Free-Roaming Cats

What should I do with a pet I found?


If you find a stray dog in Marion County, you must bring it to the Marion County Dog Shelterlocated at 3550 Aumsville Hwy SE or submit a report on their website. Their phone number is (503) 588-5233.

If you find a stray dog in Polk County, you may bring it to Willamette Humane Society. Please call us at (503) 585-5900 to arrange a time to bring the dog in, or come to the shelter during our walk-in time. Click here to learn more about walk-in times.

We will scan the dog for a microchip and hold it for 3-5 days to give owners the opportunity to claim their pet. We will ask you to fill out a brief personality profile to provide us with any details you observed while the dog was in your care. If the dog is not claimed by its owners, it will be evaluated for adoption. Since we depend on donations to serve our community, we ask for a suggested donation of $10 to bring in a stray dog.


If you find a stray cat in either Marion or Polk County, you may bring it to Willamette Humane Society. Please call us at (503) 585-5900 x300 to arrange a time to bring the cat in, or come to the shelter during our walk-in time. Click here to learn more about walk-in times.

We will scan the cat for a microchip and hold it for 1 business day to give owners the opportunity to claim their pet. We will ask you to fill out a brief personality profile to provide us with any details you observed while the cat was in your care. If the cat is not claimed by its owners, it will be evaluated for adoption. Since we depend on donations to serve our community, we ask for a suggested donation of $10 to bring in a stray cat.

You may also choose to hold the animal at your home while waiting for the owners. If you choose to do this, please bring the animal into WHS so we can scan it for a chip and get a detailed description, along with your contact information. We will keep this report on file for 30 days.

Feral Cats

WHS has traps available to rent.  You may trap and bring in a feral cat, but please understand that feral cats cannot be accepted for our adoption program. Please call us at (503) 585-5900 for an appointment. We charge a fee of $25 to safely handle and accept a feral cat. If you need to trap a feral cat, follow these guidelines and tips for humanely trapping feral cats, compiled by the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon. Traps may be rented from United Rentals (503-393-1222), Capital Rentals (503-378-1122), or from the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon (503-931-2466).

Alternately, you can make an appointment to bring a feral cat to our spay & neuter clinic, where he or she will be sterilized and returned to you. The cost is $43 per cat and includes the spay or neuter surgery, rabies vaccination, flea and ear mite treatment. See our clinic pages about spaying/neutering feral cats. You can also contact the Feral Cat Coalition for more information about caring for feral cat colonies.

 Farm Animals

WHS cannot accept livestock or farm animals. If you find a stray farm animal, please contact:
Department of Agriculture (503) 986-4681
Lighthouse Farm Sanctuary (503) 394-4486


If you find injured or orphaned wildlife, please contact:
Turtle Ridge Wildlife Center: (503) 540-8664
American Wildlife Foundation: (503) 227-4036
Dept. of Fish & Wildlife: (971) 673-6000

If you have questions or concerns about the removal of wildlife from your home or property, go here for more information and to find a professional trapper or wildlife removal expert.

If you have additional questions about Lost & Found animals, please contact WHS (503) 585-5900

Contact Us

What is a barn cat?

Willamette Humane Society sometimes has cats who cannot live as house pets. Cats eligible for the barn cat adoption special fall into three categories:

  • Cats whose litterbox habits make them unsuitable for house pets.
  • Cats who are just too independent to appreciate being cooped up in cages in the shelter.
  • Cats who prefer the company of other cats and animals to people, or who don’t like to be handled.

Cats who are suitable to be house pets are not eligible for the Barn Cat Special, it is created to provide the best possible outcome for cats who may not otherwise be able to find homes.

The barn cat program reaches out to those with a working barn, outbuildings, or other safe structures deemed appropriate by our adoption counselors on a case by case basis.  Having a barn cat or cats will help keep down the rodent population.  The cats will be helping the property owner, while the property owner provides the cats with a safe place to live. And, because these cats are already spayed/neutered, the property owner won’t have to worry about endless litters of kittens appearing!

Willamette Humane Society staff will go over how to acclimate the new cat(s) to the barn or structure and make them feel at home.

The Adoption fee for Barn Cats is waived.


