Community Cat FAQs

General Information
What happened to Indy Feral?

In 2002, IndyFeral was independently created as a means of changing the way stray and feral cats were viewed and handled in our community. Because of IndyFeral’s work, the care and treatment of stray, abandoned, and feral cats has improved. In 2012, IndyFeral merged with FACE and became the Community Cat Program at the clinic. TNR services continue through our community cat program. Today, IndyFeral lives on in the work we do with community cats. It takes all of us working together to address the needs of outdoor cats.

What is TNR?

Trap-Neuter-Return (“TNR”) is a program where free-roaming stray and feral cats are humanely trapped, spayed or neutered and vaccinated. They are returned to the outdoor location where they were found. TNR is the most humane and effective approach for handing the overpopulation of Community Cats (“Community Cats”, not belonging to a particular person). TNR has been in practice for decades in the US and numerous scientific studies have shown that TNR decreases the size of colonies over time and protects public health and improves the welfare of the cats.

What is a Community Cat?

Community Cat is a cat that has been fixed, vaccinated and ear-tipped then released back into the area from which it was captured. FACE defines Community Cats as unowned stray, free-roaming and feral (unsocialized) cats who live outdoors in our neighborhoods without a particular home or owner.

What is an Ear tip? I do not want my cat ear tipped!

Ear tipping is a universally accepted method to identify a spayed or neutered and vaccinated community cat. Ear tipping shows the cat belongs to a managed colony. It prevents the cat from being transported for surgery a second time. It prevents Animal Control from taking the cat to the shelter (other than if severely injured). It is often difficult to get close to a Community Cat, so the ear tip helps to identify the cat from a distance. At FACE Low-Cost Animal Clinic, the ear tip is mandatory for any Community Cat entering the program. The ear tip is done while the cat is sedated for spay/neuter surgery and is completely safe and painless.

I am feeding stray cats, what are the laws?

If you are feeding outdoor cats (stray or feral) in Marion County, Indiana you are required by the city’s TNR ordinance to:

Help Me With Cats
I have a mother with kittens. Can you fix the mother and adopt the kittens out?

FACE is a high-volume spay/neuter clinic and unfortunately, we do not have the capability to take kittens. The kittens should ideally stay with mom until they are 6 to 8 weeks old and eating on their own. We can spay the mother when the kittens are at least 3 weeks old and then she can continue nursing. We can spay or neuter the kittens once they are 12 weeks old and weigh 3 lbs. (the 12-week requirement allows us to provide their rabies vaccine at the time of surgery).  If you decide you want to foster the kittens and rehome them, we can provide you a list of organizations that can help place them for adoption, once they are old enough.

I have found kittens, what should I do?

If you come across a litter of kittens outdoors, it is natural to want to scoop them up and try to care for them yourself or take them to a shelter. However, both of those options may actually place them in more danger. To give newborn kittens the best chance of survival, follow these steps:

  1. Leave the kittens alone and try to see if their mom is still around. Observe them from a distance every couple of hours for 8 to 12 hours. If the kittens seem content and are not fussy, there is a good chance their mom is coming back.
  2. If the kittens are in danger due to their location, move them to a safer spot nearby so the mom can easily find them when she returns.
  3. If the kittens are dirty or appear sick, underweight or dehydrated, contact a local rescue organization or Indianapolis Animal Care Services. They can help you determine if the kittens are at risk and if you should intervene.
  4. If you see mom, leave the kittens alone. When the kittens are approximately 3 weeks old, you can trap mom and have her spayed. She can continue nursing, even after spay, and the kittens can be trapped and spayed/neutered, once they are 12 weeks old. After the cats are fixed, release them at the location where you found them. TNR is the most humane method of preventing cats and kittens from entering the shelter system.
The kittens are orphaned/I do not see mom, what should I do?

