About the Community Cats & cats at work programs

We’re so happy one of our favorite programs is receiving so much attention! Catch us on WGN, Fox Chicago, and NPR’s Morning Edition, as well as in publications like People, The Hill, and The Independent. We even got made fun of on Stephen Colbert (a huge honor, to be clear) and ended up on Reddit. When they told us cats were big online, we weren’t expecting like this! That said, we understand these programs bring up a lot of questions. Our vision is a world where every cat thrives, and that means making sure they’re placed and cared for somewhere that’s best for them.  Free-roaming cats, and especially free-roaming cats without safe habitats, have frequently been overlooked in the past, often resulting in long stays at animal control or even euthanasia. Our Community Cats and Cats at Work programs help us save cats in every environment. Not sure what to make of all this? Read our blog post with everything you ever wanted to know about our feral and free-roaming cat programs!

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After trapping and neutering a Community Cat, there are times when those cats cannot be reintegrated into their former colonies. This can be for a variety of reasons, including their former location being demolished (as in the case of cats living in abandoned buildings,) dangerous locations, etc. Because they aren’t ready for a home and no longer have an outdoor space, a need arose for residences or businesses willing to host an outdoor colony of cats as new Community Caretakers. For these circumstances, Tree House created the Cats at Work program! Cats are placed two or three at a time into residential or commercial settings. Often, they’re brought in to provide environmentally friendly rodent control. Property and business owners provide food, water, shelter, and wellness to the cats who “work” for them. In most cases, our Cats at Work become beloved members of the family or team and some even have their own Instagram pages! These are feral cats who wouldn’t thrive in a home or shelter environment. By placing them in Cats at Work colonies, we’re able to make sure they’re living their best lives. We provide support 


I read you’re “releasing” cats on the streets. Is this true?

Not quite! Our Cats At Work are feral or free-roaming cats. In our TNR efforts, we make our best attempt to return the cat to its home environment. Sometimes, though, that environment is gone or unsafe because of human intervention. Because these cats would not thrive in a shelter or home environment, they’ve been overlooked in the past, resulting in long stays at animal control and even euthanasia. Our program finds new, safe outdoor placements for them so they can live their best lives.

1,000 cats all at once?!

Sometimes, a headline doesn’t tell the whole story. Our Cats At Work program has placed 1,000 cats since it was founded in 2012. We place approximately 10 – 15 feral cats each month, depending on safety and demand. As silly as the image of 1,000 cats being unleashed into the streets for rat combat sounds, it’s not quite the truth of our program!

Shouldn’t we be taking cats off the streets?

Our Cats at Work cats are feral cats, not house cats, that need to be relocated for various reasons (including loss of habitat, human intervention, or loss of a caretaker). Because they would not thrive in a shelter or home environment, these cats have frequently been overlooked in the past, often resulting in long stays at animal control or even euthanasia. We trap, neuter, and vaccinate feral cats before returning them to an outdoor colony with a registered caretaker. These caretakers make sure their cats are well cared for by providing food, water, and shelter!


Any cat that Tree House rescues undergoes an acclimation and behavior assessment by our clinic staff. We do our best to ensure we aren’t placing cats outside who might thrive better indoors. Sometimes, an outdoor or free roaming cat will grow comfortable with their caretakers and neighbors they see often. Cat behavior is as nuanced as human behavior! To learn more about the socialization spectrum, read this helpful piece from our friends at Alley Cat Allies.

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What will the cats do for food and water?

We place Cats at Work cats with caretakers who provide food, water, and shelter and attend to their medical needs. In most cases, the cats are better cared for after placement in the Cats at Work program than they were before. 

What about the bird population?

By practicing TNR (trap/neuter/return), we are able to control cat populations and reduce the number of feral cats and create a net positive impact on the small animal population of Chicago. While outdoor cats (managed and not) are natural predators to birds, Tree House Cats at Work are also provided with food, water, and shelter. Our friends at Best Friends have an excellent resource on how TNR helps with wildlife conservation! You can read that here: https://bit.ly/BestFriendsTNR

Don’t rats carry disease?

Our Cats at Work cats are free-roaming cats who have already gone through the trap/neuter/return process and are vaccinated against diseases like rabies. While feral cats do kill rats, often their pheromones are enough to scare rats away.

Hire a Cat At Work

At this time, we aren’t accepting applications to our Cats at Work program. Check back soon!