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Natural Awakenings Westchester / Putnam / Dutchess New York

Best Practices With Stray H.E.L.P. Inform Proper Caretaking of ‘Community Cats’ in Fishkill

Community cats in Fishkill Colony

In cities and towns throughout the world, there’s a movement to ease the plight of homeless outdoor cats. That’s the case in Hudson Valley too, where organizations like Stray H.E.L.P, a registered not-for-profit rescue in Dutchess County, are lending “community cats” a hand, adhering to best practices for highest impact.

Stray H.E.L.P. volunteers work with community members to implement “trap/neuter/return and place,” a nationally recognized, humane approach to addressing community cat populations. Spaying and neutering is the most critical action for helping community cats, even above feeding them, says the organization’s president, Ann LaGoy.

Community cats might be friendly stray or abandoned animals, or unsocialized cats sharing territory focused on a food and water source. Either way, they are domestic animals that rely on humans for survival and tend to be found wherever humans congregate, LaGoy says. But well-meaning individuals may do more harm than good by leaving food and water for cats in their neighborhood or workplace. Before stepping in, she suggests looking for signs the cats may already be properly cared for. For example, a “tipped” left ear indicates a cat has been sterilized and vaccinated.

“Feeding often takes place safely out of the public’s view. You may see water and food bowls tucked behind a bush or tree,” LaGoy says. “Investigate when the cats aren’t present, so you don’t scare them, and consider leaving a note offering assistance, including your contact information, at the feeding spot. If you encounter the colony caretaker, offer to help but be respectful if he or she declines.”

Responsible caretakers regularly feed and water the cats, monitor them for injury and illness, and look for new ones needing to be humanely trapped, sterilized and vaccinated, she says. Unsolicited feeding or interruptions to the cats’ routine may interfere with ongoing colony management.

“Sadly, community cats often live under threat of being removed or harmed in some way,” LaGoy says. “The more organized their care, the lower their risk. If you know of cats that aren’t receiving responsible care and you’d like to care for them, please reach out to Stray H.E.L.P. for guidance.”

For more info, call 845.232.0336 or visit