Responsible colony management means that you are willing to spay and neuter the cats in your colony on a continuing basis, remove as many friendly cats as you are able, provide regular food and water to them and find other caregivers to continue to do so if you are no longer able.
In our City and County of Sacramento, well managed feral colonies are generally protected from the requirements of licensing and other laws affecting "owned" cats. General jurisdictional ordinances vary somewhat from the City of Sacramento to the County of Sacramento as well as the Cities of Elk Grove, Rancho Cordova, Citrus Heights and other incorporated Cities. The City of Sacramento and the County of Sacramento have adopted new licensing ordinances that have significantly increased license fees for owned animals that are not spayed or neutered. Generally speaking, this law does not affect a managed feral colony as feral cats are not considered "owned". However, careful management of your colony is very important! Please assure that the following guidelines are in place:
Place all food and water in very inconspicuous locations so that feeding "litter" is not visible. Discarded paper plates, empty cans, feces-laden areas, dirty bowls and large groups of cats won't generally be tolerated as they invite resident complaints.
Place your feeding areas on elevated platforms or feeding stations so that skunks are not attracted to your cat's food. Skunks cannot jump to a height exceeding about 16 inches so raising the food source will discourage them. Attracting (and feeding) skunks will bring great scrutiny to your colony. Ideally, feed your cats before dark and then remove all remnants of food, containers, etc.
Never leave garbage, feeding supplies or other unsightly items in your colony location! No matter how caring you are for the cats, there are many people who do not appreciate any of your efforts and will mount a complaint to their representatives.
If you are feeding a colony that resides within a residential area, you must be very diligent about preventing your colony cats from roaming in the neighbors' yards or generally creating conflict. If you can get "buy in" or support from your neighbors in your efforts and share the positive TNR messages, you are more likely to be successful and not alert potential problems. Consider fencing that will keep the cats within your yard, help disgruntled neighbors by providing "motion sprinkers" to discourage your cats from frequenting their yards and be VERY diligent about spaying and neutering your entire colony.
If you are considering taking responsibility for a colony that resides in a commercial or industrial area (or are currently doing so) it is really to your benefit to talk with the building management about your plans and how TNR works. Most often, you will find that the management people are just happy someone is doing "something" about the cats! Often, they will support you and your efforts to deal with the cats. Trying to "hide" your efforts will often result in the wrong results. Alley Cat Allies has some great material to help you explain your plan and TNR on their website at:
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