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TNR Basics

What is TNR?

TNR stands for "Trap Neuter Return" and is the most humane way to manage feral and stray cat colonies. Through TNR, cats are humanely trapped, vaccinated, neutered and eartipped (Eartipping is a safe procedure that removes a small bit of the right ear and is a universally accepted means of identifying neutered cats). Healthy adult feral cats are returned to their outdoor homes where their lives are greatly improved without the strains of mating behaviors and pregnancy. Stray cats and kittens can be adopted out into forever homes. When cats are spayed and neutered, no new kittens will be born and the population will naturally decrease.  

What does it mean to Spay or Neuter?

Spays and neuters are surgical procedures performed by veterinarians to sterilize animals, making them incapable of reproducing. The word “neuter” can refer to the sterilization of both males and females. This is important for pets as well as feral cats.  

What is the difference between a Stray and Feral cats?

A feral cat is one that is born out in the wild with little to no human contact.  Feral kittens can be caught and socialized, but most adults cannot be socialized.  A stray cat is one that has been socialized to people at some point in its life, but strayed from its home, was lost, or was abandoned. Most stray cats can be socialized and become a pet again under the right circumstances. The term "socialized" refers to cats that are friendly towards people  or cats who enjoy companionship with us in our homes.

Does TNR Work?

Yes! This program is beneficial to both the cats and to the communities where they live. Female cats live healthier lives when they are not pregnant with litters up to 2-3 times per year. When female cats do not go into heat they do not attract male cats to the area, which reduces fighting. This also reduces nuisance behaviors such as caterwauling, spraying and roaming. TNR stabilizes community cat populations by reducing the risk of disease and over time reducing the population. Finally, the data collected from various TNR programs across the country is proving that TNR does work and cat populations are being reduced using this method.  

Can't you just remove the cats from the neighborhood?

Removing cats from your neighborhood will not work. When cats are removed from an area, it causes a well-documented phenomenon called "the vacuum effect."  That’s when new cats move into the space to take advantage of resources and breed back to capacity.  Additionally, taking feral cats from their home to a shelter would be a death sentence, because they are not socialized to humans and therefore would not be adoptable. 

Who Can Help?

In order to build a successful TNR program we need the help of the community where we are focused. Anyone who has an interest in helping the cats in their neighborhood stay healthy and safe is welcome to lend a hand. We only have a few volunteers and are always looking for additional help.  Check out the "TNR Help" page for more details on assisting with TNR, and for some other volunteer opportunities go to the Volunteer page.


*References: Alley Cat Allies and the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon

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