If you find orphaned kittens outdoors, keeping them warm is your first priority! Kittens can easily become chilled and can actually die from being cold within a short time. Be sure that from the moment you find them, you keep the kittens constantly warm. Keep an eye out for signs of chilling (i.e., kittens are listless and feel cool to the touch). If you have nothing else on hand, use your own body heat to warm up a cold kitten, and rub gently to aid circulation. Kittens cannot control their own body temperature until they are at least three weeks old. Never attempt to feed a cold kitten. Do not bottle-feed until kittens have warmed up completely. Learn more about caring for neonatal kittens.

How do I socialize kittens to become pets?

To become pets, kittens need to be socialized and taught to be comfortable around people. If the kittens are eight weeks or younger, usually just about anyone can socialize them by following some simple steps. Kittens between two months (eight weeks) and fourth months of age often take more time and skill to socialize. Socializing kittens is a big commitment. Learn more about socializing kittens.

Can I surrender a kitten(s) to FACE?

No, FACE is not a shelter. We are unable to take cats from the public, please take the cats to Indianapolis Animal Care Services or another area shelter.

Why isn’t FACE taking kittens?

Our mission at FACE is to provide affordable spay/neuter, vaccination, and wellness services for the Indianapolis community to prevent the unnecessary euthanasia of dogs and cats. By focusing on our mission we are able to help the city and its residents by reducing the number of stray and unwanted kittens that are entering the shelter system.

I have found a stray cat, what should I do?

Lost cats that are on the streets for weeks or months will be dirty, thin and possibly have fleas. Despite their appearance, the animal may have escaped from a wonderful home. Do not assume that an animal has been neglected or abandoned, just because they appear to be in rough shape.  A cat with an ear tip, most likely belongs to a colony in the immediate area and should be left alone unless it appears sick or injured.

For outdoor cats, provide food, water and winter shelters if cold. If the cat is not eartipped, it may not be fixed. We can help! No matter where this cat will eventually live, making sure that it is spayed or neutered is the best way to ensure it is not contributing to the animal overpopulation problem. FACE offers a Community Cat Package that includes spay/neuter and vaccines. Learn more about the Community Cat Package.

Once your stray is fixed and vaccinated, it is time to find it a home. Most cats do well returned to the area they came from. They can be cared for as part of a managed colony. Others cannot be returned and need to be relocated or found homes. You can find help rehoming friendly strays on our website.

You can take found animals to a local vet or shelter for a microchip scan. FACE’s clinic hours are listed here  and we are happy to scan found animals for a chip. You can scan a cat at any vet office (including 24-hour clinics), shelters or PetSmart, FREE of charge and no appointment needed.

If you do not find an owner and you take the animal to a shelter and wish to adopt them, be sure to claim “first and last rights.” This means that you can adopt the animal if the animal is unclaimed and is due to be euthanized. You should also call the animal control facility regularly to let the staff know you are interested in the animal’s welfare.

If the animal is not ear tipped or microchipped, in order to find the owner, take a good photo of the animal and write a basic description. You can use a free program at Pet Bond to create lost pet flyers. Be sure you leave out some information (e.g., wearing a pink collar) so you can ask specific questions of possible owners to help verify ownership. Post flyers in the area where you found the animal, as well as on local business bulletin boards. Email flyers to your friends, family and other people who live near you, as well as in surrounding areas. Post flyers across social media platforms and look for lost pet resources on Facebook and Twitter. For more tips and to report a found cat in Marion County, visit Indy Lost Pet Alert: https://indylostpetalert.com/found-pets/

A cat is stuck in a tree, what do I do?

We generally think of cats as natural tree climbers. A common belief is that if the cat can get up a tree, it can get down; this is not necessarily true. When cats becomes stuck in a tree, it is important to get them down as soon as possible. In as little as a day, a stuck cat can get dehydrated and weak.

Try these tips to get the cat down yourself:

1) Make sure there are no dogs in the area. Put your dogs inside and have neighbors put their dogs inside so the cat is comfortable enough to come down and not stressed by the dogs.

