Community Cats

THE BOOK: Community Cats: A Journey Into the World of Feral Cats.


THE AUTHOR: Anne E. Beall, Ph.D.


SUMMARY: It all started when a rat ran over her husband’s foot and author Dr. Anne E. Beall began a journey into the world of feral cats. The Bealls had experienced rat problems for a long time. Then, a neighbor told them about a program called Cats at Work where one could get feral cats that would take care of the rat problem.

In Community Cats, she tells how she entered the world of feral cats when she Anne E. Beallsigned up for the Chicago Cats at Work program with Tree House Humane Society. Tree House practices TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return), and they trapped, neutered, and relocated a feral cat colony to Beall’s home. She narrates what she learned about the unique world of feral cats and about the people who are involved with feral cats and who advocate for them

Community Cats shares the story of what initially began as a creative solution to a rat problem and became a journey that led her to reach out to others in the feral-cat world. Beall interviewed other colony caretakers and leaders in the TNR movement and learned about how feral cats live, how they relate to one another, and how they relate to their caretakers. She also conducted survey research on American’s attitudes toward stray cats, TNR programs, and spaying/ neutering.

Beall learned that feral cat programs have a huge impact on the caretakers of the colonies, on the neighbors, on the community, and on the cats themselves and details those findings in Community Cats.

THE BACK STORY:  I decided to write this book because I was so moved by the feral cats whom I “hired” to get rid of the rats in my neighborhood. Originally this working group of cats just removed the rats in my area, but eventually they ended up capturing my heart. I realized that they were highly vulnerable creatures who were at great risk for a variety of hazards. They ended up trusting me and doing an invaluable service for me and my neighbors. When I realized that they were not like the typical house cat, I decided to learn more about them through the people who advocate for them and who have created TNVR (Trap Neuter Vaccinate and Relocate/Return) programs all over the United States. I interviewed many different people over the course of 6 months and learned many stories about these cats and the role they can play in people’s lives. I  also conducted survey research of 1,500 Americans about their attitudes toward these programs. After doing this research, it took me another 6 months to write the book—so about 1 year in total.

WHY THIS TITLE? I chose this title because it was definitely a journey into a totally different world—a world of unique people who are doing their best to advocate for a group of animals who are largely misunderstood and often trapped and killed. It was also a journey into the lives of animals who have managed to survive and thrive.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? If you’ve ever seen a stray cat who was extremely fearful, you probably saw a feral cat. They’re not like your average house cat and they often live very difficult lives. But there are millions of them in the United States and they can provide an invaluable service to the communities in which they live. If you ever wanted to see the weak prevail and understand how nature eventually wins (with a little help from humans), this book is for you. Feral or Community Cats have a role in our world and they’re smart, resourceful and frightened creatures who deserve compassion.


Community Cats was awarded the distinction of being named a 2016 Foreward Indies Finalist.

“Beall writes about confronting feral cat populations with a compelling combination of heart and head. In Community Cats, Chicago resident Anne E. Beall acts as an evangelist for the trap, neuter, and release (TNR) method of handling feral cat populations, writing both passionately and eloquently about this unique solution that is “changing the world one cat and one person at a time.” Beall was looking for a way to deal with her overpopulation of backyard rats, nourished by nearby restaurant garbage, when she found out about the Cats at Work program.

“Through it, her local humane society traps and neuters feral cats in vulnerable situations, then places them with trained volunteers who care for a small outside feline colony.

“Beall was pleased with the success of the program and became smitten with her “Rat Pack.” Beall shares many anecdotes about her adopted feral kitty trio–Eloise, Duke, and Allie–including how her neighbors and indoor cat feel about them (don’t worry, it’s all positive). The book also relates stories from other caretakers and animal advocates. This technique very effectively explains various aspects of the TNR method and animal welfare and makes otherwise complicated and nuanced concepts very concrete. For example, it might seem counter intuitive to medically treat and release feral cats back outside, but Beall notes that the TNR method humanely tamps down cat populations overall, because caretakers maintain feeding routines, outdoor litter boxes, and housing units that the neutered TNR cats not only don’t repopulate, but zealously guard against intruders.

“As she persuasively explains, if feral cats were just trapped and taken to live or be euthanized at shelters, other unneutered feral cats would zoom into their abandoned habitats and continue their impressive rates of reproduction. Beall’s prose has a matter-of-fact tone and, with its measured, assured layering of arguments, is a convincing appeal for more widespread adoption of the TNR method, especially given the estimated sixty-nine million feral cats in the United States. Her interviews with other feral cat caretakers and individual case studies reveal how some dedicated cat rescuers struggle to feed and shelter their colonies with limited incomes, while living in urban areas that are “pet deserts,” where food and supplies are difficult to obtain.

“The bird-loving author also devotes many pages to discussion of how to mitigate feral cat predation of local and migrating birds, including several surprising findings. Beall owns a market research firm and supplements her prose with detailed analysis of polling data that her company collected from fifteen hundred persons regarding their opinions of stray cats, spaying/neutering, and other pertinent issues. This information is well analyzed and is augmented with many charts and graphs.

