TNR: Helping Reduce The Feral Cat Population

Designed to reduce the number of feral cats living on the streets, this program offers a humane solution to feline overpopulation.

TNR: Trap, Neuter, Return. It’s a concept that helps control the feral cat population. It’s a sad fact that millions of shelter cats are euthanized every year in shelters – there’s not enough room to house them and not enough people to adopt them. It happens day in, day out, and most people don’t stop to think about it or don’t know that it happens.

How did we get into this mess? Partly because of those who chose not to spay and neuter their cats so they can have cute kittens. Or those who abandon intact cats and let leave them to fend for themselves, which leads to more feral cats and eventually, kittens.

In addition to the cats that are brought into shelters each year, there are also many still living outside on the streets. You may even have a colony of feral cats in your neighborhood or be one of the kind people who leave food out for them. But there’s a dark side to these feral cat colonies; they reproduce, the colony grows, and they can become the victims of car accidents, diseases, injuries, predators, and abusive humans. Adult feral cats aren’t candidates for adoptive home, but they know how to take care of themselves outside – these are the perfect candidates for the TNR program.

What is TNR?

Trap, Neuter, Return programs can be found in many communities. These non-profit groups set up traps to catch feral cats. But these cats won’t be heading for a shelter where the majority would end up being euthanized – instead, they’re taken to a veterinarian to be spayed or neutered.

After the procedure has been performed and they’ve healed properly, the cats are ready to be released back to the outdoors. The cats are brought back to where they were first caught and let go. And if the TNR ever goes back to that area to catch more cats, the fixed kitties are clipped at the tip of the ear to tell them apart from the others.

A Great Idea for a Growing Problem

Pet overpopulation is a problem. Millions of pets are euthanized needlessly because there aren’t enough homes for them or rescue facilities to care for them. Even no-kill shelters have their limits – the only way to make room for new animals is to adopt them out, making them limited in terms of the space and resources. With feral cats, adoption is even more difficult, as it’s practically impossible to socialize them. The most humane thing to do is to allow them to live the best possible life outdoors in the environment they know.

One of the reasons why people choose to share their lives and homes with cats is because they are independent animals. When they grow up feral, these cats are capable of living outdoors, thanks to their independence. If these feral cats have a safe environment to live out their lives, with some help from us to provide extra food and makeshift shelters, TNR is the best solution. It prevents the creation of new kittens from being born who would otherwise go on to reproduce and continue the cycle of overpopulation.

How You Can Help

Is there a feral cat colony in your neighborhood? Contact a local TNR organization and get those cats fixed! You can also adopt a cat from a shelter, or rescue a kitten (or kittens) from the outdoors and invite them to live with you.  If that’s not an option, volunteering or fostering will allow you to help pets find much-needed homes. Any steps you can take that will help in achieving the goal of reducing the pet overpopulation and getting as many cats into homes through adoption will definitely be worthwhile.

Meet the Author: Amy Tokic

Amy Tokic is the Editor of, the flagship site to over 70 different pet communities, which offers pet parents a one-stop-info-shop for all things dog and cat related. Amy's been with PetGuide since the beginning, guided by the wisdom of her Shih Tzu mix and furry roommate, Oscar. Together, this pet power couple has their paw on the pulse of the pet industry, sniffing out trends, advice, news, tasty treat recipes and other tail-wagging stories.

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