OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma City council approved an ordinance giving the animal shelter the green light to launch a program designed to save the lives of thousands of cats.

The "Community Cats Program" allows the shelter to sterilize and vaccinate stray, feral cats without and ID, and return them to their neighborhoods.

The cat's ear will be notched to identify that it has been sterilized.

There are a number of cats not eligible for the program, including those with suspected owners, declawed cats, and adoptable cats.

"This is about reducing the birth rate of cats through sterilization. If we can humanely stop the breeding of homeless or loosely owned cats, we can better control their population in the future and hopefully reduce shelter intake over time," Shelter Superintendent Catherine English said.

Oklahoma Humane will also respond to requests from neighborhood residents to trap cats.

There are an estimated 97,000 community cats in Oklahoma City, according to city officials. More than 90 percent of the loosely owned cats in the shelter could be considered community cats.