  • Spay or Neuter surgery prior to adoption placement*
  • Ear tip marking to identify spayed or neutered cats outdoors.*
  • FVRCP vaccine
  • FIV/FeLV testing
  • One year Rabies vaccine
  • Revolution flea treatment and dewormer

*Cats that are already spayed or neutered will not receive surgery and/or ear-tip.

Barn Cat adopters must agree to provide daily food, water, and shelter to the cat.  Veterinary care should be provided as needed.

What do I do if I find a cat outdoors?

Cat with Ear Tip TransparentFirst, check if the cat’s ear has been tipped (see diagram). If so, it has been sterilized and you can leave it there. Studies show* that stray and feral cats are able to find food and survive outdoors.

If the cat has a collar, or appears lost or distressed, see if it will approach you to identify the collar or tags, take a photo, and file a Found Cat Report.  The cat may have an owner that is missing it!

If the cat’s ear has not been tipped, and it has no collar, call 503-480-SPAY to arrange for trapping and spay & neuter surgery.

*(Body condition of ferals at TNR (Scott, Levy et al. 2002)Population characteristics of feral cats admitted to seven trap-neuter-return programs in the United States. (Wallace & Levy, 2006))


What is a stray, feral, or community cat?

They are cats or their offspring that have been lost, abandoned, or allowed to roam outdoors.  They are called by many names, but they have something in common- they have no owners.

Do you accept walk-ins?


Walk-in space is limited and prioritized on a case-by-case basis for end-of-life services and strays. If you need to surrender an animal, an appointment is required to allow our staff adequate time to perform a brief exam and a behavior evaluation. (Please note: you are welcome to schedule an appointment to bring in your Marion or Polk County stray as well. Also, please be aware that WHS accepts only cats and dogs.)

Walk-in hours are held Thursday through Monday from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. Community members are welcome to arrive when the shelter opens and place their name on the walk-in waitlist for that specific day. Please note we have a limited number of walk-in appointments each day based on our current capacity.

There is a risk that we may not be able to serve you as a walk-in and an appointment is strongly encouraged!

Please call 503-585-5900, ext. 300, and a customer service representative will recommend the best available appointment or walk-in options for your situation.

Contact us about Appointment Availability

What should I do if I find kittens?

The best place for newborn kittens is with their mother, if at all possible.

Check to see if the kittens are still warm. If so, their mother may have gone to find food or hide from you. Call 503-480-SPAY and arrange to borrow a trap to catch their mother. Keep the kittens with their mother and bring them all to the clinic.  The kittens will be kept with their mother in a foster home until they are all old enough to be spayed and neutered.

If the kittens aren’t warm, their mother may have abandoned them.  Heat up a water bottle, wrap it in a towel and put it in a box with the kittens. Call the shelter at 503-585-5900 and dial 0 and arrange to bring them in as soon as possible. If you can’t come immediately, obtain Kitten Meal Replacer (KMR) from a pet supply store or the shelter and follow the directions to feed the kittens.

How do you tell if a litter of kittens has been abandoned, or if their mother is finding food or hiding nearby?

What should you do to help the kittens survive if they ARE in fact abandoned?

These are important questions to ask!

Read a recent article in the Statesman Journal to learn more.

Read More

How to care for kittens

Are They Warm?

If you find abandoned kittens, the first step is to make sure they are warm!

The greatest single danger to abandoned kittens is chilling. A kitten separated from its mother will not live long. Prolonged exposure to cold results in a drop of body temperature and, if it drops below the blood sugar level, the kitten’s internal organs begin a systematic shutdown. If you find abandoned kittens and they feel cold to the touch, hyperthermia has set in and the kitten’s condition is critical.

Here are some techniques you can use to warm the kitten as safely as possible:

Place a heating pad down the side of a cardboard box and half way beneath the box.  You may also use a water bottle filled with warm/hot water, wrapped in a towel.

