Are there cats in your neighborhood? Have you noticed new or unowned cats outside? Do you feed or care for cats who are living outside? Do you see a cat in need?
The cats you are seeing are community cats. They are cats that live outdoors – sometimes called feral cats, alley cats, street cats, Tomcats, strays, or outdoor cats. There are an estimated 700,000 community cats living across Massachusetts, with 70,000 living in Boston alone, many right in our Charlestown neighborhood.
A community cat is the same species as a pet cat. They live in family groups known as colonies and they are bonded to these colonies, as well as the location or neighborhood where they live. Some of these cats prefer to live in our neighborhoods and not indoors, and most cannot be adopted into homes with people. This can lead to a tough life for this group of cats on many levels, and especially during harsh weather conditions.
Spay/neuter/vaccinate is one of the most humane and effective ways to stop the cycle of homelessness among cats. The surgeries are low risk and proven to improve the safety and health of these cats as well as the community as a whole.
In some cases, community cats can be adopted.
Both Rosemarie Boucher and Kara Ryan have adopted community cats into their homes with great success. In these cases, the cats have become a part of the family – albeit in some instances the crazy part of the family. Both women are leading a campaign in Charlestown to bring attention to the community cats that live here.
Boucher said this is particularly important as the population becomes more transient and people leave Town – and with that they leave their cats to fend for themselves. These community cats are particularly vulnerable in the snow and cold conditions, and Boucher said now is the time to pay close attention to the issue.
The Animal Rescue League of Boston has a program to support cats in the community through veterinary and identification services, spay/neuter/vaccinate, a food pantry program, and an adoption program for friendly homeless stray cats. A dedicated Field Services agent will come out and assess a colony of cats, or an individual community cat in need, and formulate a plan. Many of these community cats are found to be adoptable which leads to a better life for them.
The only step left if for the community to identify and inform the League of their whereabouts.
To learn more, request a service, or if you see an animal in need, call (617) 426-9170, then press “1” and “1” again or visit www.arlboston.org
There are other local Charlestown community members involved in this initiative whom have adopted community cats that have shown up in need at their doorsteps.
Boucher and Ryan said they will be looking for more community members to join in, help identify cats in need and spread the word about how the ARL of Boston can help.