What is TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return)?
TNR is the humane way to reduce feral cat overpopulation
and has been utilized in Europe, the UK, parts of Asia and
the US since the 1970's.
The following is excerpted from the Humane Society of
the United States material. At the base of this page
are links to additional excellent TNR resources.
The TNR approach involves trapping the all cats in a feral colony, having them neutered, marked for identification and vaccinated for rabies, and returning the truely feral (cats unadapted to humans) to their original territory.
A caretaker then provides regular food and shelter and monitors the colony over time for newcomers and any potential problems that may arise. Ideally, all the cats in the colony will be caught and fixed and every effort should be made to do so, even if they can’t all be trapped at once. Caretaking a feral colony is made much easier when the neutering rate is 100 percent. Otherwise, that one female you didn’t get may keep having litters of kittens. Still, getting most of the adults fixed will at least temporarily stabilize and improve the situation.
Features of TNR
Rehoming Kittens and Friendly Cats
Whenever possible, kittens young enough to be easily socialized are removed from the colony along with friendly adults who are clearly former domestics and can be re-homed. Removing adoptable cats immediately reduces the size of the feral population (a primary goal of TNR) and gives the removed cats a chance at longer, safer lives. That said, if foster resources are not available, the TNR of the colony should not be delayed.
Neutered Cats are marked for future ID by Eartipping (see photos at right)
The minimum veterinary intervention upon capture includes spay/neuter, “eartipping” and rabies vaccinations. Eartipping is a procedure where a 1/4 inch off the tip of the left ear is removed in a straight line cut. It is the only reliable method known for identifying a neutered feral and is used globally.
Following surgery and a recovery period lasting usually two to three days, the ferals are returned to their territory. They must be brought back to the location where they were trapped and not released elsewhere – ferals are extremely tied to their surroundings and will flee in search of familiar surroundings if placed somewhere new without a proper relocation effort having been made.
The cats will continuously need food and shelter and should be provided these basic necessities in as consistent a manner as possible. Moreover, many things will happen over the years of the cats’ lives, such as new unaltered cats occasionally showing up, injuries or other health issues, conflicts with neighborhood residents and the like. When a caretaker is present to address these matters, the cats are more likely to lead a healthier and safer life than if they are left on their own.
A caretaker who watches for new cats will also help sustain the gradual reduction in the colony’s size over time through attrition.
Advantages of TNR
Colony Level Trap-Neuter-Return has many benefits when all or almost all of the cats in a colony are neutered:
- Population stabilization - The size of the colony stabilizes as new litters are either eliminated or greatly reduced in number. Gradually, if newborns or newly arrived friendly strays are promptly removed from the colony as they appear, the number of cats will decline over time.
- Noise reduction - A common complaint about feral cats is their high-pitched screeching in the middle of the night, which can disturb the sleep of an entire residential block. Most of this noise is the result of mating or fighting – behaviors which are eliminated or greatly lessened after neutering. Not that you won’t hear a good snarl once in a while, but not to the point where it becomes a constant nuisance.
- Foul odors reduced - The noxious odor often associated with the presence of feral cats in an area is caused primarily by unaltered males spraying to mark their territory. Testosterone mixed in the urine is responsible for the powerful smell. Neutering stops the cat’s production of testosterone and, a few weeks after the surgery, any remaining testosterone has cycled out of the cat’s system and the odor is eliminated. In my experience, most male cats stop spraying completely after they’re altered, but even if they don’t, the “I can’t even use my own backyard” smell is gone.
- Less visibility – Once mating behavior is eliminated, the cats tend to roam much less and stick closer to home base where food and shelter is supplied. As a result, they become a less visible presence in the area and are less likely to sustain fatal accidents with cars.
- New cats are kept out – Feral cats tend to resist the intrusion of new cats into their territory. The degree to which they keep out newcomers is a function of the size of their food supply and territory. If they have a small territory and are fed only as much as they need, colony cats are highly motivated to guard their small space and limited food supply from newcomers. On the other extreme, if only a few cats inhabit a large space and are provided unlimited food, they may be more willing to allow new cats to join them.
- Rodent control – Cats deter rodents, more by their scent than by hunting. Feral cats’ best friends are often the superintendents of buildings or managers of warehouses because these people know the choice is cats or rats and prefer the former. Typically, someone will bring a cat or two into a rodent-infested situation in to alleviate the problem. However, new problems arise when the cats proliferate. With TNR, the cats get to stay, the nuisance problems from feline overpopulation are eliminated and rodent control is maintained.
- Improved community relations - When a feral cat colony is out of control, with litters of kittens continually recurring and noise and odor a real complaint, neighborhood residents often become hostile towards both the cats and anyone they believe is helping perpetuate the situation, such as feeders. When TNR is implemented and its advantages realized, the caretaker becomes an asset to the community instead of an enemy and the cats are better tolerated.
Why has Trap/Euthanize historically failed ?
the greatest advantage of TNR when it comes to controlling
the population growth of feral cats is that, in most instances,
all other known methods have historically failed. Removing
feral cats "completely" as a means of solving the problems
associated with them certainly has the appeal of simplicity.
What would stop overpopulation and nuisance complaints faster
than just taking away all the cats? But while in theory this
may sound plausible, in reality removing feral cats almost
never works to eliminate their presence.
