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How to TNR (Trap – Neuter – Return)

If you have feral cats living on or near your property, you may find yourself marveling at how quickly they can reproduce! Feral cats are different from stray cats because ferals are wild and untamable. Handling a feral cat is almost impossible as they are either too scared of humans for you to approach them or too aggressive if you do manage to pick them up. This wild nature, partnered with a feral cat’s prolific breeding tendencies can cause population issues very rapidly. A single female cat can give birth to five litters of kittens in a single year. Where will those kittens all get food or shelter?

The good news is there is a humane approach to this problem known as Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). We have outlined six easy steps to start humanely curbing the population of feral cats via TNR.

The Six Steps for TNR

Step 1: Locate a Local Facility with a Feral Cat Program

TCAP has 8 locations throughout DFW and is an industry leader in humanely addressing the feral cat population in our communities. To learn more about TCAP’s locations, drop-off hours, and other program specifics, see our Feral Fix Program. At the minimum, cats participating in the Feral Fix program will receive their sterilization (spay or neuter), rabies vaccine, and a surgical ear-tip (a universal sign of a feral cat that has been spayed or neutered).

Step 2: Set a Feeding Schedule

One to two weeks leading up to the day you plan to trap, you will want to feed the cats in the local colony at the same time and place every day. Always provide water as well. This will ensure that one or more feral cats, you are hoping to trap, will be where you want them to be when you later introduce your live trap. For extra-skittish cats, feed them out of unset traps in an area that is safe and secure. This will help them acclimate to seeing and walking into the live traps before it is go time.

Step 3: Prepare Your Live Trap

On the night you wish to trap, prepare the trap away from the feeding site so you do not disturb the cats. If it is your first time, it is advisable to practice setting the trap, and setting it off, to make sure you are using it correctly. When preparing the trap, be sure to line the bottom with newspaper. Place a tablespoon of bait at the back of the trap, past the trip plate, and drizzle a trail of oil in a zigzag pattern leading to the front of the trap. If you are trapping cats in multiple locations, tag each trap at each location so you can return the cats to the same place in the future.

Step 4: Trap

Place the traps on level ground in the feeding area and set them. It is important for the safety of the feral cat that you do not leave the trap unattended, just watch from a distance and wait for your feral to enter the trap. Once you have successfully trapped your feral cat, cover the trap with an old towel or sheet. The cover will help the feral cat remain calm. Move your live trap, with the cat securely locked inside, to a safe, climate-controlled area where the cat can stay before bringing coming to a TCAP location for sterilization. Once a cat is trapped, do not let it out of its live trap before bringing it in for its surgery. This recommendation is not only for your safety, but because once a feral cat has been trapped, they are unlikely to trust the trap in the future (and they need to be in the trap to use TCAP’s Feral Fix program). 

Step 5: Neuter

Make arrangements for the sterilization of your cat. At TCAP, our clinics can take up to 12 feral cats per surgery day. Individual caretakers are limited to four cats per day. Each feral cat must be brought in separate live traps.

Step 6: Return  

After the surgery, follow the post-operative guidelines provided by your veterinarian. Following the observation period set by your veterinarian, it is time to return them to their home. Once you have returned the cat, empty the live trap with a non-toxic disinfectant. Now you are ready to trap again!

Following these easy steps will put you on the path to be a TNR pro, and begin reducing the number of stray cats in your area.

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