TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return)
It is important to understand that cats living outdoors did not choose to live outdoors. Whether an individual is an advocate for the rights of feral cats, or on the other side of the debate we can all agree that the population of cats is overwhelmingly out of control. So what can we do to help make an impact on this situation? One proven, effective, humane way to get a handle on the population is TNR.
When you stop to think about how easily one cat can turn into hundreds, even thousands, it’s quite easy to understand why we have seen such an increase of cats outside. Female cats can get pregnant as young as four months old. Yes, kittens can and do have kittens! Cats can get pregnant shortly after giving birth to a litter, as well. By humanely trapping to spay and neuter cats, we can end the cycle of over-breeding and help to control the feral cat population.
Other benefits of TNR is that it reduces or even eliminates unwanted behaviors of the ferals in your neighborhood (e.g. yowling, fighting, spraying). And moreover, cats will stay healthier when treated with this humane solution.
When starting a TNR project, it may seem like an overwhelming challenge to take on. Here are some helpful tips to guide you through the process as you begin:
● Take inventory of the cats who do not already have a tipped ear. A tipped ear signifies that the cat has already been altered. Make a list of each cat noting color, distinguishing features, etc., and check each cat off of your list as you trap and fix.
● Establish a routine feeding schedule. You may already be doing this. An established feeding schedule not only helps you to get an inventory of the cats, but it helps the cats get into a routine of coming around at the same time everyday so you can plan to trap in that respective time window. Night time is often the best time for this, but if you are in an area where the cats feel safe to roam and eat during the day, then trapping during the day may be the only option. However, note that if you trap during the day, they will have to be kept in the trap for a longer duration.
● Contact any other feeders that you are aware of so they will know to withhold food when you are trapping and for the days leading up to it. They may also be willing to contribute to the project. If you have noticed that another person feeds but you have no way to contact them, leave a note where the cats eat with your contact info. Dependent upon the location of where you will be trapping, you may want to let others nearby know what you are doing.
● Take the initiative to research if there are any local resources available to you. Join feral cat rescue groups online to learn what has helped or hindered others. Gather a list of local rescues and their contact info for intake requests so you are prepared for the chance that you come across friendly cats. Contact surrounding Spay and Neuter clinics to confirm their hours of operation, discuss scheduling appointments, or their walk-in policies. Some clinics and organizations will loan traps for upcoming appointments.
● Prepare for trapping by trap training if the location is secured. You can ziptie a trap open and first feed in front of it, and push the food further into the trap each night. Cut the zip ties the night before the appointment.
● Have a trap cover or towel per trap. You may cover the trap while it is set, or leave it uncovered. But always quickly cover a trap if a cat is in it. This reduces their fear and they will not thrash around trying to escape causing injury to themselves.
● If you are trapping cats that you aren’t familiar with, to avoid taking a nursing mother away from her kittens, do not line traps while trapping. This way once trapped and covered, you can lift the trap up and look underneath to see if it is a nursing mother. Please release nursing mothers IF you are unable to locate the babies. You can transfer a cat into a trap lined with newspaper or puppy pads by facing them tightly and putting a foot on the lined one so the cat doesn’t push it back when they run into it.
● For hard to trap cats, you may need to withhold food the night before or do smaller portions. Drop traps are also effective in trapping hard to trap cats, as well as a particular cat
*Remember, in Arizona all cats are considered free-roaming and all cats, including feral cats, are protected by law. Please see ARS 13-2910.