What Is Trap Neuter Release?

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Trap neuter release, or TNR as it is known, is a program that has been used in the United States for decades after its success in Europe. It is the humane approach to controlling feral cat overpopulation. In trap neuter release, the feral cats are trapped, neutered or spayed, and then returned to the very same spot where they were first caught.

Trap neuter release is a community based program in which concerned citizens like you trap free roaming cats in your neighborhood and bring them into a clinic to get them spayed or neutered. The cats’ ears are “tipped” to designate that this particular cat has already been treated. The cats are then returned to the exact same location so they can live out the rest of their natural lives. In an ideal situation, a caregiver will also provide food, water and shelter for these cats.

Before the trap neuter release program, feral cats were captured and turned into animal shelters where they were killed. This practice still exists in many areas. Catch and kill may temporarily reduce the numbers of feral cats, but it doesn’t solve the problem in the long term. Cats are living in a certain area because there is an available food source and some sort of shelter. These feral cats breed prolifically, and more cats will move in to take advantage of the natural resources and shelter available in this location. So trap and remove doesn’t work to curb the number of feral cats in a community.

About the Trap Neuter Release Program

Trap neuter release programs are successful at decreasing the feral cat populations. These programs succeed at the least cost to the public and they provide the best possible outcomes for the cats.

How Trap Neuter Release Helps Local Cat Populations

Trap neuter release is practiced successfully in hundreds of communities and in every setting. These cats are humanely trapped and taken to a veterinarian to be spayed or neutered and vaccinated for rabies. The cats’ ear is also “tipped” to show that this particular cat has already undergone treatment. After their recovery, the cats are then returned to their home, the outdoor colony. (Kittens or cats who are friendly and socialized to humans may be adopted into homes, but the vast majority of these cats are returned to their outdoor communities.)

By stabilizing the cat population, the cats will naturally have more space, shelter and food, as well as fewer risks of disease. After they are spayed or neutered, cats living in outdoor colonies tend to gain weight and live healthier lives. Spayed cats are less likely to develop breast cancer and will not be at risk for ovarian or uterine cancer. Neutered males will not get testicular cancer. Neutering male cats can also reduce the risk of injury and infection, since intact males have a natural instinct to fight with other cats. Spaying also means that female cats do not go into heat. That means they attract fewer tom cats to the area, which reduces fighting.

Trap neuter release helps local cat populations by stopping the breeding cycle of cats. It improves the lives of the cats while preventing reproduction. TNR provides a life-saving and effective solution for feral cat colonies. Here’s how TNR can help:

  • Stabilizes feral cat colonies – Colonies involved in trap neuter release diminish in size over time. TNR stabilizes feral cat populations by ending reproduction and by removing socialized cats from the colony.
  • Improves the lives of the cats – Cats live healthier, more peaceful lives after TNR. It relieves cats of the constant stresses of mating and pregnancy. Mating behaviors like roaming, yowling, spraying and fighting cease. The cats’ physical health improves. The cats are vaccinated against rabies, so they are less susceptible to infectious diseases. Through trap neuter release, cats live long, healthy lives.
  • Meets the needs of the community – When residents understand that something is being done to control the cat population, they usually embrace having a TNR program. The cat population stabilizes so there are no new kittens. The cats become quieter and become better neighbors.
  • Protects the lives of the cats – The number one cause of death for cats in America is being killed in shelters. When cats are neutered, vaccinated and returned to their colonies, they can live out their natural lives.
  • Works where other methods fail – Catch and kill doesn’t work because the community cats just keep having more kittens, and new cats move in when others are removed. Adoption is not an option for most feral cats since they cannot socially interact with humans. Relocation is also ineffective for the same reason as catch and kill doesn’t work.

What You Can Do to Make an Impact

A feral cat community needs a caretaker. This is an individual or group of individuals who manages the feral cat community. The caretaker keeps watch over the cats, providing food, water and shelter for the cats. The caretaker also provides spaying or neutering and emergency medical care through the trap neuter release program. Some shelters and rescue groups even give out free or low-cost spay or neuter coupons to colony caretakers.


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