“The book also contains a helpful bibliography and many black-and-white photos of Cats at Work felines and their housing. Animal lovers will enjoy reading this book and learning about the TNR movement. Community Cats also has great appeal for anyone interested in contemporary social and public health issues. The social scientist writes winningly from the heart and the head, and it’s a terrific combination. — Rachel Jagareski, Clarion Reviews.


“Ms. Beall writes an absolutely delightful account of her experience with (and subsequent study of) the care taking of feral cats. While we all have encountered a stray or feral cat in the outside during our lives, we rarely think about the existence of feral cat colonies, how they live, and how humans can help them. The book describes the trap-neuter-release method of working with feral cat colonies to leverage their natural instincts for much needed rodent control, and respect their “upbringing” (not socialized with humans) in the outside world. The author does a wonderful job of describing and honoring the dedication and personalities of several colony caretakers. We get to know them and appreciate their drive to perform daily work at their own expense to care for these cats. She also gives dignity to the many cats (and one special dog!) with descriptions of their behaviors, habits, appearances, and the names they are given along the way. One chapter is devoted to the results of the hefty research her market research company conducted on the view point of the U.S. population on cats. You will love this chapter if you are a statistics enthusiast, and it does a thorough job of empirically proving that TNR preservation of cat colonies are supported (vs. trap and euthanize). Nevertheless, I felt that the author’s simple and thoughtful descriptions of this largely unknown world are proof enough to anyone that this is a cause worthy of our attention and energy. Ms. Beall creates an absorbing, can’t-put-down tempo with her writing on the subject matter. The icing on the cake are the pictures of some of these wonderful cats included in the book. I am recommending this book to my cat lover’s group. I only wish that my own indoor kitties, Bailey and Cooper, could read it too!” — E. Kirchon.

AUTHOR PROFILE: Anne E. Beall, Ph.D. is a trained researcher who runs a successful market research company in Chicago. On nights and weekends, she’s a writer who provides a voice for those who don’t have one. She’s passionate about animals and believes that we are more connected to the animals around us than we know. She has written 4 books, most recently one about how animals and people help one another (Heartfelt Connections). She received her MS, MPhil and PhD degrees in social psychology from Yale University.


Chapter 1 How It All Began.

It all started when a rat ran over my husband’s foot. The city of Chicago had just fixed our sidewalk, and we surmised that the construction had disturbed the rats’ homes and that they were trying to relocate. We saw rats at all times of the day and night. The rat on my husband’s

foot (right in front of our home) was the last straw. We mentioned the incident to a neighbor, Tim Cole, who told us about a program called Cats at Work where you could get feral cats who would take care of the rat problem. We had experienced rat problems for a long time. We live off an alley behind several restaurants, so it’s a natural place for rats to live. Rats are part of urban life. And all city dwellers get used to seeing them every so often. However, we became concerned because they were around our home and under our garage. And they seemed to be proliferating. A neighbor told us that if rats build enough tunnels under a structure, it can collapse. So, we tried a variety of methods to get rid of them. Nothing really worked. So there I was, looking up this program on the Internet, wondering if a feral cat colony would work for us.

Tree House

We learned that Tree House had a Cats at Work program, and we applied to become one of the program’s managed colony caretakers. We were accepted after showing that we could make a commitment to the cats, and we were soon in touch with Liz Houtz, the Community Cats program manager at Tree House. We applied to have a colony of three cats. Liz told us that we needed to feed them twice a day and provide them with a litter box and that Tree House would supply us with outdoor shelters, an outdoor cat box, and a heated water/feeding bowl for our cold Chicago winters. Our cats were scheduled to arrive on a Sunday. Liz arrived with the makings for a large cage (about eight by four feet), two outdoor shelters, a litter box, and another box that could be used for feeding. And Liz’s colleague arrived with three tabby cats in three small cages. She put them on the steps, and immediately one of the cages started rocking. That cat wanted to get out! My husband, Liz, and I set up the large cage and put the shelters into the cage along with the cat box. We live in a hundred-year-old building, and we put the cage underneath our front stairs and porch. It’s actually a large enclosure that is outside of the rain and cold, and Liz felt it would be a great place for the cats to acclimate. She explained that they needed to be in the cage for the first three weeks while they got used to the environment and the sounds around them. They also needed to get used to a new feeding schedule and new caretakers. After we set up the large cage for them, we opened up the little cat cages, and they ran quickly into the large cage and right into their shelters. We barely saw them. We closed the cage and let them get used to their new surroundings. Our cat colony arrived in early November before it got really cold in Chicago. We were one of the last people to get a cat colony for that year, so we felt lucky. And so it began

WHERE TO BUY IT: ( and select Barnes & Noble retail stores.

PRICE: $3.99 for Kindle version and $13.97 for paperback.



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Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

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