TNR is the process of trapping feral cats or kittens, having them spayed/neutered, ear-tipped and then returning them to where they were found.
Tens of thousands of stray and feral cats, collectively called community cats, live in the outdoor spaces of Long Island. They live in groups called colonies, and they establish themselves near human activity — in backyards, around businesses, in parking lots, etc. — attracted by a food source such as trash or rodents. Community cats have no owners, though many people care for them by feeding and sometimes providing outdoor shelter.
Feral cats are not socialized to humans. They are timid and fearful around people and are not suited for adoption. Stray cats are lost or abandoned pets who may become feral or may be suitable for rescue and re-homing. Left unfixed, all of these community cats will breed prolifically. Because most of these cats are not suited to living indoors, bringing them to a shelter is not the humane answer. Taking them to a shelter also doesn’t solve the population problem — if cats are simply removed from an area, others will soon move in and breed. This is called the “Vacuum Effect.”
The most humane and effective approach to managing the growing population of community cats is Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). In TNR, entire colonies of community cats are trapped, sterilized, vaccinated, eartipped, and returned to their territory of origin. TNR halts reproduction and many of the nuisance behaviors associated with unneutered cats, such as yowling, fighting, and marking territory. The cats are healthier, free from the stresses of mating and motherhood. TNR also includes colony management to ensure the cats’ well-being and their peaceful coexistence with the rest of the community. Community cat overpopulation on Long Island is too big a job for any single agency to handle. Tender Loving Cats, Inc. educates the public on the importance of Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) and work with colony caretakers to help them implement TNR in their communities.
Trap - Rent or purchase a humane animal trap and divider. If you have a trap savvy feral cat/kitten a drop trap and transfer trap will also be required. Tomahawk Live Trap or TrueCatch are recommenced by Tender Loving Cats, Inc. (TLC). Having a trap with a sliding back door is especially helpful in releasing an animal that you did not want to trap. Tender Loving Cats. Inc. rents humane animal traps to the public for a refundable $65 deposit and offers low-cost spay/neuter of feral cats through our P.A.L (Prevent A Litter) Program. We offer one-on-one TNR training when you rent a trap from us. Trapping feral cats is one of the easiest things to do as long as you have the will, you have a way. Contact us to rent a humane animal trap.
Bait - TLC recommends purchasing tuna, sardines or mackerel in oil at the Dollar Store or Fancy Feast Shrimp, Cod & Sole.
Trap Cover - you will need a large towel and/or sheet to completely cover the trap after a feral cat/kitten is captured.
Tarps (2) - one to line your car for transport to and from the veterinarian and the other for your recovery space. These can also be purchased at the Dollar Store.
Weewee pads and/or newspaper
Food Bowls - non-tip bowls with feet and/or ceramic bowls.
Food - Friskies shreds with a small amount of added water is great for recovery because you don’t need to provide an extra water bowl.
How to Trap-Recover-Release a Feral Cat/Kitten Steps 1-13:
Preparation - One week prior to trapping, tie up the trap door and remove the back door, start feeding the feral cat/kitten(s) close and then inside the traps or under a drop trap. Drop traps must be propped up something more sturdy then a stick to ensure it doesn't accidentally trap a cat/kitten when no one is around. Traps and/or drop traps should not be left out in public areas.
Establish a Feeding Pattern – feed at the same time, and the same place every day. This will ensure that the cats will be where you want them, when you want them.
Make a Plan - Never trap a cat/kitten without a plan! Have your vouchers in your hand, make an appointment if required, know where the cat/kitten(s) will stay overnight and where they will recover after surgery. DO NOT trap a feral cat/kitten and then start looking for someplace to bring it or someone to take it!
Do not feed the feral cat/kitten(s) for 12-24hrs prior to trapping - If they are extra hungry, you have a greater chance of getting them to go into the trap.
Buy or Rent Supplies Listed Above.
