What are Community Cats?

Since 2016, the City of El Paso passed an ordinance allowing cats to be considered free roaming. El Paso Animal Services promotes and follows the Community Cat Program as a humane and non-lethal approach to long term free-roaming cat population control. Community Cats are often semi-friendly or unfriendly cats that wouldn't be suitable for adoption into homes, and are already considered free roaming. Cats that go through the Community Cat program are spayed/neutered, have their ear tip clipped to symbolize they have been through the program, vaccinated and returned to the community they were brought from. 

Why it works

  • Evidence and history has proven that previous approaches to community cats involving trapping and euthanasia are not effective population control methods. The remaining few cats will breed, and in some cases over-breed to replace the missing cats or cats from neighboring areas will move in.
  • Since cats are territorial, simply removing cats will only open up the area for a new colony to move in.
  • Community cat caregivers provide day-to-day care and monitoring of the colony so that newcomers can be quickly trapped and sterilized.
  • The negative impact of the cats is greatly reduced simply by spaying/neutering and is further reduced as the number of cats decreases. Neutered cats make less noise and fight less. In addition, late-night howling is reduced, spraying is reduced, and unwanted litters are prevented.
  • The cats did not choose to be wild but were simply born in to this environment. Once feral cats arrive at shelter there are few options for them as they are not friendly, cuddly companions. The Community Cat program provides these cats a chance to live out their natural lives in a healthy manner while also reducing the overall population.


Community Cats vs. Feral:

Community Cat

A "Community Cat" is an umbrella definition that includes any outdoor, free roaming cat. These cats may be "Feral" (un-socialized) or friendly, or may have been born into the wild.

Feral Cat

A "feral" cat is genetically the same as a domestic. But feral cats are no longer socialized to humans. They have learned to live outdoors or in environments with little human contact. They are not social to humans and tend to retreat or avoid human contact if approached.

How can I get involved?

Community Cats Program 

If you have unaltered / unvaccinated community cats in your area and are interested in participating in the Community Cats Program, please contact the Community Cats Coordinator at: 

Email: burdenkl@elpasotexas.gov 

Office: (915) 212-8719 

Work Cell: (915) 549-1502 

Available hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

If contact cannot be made or is being attempted during non-working hours, please leave a voicemail or email and a response will be returned as soon as possible. 

Alternative Contact – Community Programs Manager 

Email: molinaex@elpasotexas.gov 

Office: (915) 212-8729 

Work Cell:(915) 218-8176 

General hours for Community Cat drop off is Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (hours subject to change on holidays).  

If you are currently participating in the Community Cats Program, cat drop off is Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and cat pick up is the following day between 2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Humane Trapping Instructions

  • Have a plan in place in order to limit the cat's time spent in the trap.
  • Limit trapping to cooler weather hours, such as nighttime and early morning. 
  • Do not leave trap unattended for more than two hours. 
  • Supply trapped cats with food.
  • Cover trap during transport to reduce stress.
  • Release cats at the same location they were trapped from. 
  • Release any trapped cats that are already ear-tipped, as they have already been sterilized and vaccinated. 

Warehouse/Barn Cat Program

Thanks to their natural instincts, cats can provide a free and natural form of pest control for warehouses, stables, barns, farms and ranches. El Paso Animal Services often has less-socialized kitties come into the center year-round looking for a different kind of "forever home," in terms of warehouses and barns, where they can live out their lives while also helping keep the rodent and insect population under control. Similar programs across teh country have found success with this practice, and local barn owners praise the results of this program.

If you're looking to "hire" a working warehouse or barn cat, adoption fees are free and warehouse cats come spayed/neutered, vaccinated and microchipped. Contact Karen Burden at (915) 212-8719 for more information. 

Sun City Cats

The Department of Animal Services partners with Sun City Cats, the largest Trap-Neuter-Return advocacy group in the El Paso area. Sun City Cats is not a cat rescue but instead promotes humane cat population control, educates the community on peacefully co-existing with free-roaming cats, and aids individuals as well as other rescue organizations to organize and execute community cat programs in their own neighborhoods. Sun City Cats is the liaison between veterinarians, individuals, community groups, cat fosters, and the City's Department of Animal Services. To learn how you can volunteer, become a colony manager , or become a foster, please contact Sun City Cats at help@suncitycats.org or (915) 472-4926. 


What do I do if I find kittens in my neighborhood?

Kittens from birth to eight weeks: Kittens do best hen raised by their mothers. If you find a litter of healthy, young kittens in a safe place, such as a yard, the best thing you can do is to leave them alone. If they're healthy, it means mom is nearby and will soon return to care for them. 

Kittens eight weeks to adult: If you find a stray cat or kitten that is friendly, you can bring it into the center where it will be spayed/neutered, vaccinated, and either placed for adoption or returned to the community through our Community Cat Program. If it's an unfriendly cat, please contact our Community Cat Coordinator or Sun City Cats for information and resources. 

What if I don’t want cats in my neighborhood?

Community cats already exist in our community, and Trap-Neuter-Return is the only effective way to reduce the population. Our region tried trap-and-eliminate for decades without success. Adopting Trap-Neuter-Return is the best way to reduce the number of community cats, save taxpayers money, and improve conditions at the animal shelter.

There are also simple but effective steps that can be taken to deter cats from your property - like spreading used coffee grounds around your property. Commercial products are available, as well. Cat caregivers can supply helpful advice and specific recommendations if you have a problem on your property. For more tips, visit http://www.alleycat.org/resources/how-to-live-with-cats-in-your-neighborhood/

Why do they have a tipped ear?

Ear-tipping is an effective and universally accepted method to identify a spayed or neutered and vaccinated community cat.  This is done while the cat is anesthetized for spay/neuter and healing is rapid.

The ear tip helps the community quickly identify that the cat is sterilized (cannot reproduce). It is difficult to get close to feral cats, and therefore the identification must be visible from a distance. Community cats may interact with a variety of caregivers, veterinarians, and animal control personnel during their lives and so immediate visual identification is necessary to prevent an unnecessary second trapping and surgery

Helpful Resources

Managing Community Cats: A Guide for Municipal Leaders

Guide to Cat Behavior Counseling

Need cat deterrents?

Deterrent methods video

Caretaker tips video

What to do if you find kittens

Leave kittens with mom. Like all babies, kittens are best left with their mothers who instinctively know how to help their offspring grow up to be strong and healthy cats. If you know the mother is present, it is best to leave kittens with her.

A mother cat will periodically leave her nest to hunt for food. If you see young kittens without their mother, it is likely she will return. It is always better for young kittens to remain with their mother. Pre-weaned kittens (under 4 weeks) without a mother are very difficult to care for and have a high mortality rate. The mother should return to the nest within a few hours if you watch quietly from a distance.

A mother cat will also regularly move her nest of kittens instinctively. If you see a single young kitten, it is likely that it’s the first of the group moved to a new location or the last of the group in the old location.