Here are 5 reasons why:
1-The vacuum effect
Feral cat colonies spring up in certain locations because the habitat is suitable for their survival. If shelter and food adequate for at least their bare subsistence was not available, the cats would not be there. Feral colonies usually exist side by side throughout a neighborhood or area. When one colony is completely removed from a site but the habitat is left unaltered, a vacuum of unutilized food and shelter is left behind. Migration from adjacent colonies is the inevitable result and soon new cats replace the old.
This “vacuum effect” was first observed by wildlife biologist Roger Tabor in his extensive studies of London street cats, recorded in “The Wild Life of Domestic Cats.” The phenomenon of new cats moving in can happen very quickly.
I was once involved in the spay/neuter of a 35 cat colony that lived in a bungalow community. On the day of surgery, when all the colony cats were being fixed, new cats from adjacent blocks started showing up, tentatively exploring the vacated grounds. They left when the colony cats were released a few days later.
The vacuum effect might be avoided if, upon the removal of the colony, the habitat was altered to also remove the food and shelter. This is extremely difficult to do in practice. Shelter can take the most meager of forms – a shed, a hole in a wall or tree, a broken window leading into a basement, some pallets piled high, etc. Removing food sources is even harder and requires constant oversight. All it takes to create one is a person walking by, spotting a cat and continually leaving out food. Trying to change habits when it comes to sealing dumpsters and disposing of trash bags is also difficult.
2-Trap/Remove causes more cats, not less cats
Animal control officers, private extermination companies or private property owners – rarely have the time, resources, commitment or knowledge to successfully trap and remove 100 percent of a colony. Instead, trap and remove attempts typically involve laying out a number of traps, waiting a few hours at most, then carting away whoever was caught.
Trapping and Removing ALL the cats in a colony requires patience, persistence, time and money: some cats are almost always left behind. These remaining cats now have less competition for the food and shelter provided by the habitat. As a result, a higher percentage of their kittens are likely to survive than when the colony was fully inhabited. This “overbreeding” continues until the colony again reaches its natural population cap, which is the number of cats the habitat’s available food and shelter can support.
3- Abandonment of domestic cats & lack of monitoring
Feral cat colonies originate with lost or abandoned and sexually intact domestic cats. Abandonment of cats is unfortunately an ongoing problem which isn’t likely to end any time soon. Many abandoned cats were dumped because they reached sexual maturity and began displaying the problem behavior associated with unneutered cats, including spraying to mark territory or yowling. These cats wander until they either die or find a suitable habitat where they can survive.
A habitat where a feral cat colony was just removed will offer suitable refuge, allowing sexually intact and abandoned cats to begin the reproductive cycle anew.
An advantage of TNR is the presence of a caretaker to watch for newly arrived cats and either remove them for adoptive placement or at least ensure they get neutered and don’t reproduce. Trap and remove efforts rarely leave this kind of monitoring system behind. Consequently, removed cats, if they are not replaced by new ferals, are eventually replaced by lost or abandoned cats.
4- Alienation of caretakers
Trap and remove efforts, especially if the cats’ fate is euthanasia, are usually conducted against the wishes of the cats’ caretaker - the one person most needed to guarantee the success of the trapping. The caretaker knows how many cats there are, their habits, their hideouts, their feeding pattern. She controls their food source and, by not cooperating, can thwart attempts to make the cats hungry enough to enter baited traps.
Trying to trap cats when their caretaker is actively opposing the effort is very much an uphill struggle. TNR, in contrast, by allowing the cats to live, transforms the caretaker into a willing population control worker and makes it reasonably possible to capture all the cats and get them altered.
5- Insufficient paid animal control resources while TNR is free and has committed long term supervision of colonies
Few municipalities, especially larger urban ones, can devote the manpower needed to remove a substantial percentage of the feral cats living in the community. For example, in New York City, there are at least tens of thousands of feral cats by even the most conservative estimates, and fourteen full-time animal control officers. Even if every one of them devoted all their working hours to capturing feral cats, it would have little effect.
Considering that this undermanned force has numerous more pressing issues to deal with at any moment, the impracticality of attempting the task is apparent. Even in smaller communities with one or two animal control officers and perhaps a couple of hundred feral cats, it’s not realistic to expect these officers to be able to devote the time and effort required to trap enough cats to get ahead of the reproductive curve. As discussed earlier, volunteers are not going to join a trap and remove program in sufficient numbers to fill in the gap.
All of these factors may be operating together to defeat a trap and remove attempt – the vacuum effect of neighboring ferals migrating into emptied territory, the overbreeding of colony cats not captured, the re-supply of feral colonies by newly lost or abandoned cats, the lack of cooperation from caretakers, and the lack of adequate animal control resources. In light of this, it’s hardly surprising the trap and remove approach has historically failed to curb feral population growth.
Communities that do trap and remove typically see constant annual levels of both complaints and number of cats captured. This reveals that all that’s being achieved is turnover – new feline faces, but not fewer. A successful control program, by gradually reducing the feral population, would see falling levels over time.
Links To Even More TNR Details...
The 2 videos below explain why Trap/ Euthanize doesn't work to reduce cats over the long term and is hugely expensive to tax payers--- TNR is free and reduces feral cat populations humanely.
Vid 01 Vid 02
BELOW:"ear tipping" on the left ear is the universal way (around the world) for neutered feral cats identification. The photos below show what this looks like: