Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is the method of humanely trapping feral cats, having them spayed or neutered, vaccinated for rabies and then returning them to their colony to live out their lives. TNR also involves a colony caretaker who provides food, adequate shelter and monitors the cats’ health. TNR has been shown to be the least costly as well as the most efficient and humane way of stabilizing feral cat populations.
Through TNR, feral cats can live out their lives without adding to the homeless cat population. Furthermore, by stabilizing the population, cats will naturally have more space, shelter and food, and fewer risks of disease. After being spayed or neutered, cats living in 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, while neutered males will not get testicular cancer. By neutering male cats, you also reduce the risk of injury and infection, since intact males have a natural instinct to fight with other cats. Spaying also means female cats do not go into heat and therefore they attract less tom cats to the area and reduce fighting.
Benefits of TNR
- A cat community controls rodents.
- Spaying and neutering effectively reduces:
- fighting and howling by 88%
- urine spraying and smell by 87%;
- risk of spreading disease to other cats.
- No killing: TNR is a better alternative than euthanizing at an animal control facility. (Last year roughly 75,000 – including an estimated 25,000 feral cats – were killed in Atlanta metro animal shelters.)
- The TNR cat colony does not produce unwanted litters.
- Reduced expense to taxpayers: Each year, metro Atlanta animal controls spend over 15 million taxpayer dollars dealing with the consequences of animal overpopulation. Research proves that euthanizing animals does not effectively reduce pet overpopulation, only neutering and TNR can do that!
Feed only once per day to accustom the cats to being fed at the specific location and exact time of day at least one week prior to trapping. Cats must be hungry to enter the traps, so withhold food for at least 24 hours prior to trapping. This is standard humane trapping protocol and will not hurt the cats. Sometimes a cat will not go in a trap unless food has been withheld for several days. A cat can go for weeks without food. Do not feed the cats until you have trapped them.
Select a quiet location that is not easily visible to the passerby but where you can observe the traps from a distance. Aiming to trap while raining is ineffective as cats will not roam away from shelter. Make sure the trap is clean after each new cat has been trapped to spread any disease. Make sure kittens are at least 2 pounds (8 weeks) so they can be fixed. Please check with the clinic, since the weight requirement sometimes changes, depending on the vets working with us at the time.
- A can of tuna or jack mackerel
- One feral trap for each cat you want to catch
- Thick newspaper to line the bottom of each trap.
- A sheet or large towel to cover the entire trap on all sides
- Spoons for the bait, and a can opener if you need one
- Optional: gloves, binoculars, and a flashlight to see if the cat has an ear tip if trapping at night.
Place the traps on a flat surface in a shady area at the trapping site so it won't rock or tip. Insert thick layers of newspaper or a towel to disguise the bottom of the trap and absorb urine and waste.
Place two tablespoons of bait on the newspaper at the back of the trap behind the trip plate. Place about one tablespoon in the middle, and one tablespoon at the opening. Quietly set and cover the traps, and leave the area, but keep the trap in distant view. The cats are unlikely to enter the traps if you are nearby. You might want to use binoculars to keep an eye on the cats and traps. If you are trapping in your yard, you can go inside. In public areas, traps should never be left unattended. People will release a trapped cat, and most cats will not let themselves be trapped a second time.
Trapping a feral cat may take some time, possibly many hours. Make sure the cat is securely trapped before you approach the trap. If you approach the trap too soon, you might frighten the cat away.
If you are having continued difficulty trapping a cat, please email us a request for assistance in trapping hard-to-trap feral cats.
Make sure the entire trap is covered with a towel before moving it. Covering the trap calms the frightened cat and lessens its risk of injury, and prevents the spread of any disease between cats at the clinic. It is normal for the cat to thrash around inside the trap. If a cat has hurt itself, do not release it, but let the vet examine its injury at the time of spay/neuter surgery. Never let the cat out of the trap before it has been fixed.
Check the cat for an ear tip (a V-notch, or a missing tip). If it has one, the cat has already been fixed, so release the cat and re-bait the trap. Do not put your fingers near the wire mesh. Do not leave any food out if you plan to trap in the following days. Only when you are finished trapping for the week should you leave food and water.
Housing Before Surgery
Hold the cats overnight in their trap in a basement, garage, spare room, or covered porch where it is dry and warm. Do not leave cats in traps outdoors when cold or exposed to heat or sun. If you have pets, make sure they cannot get near the cat in the trap. Place cardboard and newspaper underneath the trap to absorb any urine. Cats cannot eat any food 8 hours prior to surgery.
Important: LifeLine Spay & Neuter Clinic Rules
- Drop Off: Monday - Thursday, 8:00-9:00 am, closed holidays.
- Pick up: 4:30pm - 5:30 pm, same day.
- You may bring up to two feral cats without an appointment Monday through Thursday. If you need to bring more than these numbers, please contact the clinic (in advance) to make the appointment.
- Do not bring an uncovered cat into the clinic. Always cover with a sheet or towel.
- Feral cats must come to the clinic in a feral trap, for our clinic staff’s safety. Feral cats brought in regular carriers, etc. will incur an additional $10 charge per cat.
Transporting to the Vet
Place cardboard and newspaper under the traps in your car. Do not put the cat in your trunk if it's very hot. Most people can fit 2 traps on top of each other in the back seat.
Housing after Surgery
After surgery, carefully feed the cat by slipping some food under the door while watching the cat so it does not get out. Allow the cat to recover overnight in the same trap, still covered. Feed the cat as much as possible before releasing it. All cats should be held 24 hours after surgery. Cats who were pregnant should be held 48-72 hours after surgery. Although you might think cats need more time to recover, they are very resilient and they will recover better if released quickly. Many cats will not eat inside the trap and are under a great deal of stress. Do not keep a cat in a cage longer than 48-72 hours.
Replace soiled newspaper. You can use any small, non-breakable dishes for feeding.
Relocating cats will endanger their lives. Less than 50% of relocated cats survive the relocation. Releasing cats in a different area constitutes animal abandonment and is a crime in the state of Georgia. Release the cat in the same place you trapped it. Pull off the cover off the trap for a few minutes for the cat to reorient itself to its surroundings, then release. It is not uncommon if the cat stays away for a few days. Keep leaving food and water out. Living outside is what they are used to, and they will be much happier that way. Do not try to tame them. They are better off wild with a healthy dose of fear regarding people, which will keep them alive longer. If you can catch kittens between 4-12 weeks old, they can usually be tamed. Older cats are almost impossible to tame and will probably never be adoptable animals. Most rescue groups are always over capacity, and skittish cats are extremely hard to find a home for, take up shelter space, and prevent other tame cats from being saved.