TNR stands for trap-neuter-return (“R” stands for return not release). In a TNR program, feral cats are trapped using humane safe traps and are then spayed or neutered, vaccinated, ear-tipped, and returned to their original territory where the feral colony caregiver provides them with food and water on a regular basis and also provides shelter. Any friendly kittens or cats are removed from the colony and after vetting are available for adoption.
TNR is the non-lethal method of reducing the number of feral and stray cats. It is the only effective method of controlling the feral cat population because it stops the breeding. Since the cats are no longer reproducing, the colony will gradually diminish in size. By reducing or eliminating mating, fighting, and roaming, TNR stabilizes the colony, reduces the influx of newcomers to the colony, and generally improves the overall health of the cats. (Note that colony caregiver should always keep an eye out for new cats in the colony and TNR those cats as quickly as possible.)
In addition to helping control the feral cat population, TNR typically reduces the nuisance behavior associated with feral cats (yowling, fighting and mating, and spraying by unneutered males to mark their territory). Sterilize cats will usually roam less and as a result become less of a visible presence but they will still provide all natural pest control. TNR’d cats have been vaccinated and are healthier.
Returning cats to their familiar habitat is the best course of action. Removing feral cats from a location allows another colony to move into its place, creating a vacuum effect. This means that if all the cats are removed, new unsterilized cats will typically move in and thus the cycle begins again. That is why the “R” or Return is so important. The only time that the cats should be relocated from their original territory is if the cats are in imminent danger.
If you have questions about how to TNR ferals in your area, please contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We teach the basics of TNR (including post-surgery care) and feral colony management, we loan traps and recovery cages for a fully refundable deposit, and we can provide information on low-cost spay/neuter for the feral cats.