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Trap, Neuter, Return vs. Trap, Neuter, Socialize

Trap, Neuter, Return, or TNR, is a theory and/or process of controlling large groups, called colonies, of cats in any given area. Various types of humane traps are used. The cats are trapped and brought to a spay/neuter clinic, veterinarian, or mobile veterinary clinic. Cost varies depending on where the cats are taken for medical attention and the individual needs of each cat.  There are many TNR organizations out there.  Their main goal is cat over-population control, which is great, but we feel re-releasing these cats is not the answer.  TNR groups of course have helped with one important factor, preventing the cats from reproducing, but the responsibility should not end there.  

We as a RESCUE and SANCTUARY, feel that ALL cats deserve safe, loving, forever homes!  We spend countless hours and money rescuing as many cats as we can get off the streets!  We socialize ferals no matter how long it takes.  We NEVER return a cat back out on the street no matter what!  

The theory behind TNR is if all the cats in a colony are spayed/neutered they will eventually die off over time due to disease, old age, or let's not forget predators, cars, disease, or unfortunately even humans! It is the norm not to test these cats for FIV or FeLV, meaning cats with contagious disease are being put back outside! This is absolutely true if, and that is a big IF, the colony is maintained properly. The first step involved in a TNR project is getting permission to trap from the property owner, once you are given the go ahead, cats are trapped and taken to be vaccinated, neutered or spayed, treated for ear mites, intestinal parasites, fleas, and SHOULD be tested for AIDS and leukemia, (most TNR groups DO NOT test), and any other medical treatment the cats may need.  During the trapping process cats are never deprived of food except for the night before and the day of trapping...... they need to be a little hungry to make the trapping more successful.  Food is put out after trapping is done for the day. Most TNR groups do not test for AIDS/leukemia, I guess the reason is the added expense. To make it a little more complicated FIV and FeLV cats can have a false positive on the test.  We wait 6 months and retest with a more complete blood test (IFA or PCR and/or another SNAP (ELISA) test, which checks for the disease in the bone marrow or the DNA.  Even in the case where the cat is positive, as long as the cat appears healthy and has no clinical signs of the disease, we make every attempt to find a home where the FeLV cat will be the only cat in the home, or is with other FeLV positive cats.

As I stated, their main concern is population control.  Most people are aware of the severe overpopulation problem we have with cats in this country.  With that said, it is great that TNR groups are doing this. In our opinion, that is a good beginning, but it is not completing the job.  TNR groups generally think that if a colony of cats is completely vetted, then over time the numbers will decrease through old age, disease (TNR groups do not usually test for AIDS and leukemia because if any tested positive, oh my God!, what should we do with the cat now?) (A little sarcasm there).  So all cats are released by these groups without knowing if they have either of these diseases, unless of course they are showing clinical signs. So cats are potentially released that have these diseases and are possibly spreading it to the other cats in the colony, and dying unprotected, especially from leukemia, which is a horrible way for a cat to die.  The number of cats also potentially decreases by cats being hit by cars, attacked by predators, including coyotes, dogs, fisher cats, bob cats, etc. or even humans! Again, why put the cats in these situations if it is not necessary????

With all that said, a well maintained colony is set up in an out of the way location where it is not visible from people.  Also the shelters and feeding stations should be in an area protected from the weather.  Straw should be used, not hay as it holds moisture and does not keep the cat dry and warm. Permission is needed by the property owner to avoid any unnecessary legal problems and potentially putting the safety of the cats at risk. A person or group of people need to be responsible for feeding, watering and maintaining the shelters and feeding stations on a DAILY basis.  Records should be kept on all cats, which includes photographs and veterinary records. Records and photographs are necessary especially for a colony in which many of the cats look the same, like black cats, tabbies, or tuxedos. Close up photographs of the face will help tell the cats apart by small differences such as head shape, eye color and/or slightly different markings. One problem of feeding these colonies is the food attracts other animals besides the cats, including raccoons, skunks, and opossums.  We even had a fox show up on a regular basis in one area we were trapping in.  Fortunately all the cats were trapped and removed from that location so there was no reason to leave food anymore.  In our opinion, the most important part of colony maintenance is actually monitoring it effectively! Why spend the money to have a number of cats spayed/neutered if more cats show up, are not vetted, and the overpopulation problem starts all over again? 

The photograph above shows a picture of a cat with an ear tip on the left ear.  It tells trappers that this cat has already been spayed or neutered.This easy, quick procedure is done by a veterinarian while the cat is under anesthesia to be spayed or neutered.  The ear tip could also be on the right ear.