If you live in the City of Alexandria and need assistance with helping outdoor (feral) cats, please call us at 703-746-4774.
Outdoor Cat Policy
Approved by AWLA Board 4/28/15
The Animal Welfare League of Alexandria (AWLA) believes that the best place for cats to live is indoors. Indoor cats are protected from outdoor dangers, including cars, predatory animals, and multiple feline diseases. Indoor cats are also prevented from capturing and killing wildlife and creating nuisances for community residents. Our goal is to reduce the outdoor cat population through humane and compassionate methods.
There are three categories of cats that spend part or all of their lives outdoors in Alexandria: 1) owned, 2) abandoned, 3) wild/feral. The first group, owned, are cats that are allowed to roam outdoors by their owner. The second group, abandoned, have been left to fend for themselves outdoors. And, the third group, wild/feral, are cats that have spent generations living outside and are no longer socialized to people. These cats can be dangerous to handle and, like a wild animal, want no human contact.
To reduce the outdoor cat population, we must address each category of cats differently. For the first group, we can educate the public on the importance of keeping their cats indoors and licensed. For abandoned cats, we can ensure the community understands that they should bring their unwanted cats to the animal shelter rather than dumping them outside. We also take in socialized/stray cats from the public that appear to have been abandoned.
Reducing the population of wild/feral cats is more complicated. There are only three options for these cats: 1) do nothing, 2) trap and euthanize, or 3) trap, spay/neuter, and return. If we do nothing, these cats will reproduce. The second option is to capture the cats, bring them to the shelter, and euthanize them. This is a terrible outcome for these cats; a sad and depressing task for shelter staff; and creates a stressful, unhealthy environment for tame shelter cats. Capturing animals to then euthanize them is a very easy way to lose staff who truly have compassion towards animals. It is also unlikely that any community members would step up to trap cats for euthanasia, so our assistance with this option would be limited to staff. It is also dangerous to have feral cats in the shelter, and they cause stress among the other, non-feral cats.
The final option is to trap feral cats, spay and neuter them. and return them to the location where they were trapped. This option allows for volunteers to help in this effort and doesn’t require euthanasia. The community can and does support this option. Cats that are spayed/neutered are much less vocal and smelly and tend to keep other cats out of their territory, ultimately reducing the cat population in the area.
The AWLA also believes that, in general, feral cats can find food on their own and feeding should not be encouraged. Feeding cats creates unnatural colonies of cats that can create nuisances, and attract wildlife, and vermin. These cats also become dependent on the feeder, which can lead to serious problems when this feeder is unable to care for the cats. In cases where there has been a long-standing colony, we do believe feeding is appropriate, but must be done using good management standards. We are not supportive of creating new feeding stations or colonies.
Finally, we also feel that deterrents are important methods of reducing nuisances created by cats. Areas where cats are creating nuisances, such as defecating, can be outfitted with a wide array of deterrents to help prevent cats and other wildlife from staying in these areas. Educating the public and providing information about these deterrents and options will also help to resolve community issues.
Consistent with these concerns, the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria will not trap healthy cats over the age of 3 months unless there is a plan to spay/neuter and return the cats. In cases where outdoor feral/wild cats are sick/injured, we will trap these cats and, if possible, treat and release, or euthanize. We will also trap cats that have scratched/bitten a person or have come into contact with a potentially rabid animal. Finally, we will trap kittens who are less than 3 months of age to socialize and adopt out. AWLA will not take feral cats over the front counter unless they are sick/injured. The trappers should be supported with information on trap/neuter/return and advised to return the cat until they can get a surgery appointment.
Unfortunately, state law does not allow us, as representative of a municipal agency, to engage in all aspects of TNR. Although we are allowed to trap and sterilize cats, under the current state code, we are not authorized to return the cats. Therefore, we must rely on local volunteers to perform this function. AWLA will help with TNR when possible, including contributing towards the cost of spay/neuter when designated funds are available.