2) Use treats to coax the cat down. If it is your cat, use the treat they like best. If you do not know the cat, use a strong smelling treat, such as tuna. Leave a bowl of food at the base of the tree and then walk way. Let the cat come down for the food when it feels comfortable.

3) Use a laser pointer to lure the cat down. If the cat likes to play with the dot from the laser pointer, you may be able to trick it into coming down to chase it.

4) Keep an eye on the cat but give it time to come down on its own. Cats often come down, given time and space. The cat may just need space, quiet and reassurance that no other animals or people are going to harm it.

For more tips check out this site: https://www.wikihow.com/Get-a-Cat-out-of-a-Tree

If you are unable to get the cat down on your own, it important to know who to call for assistance.

Please do NOT call your local fire department – their mission is to save human lives and property. They do not rescue cats. The Humane Society of Indianapolis and Indianapolis Animal Care Services (IACS) also do not rescue cats from trees.

DO contact a local tree company – they will have the training and expertise to safely climb a tree and retrieve a frightened cat if you cannot get the cat down yourself.  In Indianapolis we recommend

Indiana Tree Service, Inc. (Cat friendly)
Phone: 317-372-1297 South/West     317-844-0500 North/East
E-mail: intree@aol.com
24-Hour Emergency Service Available
www.IndianaTreeService.com

First Time Trappers
How do you trap cats or a colony of several cats?

Feed the cats consistently before trapping. We suggest feeding for several weeks twice per day at the same time. Pick up the food after feeding for an hour. Do not feed cats at night because it attracts wildlife. After the cats are on a consistent feeding schedule, the trapping may begin. Please view the brochure for additional information.

How can I drop off multiple cats if I only have one carrier?

For the safety of the cats and the FACE staff, each cat should be in its own carrier or live trap.  If the cat is friendly, you can purchase cardboard carriers for $8 at our front desk or we can lend you plastic carriers to bring cats to the clinic.  If you are unable to get the cat into a carrier, a live trap is suggested (see below).

How do I borrow live traps?

You can purchase traps through multiple vendors including Amazon (see below). If you are unable to purchase your own trap, we can place you on the wait list to borrow a trap from FACE, however the wait, especially Spring through Fall, can be long.  Trap rentals are only available to Marion County residents.  To be put on the wait list, please fill out this form: https://facespayneuter.org/indyferal/community-cat-appointment-request/

Or email the Community Cat Coordinator at CommunityCats@facespayneuter.org

You can also rent traps from Low Cost Spay Neuter Clinic in Noblesville for a $35 refundable fee.

What traps do you recommend?

We recommend a trap with a “back door” for easier access to add the food.

Trap Recommendation

A Safeguard 30x11x12 trap is a recommended trap.

When do you accept community cats for spay/neuter surgery?

We accept community cats Monday through Wednesday by appointment.

We limit three cats per visit, per person, unless prior arrangements have been made with the Community Cat Coordinator. Please do not attempt to trap cats on Thursday-Saturday. We will not be able to complete their surgery until Monday, and it is inhumane for a cat to stay in a trap for an extended period of time.

Feral cats (cats that cannot be touched or handled by people) must be transported in live, humane traps. Drop-off for trapped cats is Monday – Wednesday between 7:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

Friendly stray cats can come to the clinic in cat carriers, preferably hard-sided. The cat MUST be contained in a carrier, one cat per carrier. Drop off friendly cats in carriers is from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., during normal surgery check-in, which takes about one hour.

Following surgery and recovery, we will call you for pick up. Pick up of community cats is generally the next day from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. If you are recovering indoors, let the front office staff know when you drop off, that you are picking up same day. Same day pick up is from 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Can I spay a nursing mom cat, pregnant cat or a cat in heat?

Cats in heat are safe to spay! It is important to prevent litters from being born.

