KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — More than 1,600 cats have been trapped, fixed and returned to their territory in the last year, according to Young Williams Animal Center.

The City of Knoxville approved the program in January 2019 and Knox County got on board in April.

With the Community Cat program, feral or roaming cats are trapped, fixed and vaccinated, their ears notched, and then release them back where they were caught. 

It's meant to help control the feral cat population and stop the needless killing and crowding of shelters.

The cats are then considered "community cats" and are exempt from at-large, abandonment and licensing ordinances.

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YWAC said that less than 3 percent of stray cats are reclaimed by owners.

"Returning the cats provides a 70-100% chance of getting them back home- whether that is with an owner or just an area with ample food and shelter," YWAC wrote on Facebook.

They note that ill, injured, disabled or declawed cats or young kittens are kept for further care and potential adoption.

"We are grateful to the community, city and county leaders and all cat advocates for your support. Our staff is dedicated to the well-being of community cats. Preventing just one litter stops the production of thousands of offspring. As we approach the anniversary of the county-wide expansion of the program, more educational and celebratory announcements are in the works," according to YWAC on Facebook.