Time to Trap - There are several ways to trap a feral cat/kittens - Method (1) Set the trap with tuna, sardines or mackerel – something very smelly. See video. Method (2) Do not set the trap but use a stick/bottle & string to hold up the trap door, stand as far away as possible and pull the string when the cat/kitten(s) you want go all the way to the back (see video below). This is by far the best method to trap a feral mom & kittens who are eating solid food. You should trap mom first. If you start trapping kittens one at a time mom will move the others and likely you will never find them until they are too feral. Whether trapping kittens under 8wks for socialization or older kittens for TNR it’s best to trap the shyest kitten first. Let the others eat and go in and out of the trap and once the last kitten goes in pull the string even if the others have eaten and left. Those kittens will be easier to trap later in the day. If you trap the shyest kitten last you may be out there for several days trying to trap one litter of kittens. Spaying mom is an important piece to this puzzle, if you’d don’t trap her first and she doesn’t eat regularly in this area she will move on 24hrs after you take the kittens away so it’s important that you don’t just take the kittens away and leave mom to continue breeding. See Picture Below on how to set a trap with a stick/bottle & string. Method (3) Use a drop trap by placing a mound of food all the way to the back, tie a long string, stand far away and pull once all cats have relaxed and are eating. See video. Use a sheet to cover the entire drop trap once it’s pulled and place a weight on top to stop it from moving. Watch this video and others to learn how to properly transfer from the drop trap to a transfer trap.
Patience is a virtue - It’s better to let feral cat/kitten(s) go in and out and not trap on the first attempt then spook them. Start trapping early in the am the day before an appointment so that you have other chances to trap in the pm.
Success! - when you have trapped the feral cat/kitten(s), immediately cover the entire trap with a towel or sheet to keep them calm. Even friendly cats panic when trapped. However, they do quiet down once they are covered. DO NOT LEAVE THE TRAP SET OVERNIGHT OR UNATTENDED for any length of time
Holding a Trapped Feral Cat/Kitten - Trapped cats can be left in the trap overnight as long as they are covered and in a safe secure place, i.e. garage, shed, basement, etc., protected from the elements and other wildlife. Be very aware of the temperature in your recovery space; extreme heat or cold at any point in the day or night can be dangerous.
Transportation - Cats can be transported to the veterinarian or animal shelter with a TNR program in the trap. Place a tarp down in your car and weewee pads or newspaper to absorb urine. Cats may urinate out of fear and stress. Always double check that Traps are locked and/or secure on both ends. Use zip ties if necessary, and zip tie when picking up at vets office. An escaped feral cat is a terrible and easily avoided error to make.
Spay/Neuter Surgery & What to Expect - Participating veterinarians or animal shelter with a TNR program will notch the cat’s left ear (called ear tipping) when the cat is under anesthesia. This alerts others that this cat has been spayed/neutered and vaccinated to avoid the cat/kitten from being re-trapped and unnecessarily sedated.
Recovery - Inexperienced trappers should not transfer feral cat/kitten(s) into cages and should use trap dividers when recovering to clean & feed. During recovery from surgery feed a full can of friskies shreds once a day with a small amount of water added. This will provide enough food & water for the day. Remember that the more you feed the more they will urinate & defecate. You are going to transfer the feral cat to a cage to recover the cage must be large enough for a carrier, a litter box, food and water. (See example of a proper feral cat set up and step by step instructions here - https://www.neighborhoodcats.org/how-to-tnr/trapping/fostering-feral-cats-safely) Males can be released 12 hours after surgery, as long as the surgery was uneventful.. Females should be held at least 72 hours post surgery if the spay was uneventful but can be held up to 5 days if a longer recovery time is recommended by a veterinarian.
Return not just Release - After the appropriate recovery time, transport the cat/kitten(s) back to the address where they were trapped. Angle the back door towards land and not towards a street. Remove the back door of the trap, step back, and they will run out.