Working Cat Programs
When There is No Home to Return To

Sometimes, it’s not possible to return a cat to its original location — reasons can include:

  • The original location is unknown, as when a cat is left at a veterinary clinic or shelter without a detailed address
  • The original location is being destroyed or redeveloped
  • The original caregiver is gone and no alternates are available
  • The cat’s health prevents return to its original location
  • The cat’s behavior isn’t compatible with its current living situation (such as an indoor cat with litterbox issues, biting, or stress over indoor confinement)

In such cases, relocation to a new site is possible. These are often farms, industrial sites, or businesses. Programs that facilitate such relocations are often called barn cat or working cat programs. Cats have strong homing instincts, and attempts at relocation can be unsuccessful, even with the best acclimation procedures. For this reason, relocation is reserved as a last resort.

Watch This: Operation Catnip’s Working Cat Program (4 min)

Operation Catnip manages the vast majority of cats in its program via TNR, because returning cats to their established territory is usually the best option for them. Of more than 7,000 cats served each year, only 200 or so are admitted into the working cat program. You can learn more about the program here

Relocation and Acclimation

Relocating a cat is not as simple as releasing it in a new place, The vast majority of cats handled this way will disappear, panicked and desperate to return to their previous territories. Instead, relocation requires an acclimation period during which care are confined in a large crate for 2-3 weeks to become accustomed to the sights, sounds, scents, people, and rhythm of daily activities at the new location. Operation Catnip places cats in pairs to they have a friend to help them with the transition. The Operation Catnip staff provide the equipment, advice, and support during the acclimation process. Prior to being offered for working cat adoptions, cats have received:

  • Spay/neuter surgery, ear-tipping, and tattoo
  • FVRCP and Rabies vaccination
  • Parasite and flea prevention
  • Identification microchip
  • FeLV test (due to group housing in the pre-adoption catio)

Learn More About Starting a Working Cat Program

On-demand webinar (90 min)

Creating a Successful Working Cat Program

Why start a Working Cat Program? Because these cats have no other live outcome, and socialization of adult ferals is extremely difficult and resource intensive. Working cat programs are inexpensive and easy to start, so you can begin saving more lives immediately! Watch this comprehensive presentation about barn cats and other working cat programs with Monica Frenden.

Fluffy tabby point cat laying on grass

3-hour Course

Building a Working Cat Program

Working cat programs are inexpensive to run, easy to start, and save cats that would otherwise have no live outcomes. This course will give you all the tools you need to start or build your working cat program. The course is authored by Monica Tarant, Chief Innovation Officer: Feline Lifesaving at Cincinnati Animal CARE with The Joanie Bernard Foundation.

2 cats on hay bale