No Moving Day for Feral Cats

Becky Robinson, CatChannel expert on feral and stray cats, explains why relocating a feral cat colony is not an ideal move.

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Q: I care for a colony of approximately 20 cats and may need to relocate them to a different area in my neighborhood. How would I relocate the colony?

A:  If you are thinking about relocating a feral cat colony, there are several factors to consider. With very few exceptions, feral cats should remain at their original colony site.

Cats create strong bonds with their territory and with one another. Acclimating to a new environment can be extremely traumatic to them, and all colony members must be sufficiently confined for 30 days in their new habitat.

In addition, if you move the existing colony, new cats are likely to move into the area and form a new colony; this is a well-documented fact called the “vacuum effect.”

There is no guarantee that the cats will remain where you want them to or that they will even survive, since they most likely have been congregating near a food source or shelter that would no longer exist. If new cats are being moved to an area where a colony already is established, the reigning colony may not accept the newcomers. For these reasons, I urge you to consider alternatives first.

Relocation is often considered necessary and urgent. However, with some creativity and negotiating, many colonies have been able to remain in their territory by moving or shifting their feeding sites and sleeping locations. Even when a building is being demolished or habitat is being developed, there may be ways to shift the colony’s domain to fall outside of the affected area.

If the caregiver is moving, there are recruitment tips on finding new caregivers. Relocation may be considered if a caregiver is moving and wants to bring his or her colony along.

If you are considering moving cats because of issues arising from their cohabitation with people, there are some techniques that can be used to steer them to places where they are allowed to sleep and eliminate. When you combine these deterrent methods with trap-neuter-return, you will find that you can overcome difficult issues that can occur when cats and people share space.

If you have considered all of the above and believe that moving the colony is the only option, please follow the suggestions available within the “Moving Feral Cats” section of Alley Cat Allies’ Resource Center.

Good luck!

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No Moving Day for Feral Cats

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Reader Comments

Linda    Voorhees, NJ

5/6/2008 9:57:54 AM

Cats are not a natural part of the ecosystem - they do not have a habitat. They should be removed or enclosed. Removing the cats and the food source works - no vacuum effect.

Linda    Mandeville, LA

4/29/2008 3:52:09 AM

Good article.

Linda    Mandevilele, LA

4/1/2008 4:13:23 AM

Good article.

Cathy    Hubbard, OH

3/14/2008 4:51:25 AM

There was an article on here earlier where they were moving a colony away from the sand dunes. I thought the same as above. How are you going to keep them from moving back?

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