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TNR-What Is It and How Can I Do It?

Updated on December 17, 2013
A Feral Cat ready to returned after being trapped and neutered.
A Feral Cat ready to returned after being trapped and neutered. | Source

The initials, TNR, in the animal rescue world stand for Trap, Neuter and Return. Thankfully, it's becoming the method of choice for controlling the over population of free roaming felines. The process of trapping and killing animals is as inhumane and useless as it is primitive and barbaric. The TNR approach serves as a win-win situation for the felines as well as the community. All animals have intrinsic value and deserve respect which is the basis of this proactive movement.

Trapping- Humane traps are used meaning there is no injury to the trapped animal unlike the leg traps. The trap of choice for most groups is the Havahart Live Animal Steel traps which can be purchased online or found in most Lowe's Home Improvement Stores. To trap successfully, you will withhold food from the intended animal for one day to insure kitty takes the bait. When feeding ferals it's always best to feed at the same time everyday to establish a routine. The day of trapping you will need your trap, can of tuna, sardines or anything else yummy, a blanket or twin size sheet and newspaper or plastic tarp used for lining your vehicle during transport. It's also a good idea to acquaint yourself with the mechanics of the trap and it's door prior to the time of trapping. Once you've arrived at the site, simply set the trap by sliding the canned goody past the trip plate and hook the door open. Setting the trap on a level surface helps as the trap won't easily trip and spook the cat if jumps on top of the trap before entering. When kitty has finally gotten curious and hungry enough you will hear the door slam shut. The cat will usually cry out in fear and that's when you'll cover the trap with the blanket or sheet. Covering the trap reduces stress and he or she should quiet immediately. Now on to the...

Neutering-The appointment for spaying/neutering should be within hours of your trapping unless you can house the trapped feline the day before. Using a low cost clinic is your best choice. When making the appointment stress the fact that you are bringing a feral cat who is in a trap. Most high volume clinics are familiar with ferals and offer a feral package which includes a flea treatment, vaccination and ear-tipping (clipping the tip of one ear to identify the cat as being free-roaming and has been altered). Usually you will drop off and pick up the cat during the same day. Instruction sheets are provided by the clinic and recovery is usually 2-3 days. A litter box can be placed under the trap if you place the trap on a couple of bricks. And when feeding, you'll open the trap door as little as possible and slide a can inside. Heavily dilute the canned entree if space doesn't allow for both food & water dishes. The trap should remain covered during the recovery time.

Returning-Once your furry friend has recovered it's time to return him or her back "home". Back to familiar sounds, smells and territory. Since feral cats prefer the dark of night, it's best to return them in the evening. Simply set the trap door to open, walk away and you'll watch him or her take advantage of being set free and run into the night. And, of course, will be happy & healthy for tomorrow's feeding.

If you're in need of help with a TNR project, contact your local humane society for resource information. Use Facebook to reach out to other feral groups for advice. Search online for low cost spay and neuter clinics. Trapping, Neutering and Returning does take a little effort but saving lives is a huge return for your investment.


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    • Pages-By-Patty profile image

      Pages-By-Patty 5 years ago from Midwest

      Hi Peg~

      I'm happy to know the hub has served a purpose for you.

      The blankets/tarps are a must! I still get a little upset if a feral starts thrashing about once he realizes he's caged but the ol' blanket trick calms them right down.

      I looked up some feral orgs in the great state of Texas for you. I found one in Richardson that will mentor you through the process and loan you a trap, if needed. Don't know if that's near you or not.

      Good luck with the TNR, he's one lucky cat to have found your yard!

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Very good information and perfectly timed for me as I'm feeding a stray who won't come near but has been hanging out in my dog's yard. I wondered how it would react when caged or trapped and the blanket or tarp tip is valuable to know. Thank you.

    • Pages-By-Patty profile image

      Pages-By-Patty 5 years ago from Midwest

      Hi Kathy-

      Nothing more sad than a FelLeuk or AIDS kitty. Your work is a prime example of how we need to replace the stigma of those two diseases with education and empathy. Good Work!

      So, you have 2 sanctuaries? Wow, that's amazing. I'm going to look thru your hubs right now to find out more info!!

      Thanks for all you do and for the positive hub energy!

    • Pages-By-Patty profile image

      Pages-By-Patty 5 years ago from Midwest

      Hi MsLizzy!

      TNR is truly the only way to ever combat the problem unless there's a drastic up rise in responsibility by individuals who own cats. I've had a number of cats join my colonies who are declawed & fixed but with no microchip and, sadly, no one looking for them.

      Thanks so much for votes, shares and being an advocate for animals, too!

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Thank you so much for being a fellow animal-lover and for sharing this humane method of cutting down the population of feral kitties without resorting to murder.

      This is such important information! Thank you again for this article. Voted up, useful, awesome, interesting, and shared here and on FB and Twitter!