Put a towel in the bottom of the box. Place the heating pad on the LOW temperature setting. Make sure the heating pad does not cover the entire bottom, so the kitten can move off it if it needs to. If a kitten is cold and needs to be warmed before feeding, you can administer .01cc of Karo Syrup Light orally or by rubbing it on the gums of the kitten. This will help to raise the blood sugar level and stabilize the kitten while it warms. If you don’t have Karo Syrup you can mix a solution of warm water and sugar in equal parts and administer .01cc. Once the kitten’s body temperature has warmed it can receive its first formula. Baby kittens have only a very small amount of body fat and must be fed frequently and in the right amounts to maintain adequate blood sugar levels and provide energy for metabolism. Small, weak kittens do best if they are fed every four hours for the first four days. If they cannot take the amount of formula as shown below, they should be fed more frequently with a lesser amount.

per day
CCs each feeding TOTAL CCs PER DAY
1 4 oz. 6 5cc 32cc
2 7 oz. 4 14cc 56cc
3 10 oz. 3 26cc 80cc
4 13 oz. 3 34cc 104cc
5 1 lb. 3 42cc 128cc

Feeding Methods

Bottle feeding is the preferred method, although some kittens will not suckle on a bottle right away. If this occurs, you can use a syringe to feed the kitten. Follow the same methods as with bottle feeding; just be very careful not to force too much liquid at one time as this may cause fluid to build up in the lungs.

Warm the formula until it feels warm on your wrist. You can warm it in the microwave, but make sure you shake it and place a little on your wrist to make sure it is not too HOT. Place the kitten on its stomach to bottle feed to avoid having the milk run into the kitten’s windpipe. Encourage suckling by keeping a slight pull of the bottle. Do not squeeze formula into the kitten’s mouth as it can go down to fast and make the kitten aspirate.
After each meal a kitten MUST be stimulated to urinate and defecate. Massage the kitten’s anal area with a warm, damp, cotton ball or tissue. This will provide the necessary stimulation. You usually have to continue this stimulation until the kitten is about 3 weeks old and can go on its own.

If your kitten appears restless and cries excessively check to make sure it is getting enough food. As this is a sign of being underfed and can also lead to dehydration and death.

When a kitten is three weeks old you can begin to train it to eat out of a bowl. You can mix the formula with Gerber’s turkey and broth baby food. You can also mix Gerber Rice Cereal with the formula and offer this in a bowl or add a slight bit of the cereal to the bottle when feeding. Continue bottle feeding until you know that the kitten is eating adequately on its own.

A healthy kitten will weigh 3-4 ounces at birth and begin to gain weight rapidly a few days after birth. They should double their weight by one week.

Chart of the normal weight ranges for kittens

Age in Days Weight
1 1 ½ – 4 ¾ oz.
5 3 – 7 oz.
10 4 ½ – 9 ¾ oz.
15 6 – 11 3/4
20 7 ½ – 14 ½ oz.
25 8 – 16 ¾ oz.


What is trap-neuter-return (TNR)?

TNR Release

Trap Neuter Return (TNR) is when a stray or feral cat living outdoors is humanely trapped, neutered or spayed, ear-tipped (the universal sign that a cat has been sterilized), vaccinated, and returned to the area where it was trapped.

TNR will stabilize the cat population because no more litters are born from the cat. These sterile cats guard the territory against new cats moving in. TNR will also reduce nuisance behaviors like yowling, fighting, and spraying.

TNR, supported by leading national animal welfare organizations, is the most humane, cost-effective, and effective method of controlling the feral, unowned, free-roaming and stray cat overpopulation crisis facing virtually every city, town, and rural community in the country.

TNR involves trapping all or most of the cats in a colony, having them neutered, vaccinated for rabies, left or right ear tipped, and then returned to their territory. Whenever possible, young kittens and any friendly cats are removed for veterinary care and socialization, and placed for adoption.

TNR slows the growth of a colony if at least 70 percent of the fertile adults are neutered. Neutering 100 percent will result in a gradual decline of the population over time. In addition, the nuisance behavior often associated with feral or stray cats is dramatically reduced. This includes the yowling and noise that comes with fighting and mating activity and the odor of unneutered males’ spraying to mark their territory.  The cats tend to roam less and so become less of a visible presence. Spayed females are only feeding themselves, so the excessive hunting of females raising young is decreased.

Why not trap and remove, or trap and kill?

If stray cats are using territory, food, and other resources in an area, and then removed, other cats will move into the area to use those resources and breed, making the removal ineffective. This is called the “vacuum effect.”
Outdoor cats that are spayed or neutered serve as placeholders in the area. Their inability to reproduce breaks the breeding cycle that leads to cat overpopulation.

Because there are thousands of free-roaming cats, and because the vast majority cannot be homed, TNR is the best solution.

What is Willamette Humane Society’s admissions policy?

