Community Cats based in Norwalk is a nonprofit organization dedicated to spaying and neutering stray and feral cats living on the streets. It was founded by Ermelinda Harper, who has a Ph.D in engineering and works at Yale University as a researcher.

After work on weekdays and on the weekends, Harper and other volunteers work with local residents to catch the cats they feed for spaying and neutering.

"The stray and feral cat population is exploding in many Connecticut communities," she said. "With the public's help, we want to curb this growth. Our program is working. The cat population has either gone down or leveled out in the areas in which we work."

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There is a difference between feral and stray cats. Strays may have at some point had a home. They respond to human contact and may find life on the street difficult. These strays have a better chance of being adopted as opposed to feral cats, which shy away from any interaction with humans.

They usually have never experienced human contact and live together in communities. Often there is someone who feeds and cares for them. Community Cats works with both types of cats and arranges for them to be spayed and neutered.

PetSmart Charities provided a grant to another organization called FeralCare based in Stratford.

Community Cats worked with FeralCare and 400 feral cats were spayed and neutered. As a result of the grant, the outdoor populations of cats in some areas of Norwalk and Bridgeport were stabilized. After the animals are fixed, the feral cats are returned to their outside homes.

Those cats who are domesticated and homeless are put up for adoption at events held at Petco in Norwalk and Village Critter Outfitter in New Canaan, for example.

"Whether they are feral or stray, people become fond of cats who live near their property. We rely on an informal network of cat lovers to help us capture these cats. If we find young kittens or friendly homeless cats, we can often find homes for them," Harper said.

I think it is wonderful that PetSmart Charities has focused its efforts on a spay/neuter program for cats. I also applaud Nutmeg Spay/Neuter Clinic in Stratford and Rippowam Veterinary Clinic in Stamford for contributing their services to helping these homeless cats.

Cats are very independent creatures. Many feral cats survive for years living by their wits. But they need an organization like Community Cats to help them. For more information, contact

Cathy Kangas is a member of the Board of Directors of the Humane Society of the United States. She can be reached at