American Association of Feline Practitioners

Veterinary professionals passionate about the care of cats

Free-Roaming Cat Position Statement

2023 Free-Roaming Cat Position Statement

Download - Full Position Statement on Free-Roaming Cat Position Statement 

The AAFP supports the humane management of free-roaming cats. A free-roaming cat is any cat not confined to a house or other type of enclosure. This includes owned cats with outdoor access, owned cats who have become lost outdoors (strays), and unowned neighborhood cats who are often supported by caregivers but are not claimed as personal pets or property. Any of these populations may include cats on a socialization spectrum towards people from friendly to feral.

The AAFP supports the humane management of free-roaming cats with the overarching goals of:

  • Sustained reductions of unowned free-roaming cat populations over time
  • Improved cat health and wellbeing
  • Mitigating negative impacts on the environment, wildlife, public health, and neighborhoods
  • Supporting free-roaming cat caregivers and their human-animal bond

The AAFP supports reducing the number of free-roaming cats through humane capture, sterilization, and appropriate homing based on the spectrum of socialization to people and lifestyle that characterizes Felis catus with adoption into homes, where appropriate, and return to the original or appropriate location (e.g., barn, community) once sterilized.1 The AAFP supports non-lethal programs for controlling free-roaming populations. Outdoor access for companion cats should focus on methods that address the goals listed above, including leash-walking and fenced yards or other enclosures when possible.2

The AAFP recognizes that the management of free-roaming cats is complex. The AAFP encourages collaboration between humane groups, conservationists, animal control authorities, caregivers, and other stakeholders. The AAFP encourages more interdisciplinary research to increase evidence-based management practices.

AAFP and AAHA Statement on 2016 Revised AVMA Policy

This position statement has been updated from: 2012 Free-Roaming, Abandoned, and Feral Cat Position Statement


  1. International Cat Care. Cat Friendly decision-making: Managing cat populations based on an understanding of cat lifestyle and population dynamics. Available at: (2022, accessed 21 April 2023).
  2. American Association of Feline Practitioners. 2016 Impact of Lifestyle Choice on the Companion Cat – Indoor vs. Outdoor. Available at: (2016, accessed 21 April 2023).