It is our goal to accept healthy, friendly cats and dogs from Marion and Polk Counties by appointment and place them in loving, new homes. Staff discuss options with owners whose pets are not accepted for adoption, including referrals to other shelters or rescue groups.  Animals that display extreme aggression or are suffering mentally and/or physically may be recommended for humane euthanasia. The decision to euthanize an animal is never taken lightly, and each case is thoroughly assessed on an individual basis.

Where can I find more information about TNR?

Many animal advocate organizations are promoting this comprehensive approach to controlling cat overpopulation. Here are Websites with related information:

Can I bring in a feral cat?

WHS accepts feral and free-roaming cats in traps.  A feral cat is an unsocial, fearful, and aggressive cat that cannot be safely handled outside of a trap.  However, most cats caught in traps are actually friendly free-roaming cats or strays.  Please be aware that true feral cats cannot be accepted into our adoption program, and will be euthanized if brought to the shelter and not the Spay & Neuter Clinic.  Please call 503-585-5900 for an appointment.  We charge a fee of $25 to safely handle and accept a feral cat.  If WHS staff determine that the cat is a friendly free-roaming cat eligible for adoption, the fee will be reduced to the standard $10 suggested donation.

Alternately, we encourage you to make an appointment to bring a feral cat to our spay & neuter clinic, where he or she will be sterilized and returned to you. The cost is $43 per cat and includes the spay or neuter surgery, rabies vaccination, flea and ear mite treatment.  See our website for more information about low-cost spay and neuter services, or call 503-480-SPAY. You can also contact the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon or refer to the Alley Cat Allies website for information about Trap Neuter Return and caring for feral cat colonies

What is the legality of trapping cats in a live trap in the City of Salem?

In Oregon, dogs and cats are considered personal property.  It is theft of personal property when you “take, appropriate, obtain or withhold such property from an owner.”  (ORS 164-015).   So, while it is legal to trap a cat on your property, it may be construed as theft if you knowingly take property from an owner.

When people bring us a roaming animal that freely comes up to them or one they trapped, and provide us with the information we request on where and when the animal was found then that person has met their obligation.

Cats brought to Willamette Humane Society in a live-release trap are scanned for microchips if surrendered to the shelter, but not before spay & neuter surgery in the clinic.

What is an ‘eartip’ and why is it important for unowned, free-roaming cats?

We use the word “eartip” to describe when a small portion of the tip of an unowned cat’s left or right ear is surgically removed during neuter surgery, to denote that the cat has been neutered and vaccinated. Ear-tipping is done while the cat is anesthetized and is not painful for the cat. Ear tipping is the most effective way to identify spayed or neutered, unowned cats from a distance, to make sure they are not trapped or do not undergo surgery a second time.

Why can’t unowned cats be removed from an area or socialized and then adopted?

The traditional approach for unowned cats—catching and euthanizing—is endless and cruel, and it does not keep an area free of cats.

Cats choose to reside in a location for two reasons: there is a food source (intended or not) and shelter. Because of a phenomenon called the vacuum effect, when cats are removed from a location,  new cats move in to take advantage of the food resources and shelter, then breed to capacity.

Many unowned cats are not socialized to people and cannot be touched, except sometimes by a regular caregiver.  The ideal window for socializing unowned kittens is 12 weeks of age or younger—beyond 12 weeks, unowned cats may never socialize completely or at all. Outdoor cats that are friendly and socialized to people are called stray cats, and sometimes they can be re-homed.

Because most unowned cats are not socialized to people, they are unadoptable as pets. In most shelters and pounds in the US, unadoptable animals are euthanized.  If a cat exhibits signs of being feral- and are surrendered to a shelter instead of being trapped, neutered or spayed, then returned to the area where they were found- they will most likely be euthanized.

Many shelters now realize that Trap-Neuter-Return is the humane approach for free-roaming, unowned cats.

Is relocation ever an option for unowned cats?

Relocation is something to consider only if remaining in their location becomes a threat to their lives, and all other options have been explored and have failed. Moving cats to another area is a great risk to their safety unless they are being moved to a protected area and procedures laid out by groups such as Alley Cat Allies are followed. People should choose relocation only if the cats’ territory is going to be demolished and there is no adjacent space suitable for them.

How do I deal with neighbors who don’t like outdoor cats?

