Marion Polk Community Cat Program FAQs

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.

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.

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:

What’s the status of TNR in Marion and Polk counties?

While some animal welfare organizations in Marion and Polk counties have been pursuing TNR for a few years, there has been no regional coordinated effort to adopt TNR strategies. In 2013, several organizations serving Marion and Polk counties started working to promote TNR in a more effective and concentrated manner. They formed the Marion-Polk Community Cats Program. Partners include:

  • Coalition Advocating for Animals
  • Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon
  • Salem Friends of Felines
  • Willamette Humane Society
  • Willamette Valley Animal Hospital

The MPCCP purpose is to provide sterilization services to unowned cats in order to reduce cat overpopulation. (Sterilization services are defined as: Sterilization surgery, rabies vaccination, ear tip procedure, and FVRCP vaccination. Other veterinary services may be provided if determined necessary by the attending veterinarian.)

Partners estimate there are at least 30,000 stray, free-roaming and community cats in the two counties.

For more information or to volunteer, contact MPCCP at: MPCCP2014@gmail.com. You may request to receive periodic updates and meeting notices. The program needs experienced cat trappers to serve as mentors to others learning to trap unowned cats. If you are willing to be a mentor, let MPCCP know. Also, if you’d like to receive training to trap cats or help others with trapping, notify MPCCP.

Learn more about the MPCCP

Where do free-roaming cats come from?

Many terms are used to describe the types of cats creating the over-population crisis. For simplicity, we are using the term “unowned” to describe cats that may have been abandoned or strayed from their homes, cats cared for by community members and feral cats that may be several generations removed from human contact.

Unowned cats are not a new phenomenon. Outdoor cats are part of our rich history in this country and worldwide. Cats have been living among us here in the U.S. for hundreds of years. Unowned cats are domestic cats. These cats thrive in every type of environment, urban, suburban and rural. Some are offspring of house cats because until the last two decades there has been no accessible and affordable spay and neuter services for cats. And, until recent years, early-age (kitten) spay/neuter was not practiced (kittens go into heat between 4 and 6 months, but traditional practice was to spay a cat at 6 months of age.)

Domestic cats came into existence about 10,000 years ago, when humans began farming. According to scientists, cats are one of the only animals who domesticated themselves—choosing to live near humans to feed on the rodents attracted by stored grain. Evolutionary research shows that the natural habitat of cats is outdoors in close proximity to humans—and that is how they have lived ever since. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1940s—and the invention of cat litter—that “indoors only” for cats was even a concept.

Is it safe for unowned cats to live outside?

The outdoors is the natural habitat for unowned cats. Evidence indicates they can live long and healthy lives: a 2006 study published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery found that of 103,643 stray and feral cats examined in spay/neuter clinics in six states from 1993 to 2004, less than 1% of those cats needed to be euthanized due to debilitating conditions, trauma, or infectious diseases.

In addition, the lifespan of unowned cats compares favorably with the lifespan of pet cats. A long-term study (published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association in 2003) of a Trap-Neuter-Return program noted that 83% of the cats present at the end of the observation period had been there for more than six years—meaning that the cats’ lifespans were comparable to the mean lifespan of 7.1 years for pet cats.


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!