Cats can become pregnant while nursing! Therefore, it is important to spay as soon as possible, even while mom is nursing. Mom will continue to nurse her kittens, even after spay. As long as the kittens are at least three weeks old, it is safe to spay mom.

We spay pregnant cats. Shelters cannot save and support the HUGE number of accidental litters, stray and family cats brought to their doors every day. Spaying a pregnant cat is safe and the right thing to do.

How much does the community cat package cost and what does it cover?

Our community cat package costs $40 per cat/kitten. This includes spay/neuter, vaccines, and a mandatory ear tip to show this has been done. We also apply Revolution that kills fleas, ticks and ear mites.

If the $40 fee poses an issue, please let us know. We may be able to provide limited financial assistance depending on availability. Payment is expected at the time of drop off. FACE accepts cash, debit card, Visa, MasterCard, and Discover.

Can you pick up my cats, I cannot transport?

We have a limited number of volunteers that can assist with trapping and transporting. We ask that if you can transport yourself, please do that so the volunteers can assist the elderly and those without transportation. If you need transport assistance, please email the Community Cat Coordinator so we can add you to the waiting list.

I do not want the cats back, can you relocate the cats?

We do not relocate cats. The Marion County ordinance allows for community cats and does not require that a cat have a known owner or a caretaker.  We will return any cat that qualifies for the program where it was captured or trapped. The cats know their neighborhood and it is very tricky to relocate a cat. Feral cats are not adoption candidates and do not belong in the shelter.

Community Cat/Colony Caretakers
How can I get flea medication for my community cat?

You must be enrolled in our community cat program to receive a limited amount of discounted flea medication. Medication can be purchased at the FACE front desk during regular clinic hours Monday through Saturday. Limit 20 doses.

Can I get my community cat(s) FIV/FeLV tested?

We do not FIV/FeLV test community cats because our primary purpose is sterilization to reduce population, which secondarily prevents nuisance behaviors, disease spread, sickness and euthanasia. The way to stop the spread of disease is stopping the mating, fighting, procreating, and malnutrition. Although there are health risks, recent studies now show FIV does not shorten a cat’s lifespan compared to non-FIV cats. If a caregiver is transitioning a community cat to be an indoor, owned cat, FACE can do testing for $25.

Can FACE do dental cleaning or extractions for my community cats?

Not at this time.  Please contact a full service clinic such as West Michigan Street Veterinary Clinic at 3811 W. Michigan St. Indianapolis, IN 46222, 317-757-5694 or All Pet Health Care by Noah’s at 3825 West Washington Street, Indianapolis, IN  46241, 317-481-1738.

How do I get shelters for winter for my outdoor cats (Styrofoam coolers)?

When there is a supply of shelters, they will be stored in three locations: Indianapolis Animal Care Services (IACS) at 2600 S. Harding St. FACE Lost-Cost Animal Clinic at 1505 Massachusetts Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46201. Fido (Friends of Indianapolis Dogs Outside) at 1505 N. Sherman Drive, Indianapolis 46201. You can pick up a shelter by sending an email request to our Community Cat Coordinator or Andrea Estes.

How do I build my own shelter?

There are websites online that take you through the steps of building outdoor cat shelters.  Some things to keep in mind:

  • How many shelters do I need? Unless you operate a managed colony, do not underestimate the number of cats in your area. You may only see one or two cats, but there are probably more. Try to provide more shelter space than you imagine needing.
  • What bedding should I use? Thick straw bedding allows the cats to “nest” and curl up into heat-conserving positions with the bedding providing a windbreak and insulator. In some cases, tacking strips of cloth over the shelter openings can provide additional protection from drafts, but it may make cats less likely to enter.  In very harsh conditions, caretakers may wish to provide weatherproof doghouse heating pads. These are constructed of sealed, heavy plastic with damage-resistant cords. (Only use these if you can safely run power to the unit using a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI). The GFCI will disconnect the power in the event of a short circuit or damage to the cord.) When plugging a heater cord into an extension cord, make sure the connection does not lay on the ground where it might be prone to water. Special waterproof extension cords are available at hardware stores.

