TNR stands for Trap Neuter Return. This is the central mission of Cats Alive and is the best way to help community cats. It ensures they get to live full and healthy lives (outside, with their buddies, in their territory) while helping neighborhood relations because there will be reduced kittens, fighting, spraying, and yowling.
Why do we do TNR over euthanasia/removal? There have been good rigorous studies showing that TNR is not only the most humane solution to street cat overpopulation, but it is also the most effective. Areas that have undergone a thorough TNR treatment actually reduce their cat populations near twice as fast as areas that practice only removal (whether that removal is relocation or euthanasia of the cats). This is because an occupying population of infertile cats ensures that fertile cats do not move into the area and simply resume breeding. With treated cats in place, there is time to treat adjacent breeding groups before they move into unoccupied areas and breed up to fill that space.
Trap Instructions – There are many brands of traps, and many methods to enticing cats into them. Our most favored trap is the TruCatch because of the sure but gentle closure of the trap and excellent durability. Tomahawk traps are also very good and durable. However, in the right circumstances, even an old box will work. Have a look at our detailed trapping page, but do not be afraid to get creative to suit the cats, the place, and the people you are working with. There is no universal answer, and there are many great resources online and perhaps among your own circle to help you succeed. Overall, make sure you have working traps, scheduled surgery, and the cooperation of the caretaker and neighbors before you trap cats. Cats learn, so you may get only one shot at them!
Prep for surgery – Adult cats should have no food (but water is always okay) for 12 hours before their surgery. Kittens (at least 2 lbs and 8 weeks old) should not go so long without food, but give them only small portions, a tablespoon at night and again in the morning. It’s better for them to be hungry than to aspirate during surgery, so don’t give full meals.
Post-surgical recovery – after surgery, offer food and water as soon as they stand. They will be disoriented and some will panic as they wake. It’s important not to let them run while they are still disoriented. They may become lost, injure themselves, or even tear stitches out. Occasionally, they experience drug side-effects that would be far more severe in the wrong environment. Speak with your clinic as you pick up your cats to be sure you know what to look for and how to respond.
Release – once your trapped cats are recovered and ready to release (we do this the morning after surgery) take them back to their location and open the trap facing an area they will recognize easily, like the tree they snooze under during the day, or the path they use to get to their feeding area.
Followup – it is important to fix at least 80% of the cats in a colony to be effective. 100% is far more sure. Return repeatedly, upping your trapping game, until you get those last cats. If you live in the area or know the caretaker, check in periodically to see if new fertile cats are moving in. In order to keep breeding from resuming, you should TNR those cats, as well as identifying adjacent colonies to work on. Recruit other trappers to help you if at all possible.