Trap Neuter Return (TNR) is when a stray or feral cat living outdoors is humanely trapped, neutered or spayed, ear-tipped (the universal sign that a cat has been sterilized), vaccinated, and returned to the area where it was trapped.
TNR will stabilize the cat population because no more litters are born from the cat. These sterile cats guard the territory against new cats moving in. TNR will also reduce nuisance behaviors like yowling, fighting, and spraying.
TNR, supported by leading national animal welfare organizations, is the most humane, cost-effective, and effective method of controlling the feral, unowned, free-roaming and stray cat overpopulation crisis facing virtually every city, town, and rural community in the country.
TNR involves trapping all or most of the cats in a colony, having them neutered, vaccinated for rabies, left or right ear tipped, and then returned to their territory. Whenever possible, young kittens and any friendly cats are removed for veterinary care and socialization, and placed for adoption.
TNR slows the growth of a colony if at least 70 percent of the fertile adults are neutered. Neutering 100 percent will result in a gradual decline of the population over time. In addition, the nuisance behavior often associated with feral or stray cats is dramatically reduced. This includes the yowling and noise that comes with fighting and mating activity and the odor of unneutered males’ spraying to mark their territory. The cats tend to roam less and so become less of a visible presence. Spayed females are only feeding themselves, so the excessive hunting of females raising young is decreased.
Why not trap and remove, or trap and kill?
If stray cats are using territory, food, and other resources in an area, and then removed, other cats will move into the area to use those resources and breed, making the removal ineffective. This is called the “vacuum effect.”
Outdoor cats that are spayed or neutered serve as placeholders in the area. Their inability to reproduce breaks the breeding cycle that leads to cat overpopulation.
Because there are thousands of free-roaming cats, and because the vast majority cannot be homed, TNR is the best solution.