Where should I put the cat shelter(s)?  Locating the shelter is also an important topic. Neutral and earth tones to blend with the environment. Shelters should be located away from areas of vehicle & foot traffic. Locating it in a wooded area or in the margin of a wooded area is ideal. This provides cover from the elements and makes the shelter less obvious. In urban areas, locate the shelter behind buildings or bushes. Cats will avoid a shelter if they are disturbed there regularly. Position the cat shelter to block the entrances from receiving direct wind and rain/snow. In central Indiana, the prevailing winds are usually from the south and the west. It may also be helpful to place sturdy building materials adjacent to the entrance to provide additional wind protection (about 12″ from the entrance). Make sure that if you place anything over or around the shelter that it is anchored firmly and will not blow or fall over in front of the entrance.

My neighbor is threatening me because I feed cats, what can I do?

In Marion County, it is legal to feed cats as long as the caretaker is getting the cats fixed and preventing the cats from being a nuisance. You can review all ordinances for Marion County/City of Indianapolis online.

Animal cruelty and neglect are against the law! If you witness any type of animal abuse, please contact your local police department or animal control organization. If you are in Marion County, please submit an online request for an Animal Control Officer through the Mayor’s Action Center.

My neighbors hate cats, how do I get along with neighbors?

Staying on good terms with your neighbors may be a concern when you have a cat colony. If cats are causing problems in your neighbors’ yards, gardens or bird feeders, this may create tension between you and your neighbors.

We find it is helpful to respect their opinions and offer to work with them to keep the cats out. Fortunately, there are many safe and effective solutions to these problems. First, talk to your neighbor! Find out if the cat is a pet or stray and if it has been neutered. If it is not neutered, you can take care of that with the help of FACE Low Cost Animal Clinic (link to contact info or appointment request form).

Here are some common complaints you may near from neighbors and some solutions:

Cats are digging in my garden! Your neighbor can use deterrents in the garden: scatter fresh orange/lemon peels, citrus-scented sprays, coffee grounds, cayenne pepper, vinegar, pipe tobacco, lavender oil, peppermint oil, lemon grass, citronella and eucalyptus, all deter cats! In the garden, place chicken wire, plastic sheets or plastic carpet runners spike-side up, covered lightly with soil. You can remove these later, after cats stop visiting.

Cats are sleeping under my porch or in my shed! Refer to the list above of natural repellents Apply these fragrances liberally around the edges of the porch or shed. Place physical barriers such as chicken wire or lattice. Be sure to check for kittens first! Provide an alternative shelter such as a plastic bin or doghouse and place it in a secluded area away from porches and sheds.

Cats are getting into my trashcans! Hungry cats are looking for food. Place trash bags inside cans, not sitting outside to be torn open by dogs or raccoons. Make sure lids fit tightly on cans. Feed cats yourself if no one is feeding them. If they have enough food to eat, they will leave trash alone.

My car has paw prints on it! Make sure you move your feeding stations and shelters away from driveways and parking areas.

Cats are fighting, yowling, spraying, roaming and having kittens! These are mating behaviors that are typical of cats that have not been altered. These problems stop once the cats are spayed and neutered. Contact FACE to get started (link to appointment request page). For urine odors, spray the area with white vinegar or products that have natural enzymes such as Nature’s Miracle or PDZ Horse Stall Refresher. All are available at local pet supply or feed supply stores.

Cats are attracting wildlife such as raccoons! Do not leave food out at night! Only feed during the day and pick up excess food so you do not attract other animals.

Can someone help me feed my colony?

Do you have a plan for your Community Cats when you are unable to take care of them? Finding a substitute caretaker is important for life’s unexpected challenges, from becoming ill to leaving on vacation. If you are the sole caretaker of your community cats, do not hesitate to start searching for a substitute.

