TNR stands for trap-neuter-return. TNR is used to manage feral cat populations humanely and effectively. Alternative names used are TNVR (trap-neuter-vaccinate-release) and TNRTF (trap-neuter-return to feeder/field), These cats may be called feral, stray, free-roaming, or street cats and are referred to as community cats. TNR is a tested strategy that helps stabilize the population over time, and can improve the cats’ quality of life by reducing the stresses associated with mating behaviors and territorial disputes. Also, because community cats are unowned and generally not socialized with people, they cannot be adopted.
Trapping is required because the cats cannot be safely secured otherwise. Trapping ensures volunteers and veterinary personnel during the TNR process.
Neutering or spaying is the primary goal of TNR. This reduces the number of abandoned and homeless cats and kittens arriving at shelters and improves the quality of life for these cats. It reduces fighting, spraying, and roaming, all contributing to early death in outdoor cats. During this step of TNR, cats should also be vaccinated for rabies and feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia (FVRCP). The cat’s ear is tipped (usually the left ear). Ear-tipping is the universal sign a TNR program has seen a cat. Ear tipping is essential because an ear-tipped cat that is retrapped can be easily identified as a TNR cat and released immediately.
Return is the last step for TNR. After being spayed or neutered, the cats are returned to the original location where they were trapped—the place they know as home. This is important because feral cats are typically unsuitable for adoption and may not adapt well to indoor environments. By returning them to their familiar territory, they can continue to live out their lives without contributing to further population growth.
Now in practice for decades in the US after being proven in Europe, scientific studies show that Trap-Neuter-Return improves the lives of feral cats, improves their relationships with the people who live near them, and decreases the size of colonies over time.
Gae Broadwater, TNR Coordinator, Franklin County Humane Society, Frankfort KY