To help cats become more accepted, use kindness and patience with your neighbors. Find out what is bothering your neighbors about the cats and work with them on those specific issues. For example, deterrents such as motion-activated sprinklers, garden rocks and citrus smells will help keep cats away from the people who do not want them digging in their gardens or roaming their property.

It is also important to nicely explain to them that TNR is the most humane and effective way of managing unowned cat overpopulation issues. TNR offers a solution that helps both the cats and the human residents, providing first and foremost permanent population control since the cats will no longer be able to reproduce. Let them know that it also drastically changes the cats' behavior—there will be less odor (since they will no longer spray), less roaming, less visibility, and no more yowling or fighting.

Aimee Christian, ASPCA Vice President of Spay/Neuter Operations

If you need help speaking to your community about TNR, contact local animal welfare organizations and do some research on effective talking points for promoting TNR. Here are some pointers to consider when dealing with difficult neighbors:

  • Establish a friendly relationship with people living near a feral cat colony.
  • Present information in a reasonable, professional manner and address individual complaints by listening patiently. Always maintain a constructive, problem-solving attitude.
  • Explain diplomatically that the cats have lived at the site for a long time and that they have been or will be sterilized, which will cut back on annoying behaviors.
  • Explain that if the present colony is removed, the problems will recur with new cats.

Do unowned and outdoor cats kill birds?

While unowned cats do kill birds, they kill proportionally more rodents. Other issues, such as the decline of natural habitat, deforestation of migratory habitats, window collisions and use of pesticides also have a negative impact on bird populations.

Do your part: spay/neuter your cat(s) before they have even one litter, and please don’t let your pet cats roam free outdoors. If you want your cat to have some time outside, make it safe for the cat AND local wildlife by building an outdoor enclosure, installing cat fencing, or taking your cat outside on a leash and enjoying some outdoor time together.

Some organizations are working  on initiatives including “Cats Safe at Home” to encourage people to not let their pet cats roam free.

Fewer free-roaming cats mean fewer unowned cats born on our streets. Fewer cats means less predation on wildlife.

How to determine a kitten’s age

All kittens are born with closed eyes and closed ear canals. They can neither see nor hear during the first few days of life. Kittens find their way to a mother’s nipple by sense of smell and tactile sensations. The ear canals will begin to open at 5-8 days of life. Eyes begin to open at 8 days and are completely open at 14 days. All kittens are born with blue eyes and their true colors appear when they are three weeks old.

Developmental Milestones


2 Weeks

  • Eyes open

3 Weeks

  • Crawling
  • Baby teeth erupt

4 Weeks

  • Walking
  • Playing



Learn More


How Can I Rent a Live-Release Trap for Cats?


To Rent a Trap from the Willamette Humane Society Spay & Neuter Clinic

  • An appointment is required to rent a trap from the Willamette Humane Society Spay & Neuter Clinic.  Please call 503-480-SPAY.
    • There is a refundable $50 security deposit, but no rental fee if traps are returned undamaged.
  • Check a trap out in the clinic from 8:30 am to 11 am, and 1 pm – 3:30 pm. The standard rental period is 5 days.
  • A refundable deposit of $50 will be charged to your credit card. If the trap is returned within 5 days, the rental is free. If the trap has not been returned and no contact is made within 5 days, your card may be charged $50 and the trap becomes yours.

To Rent a Trap from Salem Friends of Felines

  • Call 503-362-5611
  • Trap availability is limited.  Trap rental is available only for Trap Neuter Return (TNR).
  • Fees are $15 per week plus a $50 refundable security deposit.

To Rent a Trap from Capitol Rental

  • Call 503-378-1122
  • Traps are available to rent for $15 a week plus security deposit.
  • Please call for details.


What do I do if cats are sleeping under my porch, shed, crawl space, etc?

If cats are sleeping under your porch or somewhere else, the’re looking for dry, warm shelter. Lure the cats out with tuna or wet cat food. Block openings with chicken wire or other material to prevent nuisance dwellings in unwelcome areas.

Provide shelter in a small dog house in an alternative area, or research how to make feral cat shelters from large tote bins and insulation.

Follow directions to make sure they are spayed or neutered.

What do I do if I smell cat urine everywhere outside?

If you smell cat urine everywhere outside, practice TNR to have the offending cats neutered or spayed. Once they are “fixed” their urine becomes much less pungent, and they are less likely to mark their territory.

Learn more!