord, cats are more than 10 times as likely to be returned to their owners by means other than a call or visit to a shelter. And cats living in communities also have a chance of finding a new home; multiple surveys have documented that people are more likely to acquire cats as strays than from a shelter or rescue. 


TNR has assisted many communities across the United States in dealing with their cat overpopulation challenges. In accordance with Sec. 531 of the Indianapolis Municipal Ordinance if you are feeding cats – they must be fixed        (spayed or neutered), vaccinated for rabies and ear tipped.   

What is a Community Cat?

What is a community cat? - a cat that has been fixed, vaccinated and ear tipped then released back into the area from which it was found. They are the unowned stray or feral (unsocialized) cats who live outdoors in our neighborhoods with or without a particular caretaker.


Ordinances & Guidelines


                                    Sec. 531-205. - Unlawful care for a free-roaming cat.

It shall be unlawful for a person to provide food, water or shelter to a free-roaming cat for a period of more than sixty (60) days unless in compliance with sections 531-209 and 531-210 of this Code. Animal care services division may impound community cats in violation of this chapter and dispose of the cats in accordance with section 531-731.

Sec. 531-209. - Community cat program.

(a)        A community cat program is established in order to encourage the stabilization of the free-roaming cat population in the city by utilizing a trap, neuter, and return methodology.

(b)        A person may trap any free-roaming cat in a humane manner, utilizing a live release trap that does not injure the animal, and in accordance with the requirements of section 531-407 in order to have the free-roaming cat evaluated, surgically sterilized, ear-tipped, and vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian and released to the vicinity from where it was trapped or released to a community cat caretaker.

(c)        A community cat, impounded by the animal care services division, shall be returned to the vicinity from where it was trapped unless the circumstances present a detriment to the cat or to the public health or welfare.

Sec. 531-210. - Community cat caretaker responsibilities.

(a)        A community cat caretaker shall abide by standard guidelines devised by the animal care services division regarding the provision of food, water, shelter and veterinary care for a community cat as well as comply with section 531-209 of this Code.

(b)        Community cat caretakers shall take a seriously ill or injured community cat to the animal care services shelter or seek licensed veterinarian care for the community cat.

(c)        A person who violates any provision of this section shall be punishable as provided in section 103-3 of this Code; provided, however, a fine imposed for the first such violation shall not be less than twenty-five dollars ($25.00).





                            Q: What if the cat is sick or injured?

A: Only healthy cats are returned to their neighborhoods.  There are many resources to help with Injured or ill stray or community cats in Indianapolis 


Q: Who is going to care for the cat, once it returns?

A: Cats returned program that are a healthy weight most likely have someone in the neighborhood feeding and helping care for them.  Cats must be healthy, over 3 months old and not declawed to qualify for return to their neighborhood.    If you want to learn how to care for community cats in our city, please visit our resource section


Q: What if I don’t want the cat back in my neighborhood?

A: The ordinance allows for community cats.  It does not require that a cat have a known owner or a caretaker.  As such, any cat that qualifies for the program will be returned to where it was captured or trapped.


Q: Can I get assistance with cat related issues?

A: Whether you love or loathe community cats, trap-neuter-return (TNR) is the answer to effectively reducing the number of these cats. TNR reduces most cat-related nuisances, poses no threat to public health and safety, and keeps rodent control in place. Even so, cats living in our communities sometimes cause disputes between neighbors. What many people don't realize is that these disputes can be resolved without resorting to legal means or, even worse, killing of the cats. As with most disputes, it is important to look at both sides of the issue.

Cat Caretaker Side: Most of the time, the cat caretaker  did not create the stray cat problem; rather, compassion toward animals prompted him/her to begin feeding hungry strays. Caretakers bond with the cats and value the cats' lives tremendously, even though the cats are often not approachable by humans and would not make good pets. They may not have heard of TNR, and may not realize that resources are out there to help them get the cats fixed and resolve cat-related issues.

Complainant Side: The cats are creating a legitimate nuisance: eliminating in gardens, yowling at night, spraying smelly urine. They have not bonded with the cats and they value their property tremendously. Complainants may not have heard of TNR, and may not realize that simply removing the cats will not solve the problem (the vacuum effect). They may not realize that resources are out there to help keep cats off their property.  Most nuisance behaviors can be resolved simply by spaying or neutering the cats. No more smelly male urine, no more late-night howling, no more kittens!  

ACS and the program coordinator can assist you with humane, legal deterrents to keep cats off your property or assist to mitigate concerns.  For more information, contact Lisa Tudor at Lisa.Tudor@indy.gov.   


            Community Cat Fund: Did you know that cats make up the largest population of shelter residents? They’re also less likely to be quickly adopted and they suffer from depression in even the nicest of shelter environments. But, cared for community cats can do extremely well and live out full and comfortable lives.  The IACS Community Cat program helps keep cats that could live as fixed, vaccinated and cared for community cats out of the shelter. Your donation to this fund helps IACS fund this innovative, life-saving program.


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