Feline Wellness

An Introduction to Trap-Neuter Return

March 25, 2024

Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is a method for managing populations of community cats in a humane and effective manner. TNR allows community cats to live out their lives in their colonies without producing more kittens with no homes and contributing to the overpopulation of cats and kittens in shelters.

TNR involves the following steps:

Trap: Community cats are captured using humane traps. These traps are designed to safely catch the cats without harming them. Feeders are advised not to feed the cats for a day prior to the trapping day. This ensures the cats will be hungry enough to enter a trap. Once they step far enough inside the trap, they trigger a plate which closes the door behind them. The trapper then covers the trap with a towel or sheet to help calm the cat down. The cats in their traps are then transferred to a location where they will spend the night indoors before their surgery.

Neuter: Once trapped, the cats are taken to a veterinarian where they are spayed (females) or neutered (males). This helps control the population by preventing further breeding. Cats are typically vaccinated, treated for fleas and parasites, and microchipped as well. If they have any injuries, they can be treated for that as well or receive a long term pain medication and/or sutures.

Return: After the cats have been spayed or neutered, they spend the day recovering and being monitored. The next morning, they are returned to the location where they were trapped. This allows the cats to continue living in their familiar territory, where they know how to survive and likely have established food and water sources, routines, companions, and shelter. 

Ear Tipping: As part of the TNR process, a small portion of the top of one ear is removed while the cat is under anesthesia. The resulting “ear tip” is a universal sign that a cat has been spayed or neutered and easily allows TNR volunteers and colony caregivers to distinguish them from unaltered cats who still need to be trapped and sterilized.

Female cats can become pregnant when they are as young as four months old. They can then become pregnant as often as every three weeks if they are not spayed and if they are exposed to unneutered males. The gestation period for cats typically lasts around 63-65 days with mom giving birth to 4-6 kittens per litter. A female cat can quickly become pregnant again, as soon as a week or two after giving birth. 

This rapid cycle is why spay and neuter is so important. TNR is a compassionate approach to managing community cat populations, promoting the well-being of the cats and the communities in which they live. Spay and neuter also helps reduce fighting, spraying, and the spreading of diseases among the population. Overall, TNR improves the welfare of cats by helping to control the cat population and preventing unwanted kittens from being born and entering already overcrowded shelters. 

Love, Nala