Start with people who know about your cats and may be willing to volunteer. Ask neighbors, friends, and family. Find others in your area who are caring for cats and see if they might be willing to help.

Give the substitute caretaker a photo of each cat and the medical history. Let them know the details of your feeding schedule and ongoing care.

Decide on a caretaking arrangement. If the substitute caretaker cannot help financially, you might need to stock up on food, medicine, etc. You will need to decide which vet to use and whether this will be at your expense or the substitute caretaker’s.

Do everything you can to avoid having the cats relocated! Relocating is only an option in an extreme situation, such as when their lives might be in danger. It is hard on the cats and rarely successful.

You may feel that no one can fill your shoes when it comes to your Community Cats care, but finding a substitute you trust will give you extra assurance that the cats have the proper care.

Can someone help me relocate my colony?

Relocation is a process of moving a stray or feral cat from its current outdoor home to a new place. It is a labor-intensive process and often has a low success rate. Cats are territorial and remaining in their current habitat is optimal for their health and safety. There are things that can go wrong when people try to relocate a colony of cats. Cats often disappear in a new location, or they die trying to return to the old location.

The following situations may warrant relocation:

  • The lives of the cats are being threatened in a way that cannot be legally remedied
  • The colony is located on public or private property that will not allow the colony to be maintained
  • Their home or shelter is being destroyed and it is impossible to provide an alternative shelter at their current habitat or migration of the cats within a reasonable distance is not possible.
  • There is no identified caretaker

Rationale: Stray and feral cats become well adapted to their territory and can live safely and contentedly in alleyways, parking lots, vacant lots, backyards and other locations – urban, suburban and rural. The present home of a feral colony is the best place for the cats since they likely have been living there for their entire life. It is the only home they know. Colony cats develop very strong bonds with each other, their present territory and caretaker. Moving them to a new location is like tearing a family apart. This results in stress, loneliness, fear and depression.

The following cats have the lowest chance of relocation success:

  • Cats that are very feral
  • Moving too few cats together from the same colony
  • Cats relocated by themselves
  • Kittens under 6 months relocated without a mother

If it is determined relocation is necessary, following these guidelines may increase the chance of success:

  • Find a safe and permanent home site with a caretaker committed to providing life-long feeding, watering, medical care and monitoring of the cats.
  • Identify a room or secure area that is clean, quiet, temperature controlled and protects the cats from the elements as much as possible. Be sure there is adequate air and light available.
  • Other items needed will include a wire dog crate (minimum size of 2 ft x 3 ft.) litter, litter pans, food and water bowls, a small carrier for the cat to hide in and sheets to cover the crate to help reduce the cats stress.
  • Cats should be confined where they can see and smell their new surroundings (especially other cats, the caretaker and the feeding station)
  • Cats must be confined in their crate for a minimum of 2 weeks at the new site to acclimate and identify with its new location and caretaker before release
  • Cats must receive daily care, food, water and litter box cleaning
Tips to increase the chance for successful relocation:
  • Cats relocate best when paired with another cat. House them together in one large crate.
  • During the first day or two, the cats may struggle to find a way out (especially at night). They will calm down in a day or two after they realize that they will not be harmed
  • Feed on a regular schedule preferably twice a day (wet and dry)
  • Keep the relocation crate covered with a sheet to reduce stress
  • Rattle the food in a box or bowl each time you feed so the cats associate the sound with food
  • Make frequent (minimum twice daily) verbal attempts to bond with the cats
  • If a cat escapes during the confinement period, leave food and water out, and sprinkle their used litter around the area (for scent). Cats often hide for a period, but will stay close. Leave food and water to prevent them from leaving in search of food
  • When the cats are ready for release, continue feeding in the same area and on the same schedule as before.
  • Typically cats will run and hide after initial release