Cats in the Community

Community Cats

Shelter Kitty 3


Cats Live Outdoors Year-Round

Spring and summer is 'Kitten Season!' The Shelter sees the highest volume of kittens during the warm spring and summer months. Our cat condos stay mostly full (with kittens and owner-surrendered indoor pet cats) from April through October, and we utilize a variety of tools to help keep the shelter from becoming overcrowded during these busy months. In addition to partnering with rescue groups, we have a foster program that allows us to send underage kittens and adult cats who need a break to foster homes until they are ready for adoption. Some free-roaming community cats are not suited to life indoors around people, and they much prefer to continue to live outdoors. These are called 'community cats.' If you see a healthy community cat, please leave him/her where you find them. Here are some tips for caring for community cats in warm months.

During the cold winter months, we sometimes hear from community members that they are concerned about cats outdoors. Try not to worry! Cats have been living outside for decades and they are smart, and know where to go to seek warmth. (One good tip is to bang on the hood of your car before you start it during the winter months, just in case any cats have sought shelter near the warm engine overnight.) Many community cats are part of managed colonies of 2+ cats, and have someone watching out for them. If you see community cats and want to learn how to care for them during winter months, here are some great tips.

Regardless of season, if a cat is sick or injured, or declawed or microchipped, the shelter will accept him/her. If you see a sick or injured cat outdoors, contact the Animal Protection Police at 703-691-2131. If you see an outdoor cat during extremely cold conditions, you can call the shelter at 703-830-1100 or email us at to discuss the best plan for that cat.


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Community Cats – Working Together to Implement Solutions 

In 2008, the Fairfax County Animal Shelter started one of the first community cat Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) programs in the region. Since then, over 7,000 free-roaming community cats have been humanely trapped, spayed/neutered, vaccinated against rabies, eartipped, and returned to the location at which they were trapped - all by volunteers! Community cats who have been through a TNR program are eartipped while they are under anesthesia for surgery, so if you see a free-roaming community cat with 3/8" of their left (or right) ear tip removed, they are spayed/neutered and vaccinated. You may read more about eartipping here. Each year since starting this program, the Shelter has seen a marked reduction in the number of neonatal kittens coming in to the Shelter. 

If you would like more information about how to become involved in our TNR program please email us at:


Indoor Pet Cats

We do accept indoor pet cats for surrender at the shelter. We periodically utilize a cat waitlist to ensure that we only take in the number of cats that we have room for. For more information on surrendering an indoor pet cat, please visit our webpage: Surrendering Your Pet.


Community Cat FAQ

Q: Does the shelter accept stray or feral cats?

    A: No, the shelter does not accept healthy free-roaming community (aka feral or stray) cats. There are no laws against free-roaming cats in Fairfax County. The rate of return-to-owner for stray cats is only around 20%, and cats are 13 times more likely to find their way home on their own versus being brought to a shelter. Additionally, some free-roaming community cats don't have one specific home they return to, but are rather cared for and part of a colony. If the shelter took in healthy free-roaming community cats, many cats would be at risk of euthanasia for lack of space or because they are not suited to life as an indoor pet cat. If a cat is sick or injured, or declawed or microchipped, the shelter will accept him/her. If you see a sick or injured cat outdoors, contact the animal protection police at 703-691-2131.

Q: There is a healthy community cat that keeps coming into my yard. Can I bring it to the shelter? 

    A: There is no law against free-roaming cats in Fairfax County. The majority of free-roaming community cats have a nearby caregiver, or the cat may even be an indoor/outdoor pet cat whose home is nearby. As long as the cat appears in good condition, please do not attempt to trap or catch the cat to bring it to the Shelter. If the cat is a nuisance, there are number of harmless cat deterrents that are sold at pet stores or online; for a list of deterrents, please visit:

Q:  I found a litter of kittens that were abandoned by their mother. What should I do?

    A: The mother is probably nearby, and she will be back to care for her kittens soon. Please do not kitten-nap them! Unless the kittens are in immediate danger (ex: on or very near a busy road, in immediate physical danger from a predator, or the kittens are sick or injured), please leave them where you found them so the mother can come back and continue to care for them. This is especially important if the kittens are still nursing. Shelter staff and fosters are trained to provide care to neonatal (nursing) kittens, but nothing is a substitute for their real mom! If kittens are weaned, still under 8 weeks of age, and friendly-ish, we will take them in. If kittens are over 8 weeks of age and feral (not socialized towards humans, meaning they hiss and run away from you), they are eligible for our TNR program. If they are older than 8 weeks of age but super friendly, we may take them in if space allows. Please call us at 703-830-1100 to discuss, or email us at

Q: I have a barn and I'm looking for barn cats. Does the shelter ever have cats who would be happiest in a barn setting?

    A: Yes! We do occassionally get cats in who would be happiest in a barn environment. Please email us; we'd love to help find you barn cats!

Q: I was bit by a cat. What do I do?

    A: Seek immediate medical attention and call the Animal Protection Police at 703-691-2131. The responding officer may confine the animal at the shelter for a quarantine period, or may allow the owner to confine the animal in a home-based quarantine. 

Q: I want to get my pet cat spayed or neutered but I can’t afford it.  Does the shelter spay and neuter owned pets?

    A: The Fairfax County Animal Shelter does not provide spay and neuter services for the public at the shelter. Please read about low-cost spay and neuter options by visiting the Anicira Veterinary Center website. You can email the shelter at if you still need assistance. We DO offer assistance for spaying/neutering free-roaming community cats, so please email us for more information.


Shelter Kitty 1

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