    • Lucky Cats profile image

      Kathy 5 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

      Hi Pages by Patty...very concise and informative with lots of heart. I'm right there with you...we have 3 HavAHeart traps and have used them extensively as well as lent them to others. Over the years, we have saved, literally, over a hundred cats this way...most ended up at our two sanctuaries and about a dozen tested positive for either Feline Leukemia or AIDS....but we kept them separate and they lived good lives....5 are still living after 4-5 years....I thoroughly support TNR...a neutered/spayed animal who is regularly fed is not as much a hunter of smaller animals but, if this should occur; it is natural for the cat to do this in order to survive; it is their instinct. Saving the cat is not a negative and predation occurs in nature; it is nature's way and your efforts to save cats does not alter the #'s of rodents, mice who succumb to cat predation...this would occur whether you were in the picture or not so, have no regrets or second thoughts. Very happy to read this excellent, well written hub which, I am sure, will help others help cats. thank you. UP Interesting Awesome Useful and Beautiful because you care. Kathy

    • Pages-By-Patty profile image

      Pages-By-Patty 5 years ago from Midwest

      Hi Pamela~

      Thanks so much for reading's kind of a long one isn't it?

      About the feeding, since I feed early mornings I usually trap then also. I overnight the cats at my home and the vet appt is usually the next day; therefore, their food intake for the prior 24 hours is minimal and I use a 3 ounce can. Some trappers use small paper plates with only a dab of food on them if the cat is going directly to surgery. Just enough to entice them into the trap. But, you're correct, surgery on full tummies is not recommended.

      Thanks so much for the vote!

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Kinnaird W 5 years ago from Maui and Arizona

      I enjoyed this very comprehensive hub. I'm not really knowledgeable about the procedures in the operating room but I think there are two methods -- or maybe it's the anaesthesia that has two methods? So perhaps one of the ways allows for a cat to have the operation even if the cat has eaten in the last 12 hours, but on Maui the cat has to have been without food overnight or the operation could cause the cat to vomit and choke -- I think.

      I just wonder about this point because of your first sentence in your paragraph on neutering. If I hadn't had the problem of needing to fast the cats -- as a couple of my hubs outline -- I could have been much more effective but as it was I had to rely on others to keep the cats overnight if I helped trap them.

      I admire you that you jumped in to the TNR program starting with 40 cats. I started with much lower numbers.

      Great hub. Voting up, useful and sharing.

    • Pages-By-Patty profile image

      Pages-By-Patty 5 years ago from Midwest

      Thank you, Marcy. I jumped in with both feet about 8 years ago and took on a colony of 40 cats as my first experience. The life of a feral is a unique and sad one. It's definitely gratifying to make a difference in the lives of animals and, at the same time, to better the community. Again, thank you for taking the time to read my TNR advice.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      Welcome to HubPages! I admire you for focusing on the tender topic of animal rescue and humane treatment. I've met people who were part of the TNR program where I live and it was great to see how they worked to allow the animals to remain in their

    • Melissa A Smith profile image

      Melissa A Smith 5 years ago from New York

      Thanks for replying. I just finished chasing said feral cat away from a small rodent it was playing with about 2 minutes ago. I hope to diminish hunting for food but it still occurs, and this problem is not resolved.

    • Pages-By-Patty profile image

      Pages-By-Patty 5 years ago from Midwest

      Hi Melissa-

      I certainly understand your compassion for the wildlife as mine also runs deep for all creatures, great and small! Apparently, the drive to hunt is greatly diminished when adequate food source is available. I found an injured baby bird one day lying in my yard while my 3 ferals watched it from a few feet away. I scooped it up & took it to the nearby wildlife vet. Luckily, the little guy was treatable. I asked her what happened to him, assuming the ferals played a part, and she said it had simply fallen out of his nest. He had no predator injuries even though my ferals had been watching it for who knows how long! She then told me of the food source theory. I still wish the prey drive was a non-existent instinct (I've lost several ferals to coyotes) as it's such a sad reminder of the circle of life. Thank you for your viewpoint on the subject.

    • Pages-By-Patty profile image

      Pages-By-Patty 5 years ago from Midwest


      Thank you for your comment. I'm hoping it becomes common place for every city in the near future.


      Once again, your comment and interest is appreciated. With 10 years of experience, I thought it might be useful to others who are just starting out!

    • Nettlemere profile image

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      It's good that you're spreading the word about this method of ethical management of feral cat populations.

    • mwilliams66 profile image

      mwilliams66 5 years ago from Left Coast, USA

      Thank you for publishing such a comprehensive hub on TNR. I am a tremendous proponent of this practice.

      Voting up, useful and interesting.

    • Melissa A Smith profile image

      Melissa A Smith 5 years ago from New York

      I occasionally feed a cat that I've recently found out was 'TNR' because its ear is snipped. It's not a practice I really support because it does not prevent wildlife from being preyed on.