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What is Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)?


Trap-Neuter-Return is the humane and effective approach for stray, or community cats. Now in practice for decades in the US after being proven in Europe, scientific studies show that Trap-Neuter-Return improves the lives of cats, improves their relationships with the people who live near them, and decreases the size of colonies over time.


Trap-Neuter-Return is successfully practiced in hundreds of communities and in every landscape and setting. It is exactly what it sounds like: Cats are humanely trapped and taken to a veterinarian to be neutered and vaccinated. After recovery, the cats are returned to their home — their colony — outdoors. Kittens and cats who are friendly and socialized to people may be adopted into homes.


Grounded in science, TNR stops the breeding cycle of cats and therefore improves their lives while preventing reproduction. It is a fact that the removal and killing of outdoor cats that animal control has been pursuing for decades is never ending and futile. Since many community cats are not adoptable, they are killed in pounds and shelters. With a successful program like Trap-Neuter-Return to turn to, it is hard to believe that animal control agencies continue to kill cats, even though that approach has shown zero results.


It is time to put an end to catch and kill. Trap-Neuter-Return provides a life-saving, effective solution for these beautiful, independent cats.



Trap-Neuter-Return Improves Cats’ Lives

Leaders of major humane programs all over America agree that cats live healthier, more peaceful lives after TNR. “It helps to stabilize the number of cats in the community,” says Bonney Brown, executive director of the Nevada Humane Society in Reno, Nevada. “It keeps the cats healthy. They really have great lives out there doing their cat thing.”


  • Trap-Neuter-Return relieves cats of the constant stresses of mating and pregnancy.

“The obvious benefit of Trap-Neuter-Return to the cats is that the females don’t go through cycles of producing more and more kittens. Their health is actually improved,” says Rich Avanzino, longtime director of the San Francisco SPCA and current president of Maddie’s Fund. Spaying and neutering also virtually eliminates the chance of cats developing mammary or testicular tumors.


  • Mating behaviors cease, like roaming, yowling, spraying, and fighting.

In a 2002 study conducted by prominent researcher Julie Levy, DVM, caregivers reported that cats tended to roam less after neutering, which is beneficial for their safety and reduces conflict with neighbors.


With decreased competition for mating, the cats are also less likely to suffer injuries. A study of a cat colony in London conducted by leading cat biologists and TNR pioneers Dr. Jenny Remfry and Peter Neville found that cats were more affectionate towards each other after neutering, spending more time in groups and fighting less.


  • Cats’ physical health improves.

Studies have found that neutering improves cats’ coat condition and helps them gain weight. “…Research at the University of Florida shows that they gain weight and stray less after they’ve been neutered, so that’s a benefit for their welfare, as well," says Dr. Levy.


  • Cats are vaccinated against rabies.

“The process of Trap-Neuter-Return has an immense benefit for the cats that are involved in these programs,” explains Dr. Levy. “They’re vaccinated, so they’re less susceptible to infectious diseases.” Although most community cats are healthy, vaccinations given during TNR protect them even further and help put community members at ease.


  • Cats live long, healthy lives.

At the conclusion of the 11-year study of the impact of TNR on cat colonies at the University of Florida, 83% of the cats in managed TNR colonies had been residing in those colonies for more than six years — indicating a lifespan comparable to the 7.1-year lifespan of pet cats.



Trap-Neuter-Return Answers the Needs of the Community

“I think there are several amazing benefits for communities that arise after they embrace Trap-Neuter-Return,” says Dr. Levy. “One of the most substantial ones is a resolution of the conflict that…[can] surround cats in neighborhoods. Once residents understand that something is being done to control the cat population, they usually embrace having a Trap-Neuter-Return program there.”


  • The population stabilizes—no new kittens!

Once TNR is in place, the cats will no longer reproduce. The population will stabilize and eventually decline.


  • Cats become better neighbors.

Studies confirm that once TNR stops reproduction, and therefore mating behaviors, the cats’ relationship with residents improves. Colonies become quieter as behaviors like yowling or fighting stop, calls to authorities about the cats decrease significantly, and community morale improves.


  • Trap-Neuter-Return creates opportunities for outreach, education, and cooperation.

Trap-Neuter-Return does more than just produce immediate results and boost the cats’ public image. As Alley Cat Allies has found in its 20 years of experience through such on-the-ground programs as DC Cat in Washington, DC, and the Meadows of Chantilly in Northern Virginia, this community program presents a great opportunity for educating and addressing any concerns neighbors may have.


“Usually, neighbors are relieved just to learn that something is being done to stabilize the cat population. Caregivers can also take further steps to address concerns, such as providing deterrents to keep cats out of neighbors’ yards or constructing discreet feeding stations and litter areas to gradually move cats out of areas they are not wanted.”


The cats live in the neighborhood —they will be there whether they are cared for or not. Trap-Neuter-Return establishes a point of contact for concerns about the cats and for resolving any community concerns.



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