What is the Community Cat/TNR program?
Trap-neuter-return (TNR) is a humane, nonlethal alternative to the old trap-and-kill method of controlling feral cat populations. All community cats, whether they are considered stray, feral or just free-roaming, are caught in humane cat traps, medically evaluated, spayed or neutered by a licensed veterinarian, vaccinated against distemper and rabies, and then returned to their original outdoor homes. Often, these cats live in groups called cat colonies. The objective is to stabilize and eventually reduce the number of cats in an area.
Returning cats to the location where they were trapped is very important because the cats will be familiar with food and water sources, and available shelter. Again, this is their outdoor home. Opponents to TNR sometimes claim cats are released anywhere, though it's clear that this is not common practice. Doing so would put cats in jeopardy unless careful precautions are taken.
Most importantly, however, TNR allows cats to have longer, healthier lives without producing litter after litter of feral kittens.
We have seen very positive results since starting our program in 2017. Most of all, our live release rates have skyrocketed. Cats are happier and healthier and it has truly transformed the way we handle community/feral cats. This has led to a decrease in the number of cats and kittens picked up in the field and impounded via shelter intake, resources can be re-allocated to other tasks that benefit both field staff and shelter staff (e.g., at-large dogs, injured animals, cruelty investigations). It has also allowed us to focus our efforts on networking with rescues, providing foster care and adoption opportunities.
TNR begins with trapping cats. Sometimes that’s easier said than done. Unlike pets, feral cats don’t come running when you shake a can of treats. Trapping cats can require more patience, plus irresistible bait.
Compassionate people willing to help with TNR can borrow humane cat traps from us and possibly some rescue groups. Several online retailers also sell humane cat traps. Common features to all these traps are a tripping mechanism and a self-locking door.
There’s a science behind determining the best time and place to set traps, the details are too long to go into here. Trapping logistics differ for each cat colony and can be tricky. But if you’re interested in learning everything you need to know to do it yourself, Best Friends has plenty of information on how to trap a cat humanely for TNR.
Spay or neuter cats and then return them.
Luckily, the spaying and neutering part isn’t as tricky for the volunteer as the trapping part. But that’s not to say it doesn’t require planning, either. From the shelter’s perspective, we only have a certain amount of kennel space available for these cats and have to limit the number of cats we can take in at a time. Therefore, at times, we have a “wait list.”
If you are planning on trapping a cat and bringing it in to our facility to go through our program, please call us first at 801-399-8244 to schedule an appointment. This will ensure we have the space available and save you time of re-releasing and re-catching cats. We can only take cats from Weber County, excluding South Ogden and Pleasant View.
Community cats usually have the tips of their left ears removed during their surgery. Is ear-tipping cruel? No, it’s done while under anesthesia, so the cats don’t feel a thing. An ear-tipped cat is the universal sign that says: “I’ve already been through the TNR program. You don’t need to bother to trap me again and take me to the vet to be fixed.”
While cats are in the care of a vet, they also usually receive vaccinations and a general wellness exam. If all goes well, there are no health concerns, and the cats recover nicely from surgery, they are returned to the site where they were trapped and quietly released.