History | What We Do | Why We Do It


The Network was founded in 1989, in response to concern for the health and welfare of Stanford University’s growing homeless cat population. The population of homeless cats on campus had reached an estimated 1,500. The initial solution proposed by the University was to trap all the cats and convey all animals lacking a collar to the Santa Clara County Humane Society where they would be killed. Cats deemed adoptable would be held depending on space.

A group of volunteers, with the assistance of the Palo Alto Humane Society, developed a plan offering a humane alternative to proposed eradication. Most of the volunteers had already been acting to trap, spay/neuter, and vaccinate the cats on their own. But by forming an organization, these people developed a plan for a long term solution to the problem of abandoned pets.

The founding members of the Feline Friends Network presented information and research on the management of homeless cat populations to University representatives. Together, the Network volunteers and the University came to the decision that the best long term solution was to implement a trap, spay/neuter and release program. In 1989, this strategy had already begun to gain support as the most effective and humane method of controlling homeless cat populations. The Feline Friends Network (then known as the Stanford Cat Network) was one of the first organizations to promote this strategy, which has since become a national model.

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What We Do

The Feline Friends Network is a nonprofit organization dedicated to caring for the homeless cats who live on Stanford University property. It is comprised of Stanford staff, students, faculty and community volunteers.

By agreement with the University, the Feline Friends Network is responsible for the care of all free-roaming cats on campus. A registry of the Stanford cats and established feeding stations and schedules enable caregivers to monitor the health and well-being of the cats and identify hungry newcomers, before they are assimilated into the Campus population and reproduce.

Unsocialized cats are humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and released back into their Campus territory, where they are fed and monitored daily by Network volunteers. Every effort is made to find the owners of stray tame cats. Unclaimed tame strays and any kittens are boarded or fostered, until adoptive homes are found. No cats are euthanized, except as warranted by a veterinarian to relieve suffering.

Studies have proven that trap-vaccinate-alter-release or “TVAR” is the single most successful method of stabilizing and maintaining healthy feral cat colonies with the least possible cost to local governments and residents, while providing the best life for the animals themselves.

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Why We Do It

Advantages of the Trap-Vaccinate-Alter-Return (TVAR), Education and Adoption Programs:

  1. TVAR stabilizes the population at manageable levels. The presence of the neutered/spayed and vaccinated Stanford cats helps to stabilize the Campus population. Cats are territorial, and they may not welcome newcomers.
  2. TVAR is humane to the animals and fosters compassion in the neighborhoods.
  3. TVAR is more effective [1] and less costly than repeated attempts at extermination. The costs for repeatedly trapping and killing feral colonies are far higher than promoting stable, non-breeding colonies in the same location. Vacated areas are soon filled by other cats who start the breeding process over again
  4. Monitoring the population for health, and vaccinating cats prevents the spread of infectious diseases. All the cats are observed on a daily basis by volunteers familiar with the individuals, and unusual behavior or appearances are reported. Sick cats can be trapped and transported for treatment.
  5. Education of the public helps reduce abandonment of animals, encourages spay/neuter of pets, and helps students consider interacting with animals by volunteering without taking on a commitment they may not be prepared for.
  6. Adoption helps place tame cats in need of new homes, so they do not end up homeless and reproducing on campus.

Implementation of this program and its diligent upkeep have resulted in a healthy cat population, which is not reproducing and is steadily declining through natural attrition (death of aged cats) and adoption into homes. This successful program has been recognized nationally as a model for the care and management of homeless cats.


    1. Zaunbrecher, K., Smith, R., “Neutering of Feral Cats as an Alternative to Eradication Programs”. Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA), Vol.203, No.3, August 1, 1993:449-452.
    2. Jochle, W., Jochle, M., “Reproduction in a feral cat population and its control with a prolactin inhibitor”. 2nd International Symposium on Canine and Feline Reproduction, Belgium.
    3. Pedersen, N., Feline Husbandry. American Veterinary Publications, 1991:3-12.
    4. Berkeley, E.P., Maverick Cats. New England Press, 1982.
    5. Handy, F.L., “Measuring your community’s pet population, owner attitudes”. Shelter Sense, Vol.16, No.5, May 1993:3-12.
    6. Mosier, J.E., Williams, L.W., Nassar, R., “Study of feline and canine populations in the Greater Las Vegas Area.” Am. J. Vet. Res., Vol.45, No.2, 1984:282-7.
    7. Johnson, K., Lewellen, L., Lewellen, J., “National Pet Alliance’s Survey Report on Santa Clara County’s Pet Population.” The CFA Almanac, Jan. 1994.
    8. Holton, L., Manzoor, P., “Managing and Controlling Feral Cat Populations”. Veterinary Forum, March 1993.
    9. Clifton Merritt, Editor, Animal People on AOL, Dec. 1, 1994, Pet Care-Animals and Society Board.

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