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How Trap Neuter Release (TNR) Helps Out Stray Cats

Trap-Neuter-Release is a humane and effective way to control the population of stray cats. If you are wanting to be involved in the world of feline rescue, TNR is a process that you will want to be familiar with. In this article, we’ll discuss the details of Trap-Neuter-Release in cats, and the ways you can get involved in your cat community. 

In short, Trap Neuter Release (TNR) aims to humanely control the ever-increasing stray/feral cat population.

Here’s how TNR helps out cat colonies and our planet.

What is Trap Neuter Release (TNR)?

TNR in cats has been the only effective way of controlling cat populations without the risk of inhumane care. In the past, stray cats would be captured and taken to shelters with euthanasia often being the result due to their feral behavior.

Feral cats are ingrained with instincts that help them survive. As such, they should not be punished for never being domesticated into loving homes.

TNR was created and opened up the possibility of limiting the stray cat community in a kind way. 

Trap-Neuter-Release is a system that works best with continued care for a colony. In TNR, there is often a caretaker who looks after a colony of stray cats. This could be a group of strays in a neighborhood, apartment complex, or any area that stray cats frequent. 

Also Read: What to Feed a Stray Cat Without Cat Food

The TNR organizer will then set traps that are filled with food in an effort to trick the cats into crawling into the cage. Once they are in the cage without harm, they are taken to a clinic or shelter that performs their spay/neuter procedure.

Once they are healed they are released back to the area in which they were trapped, but now they are unable to reproduce and add to the stray cat epidemic. Most TNR organizers will continue to care for their previous TNR cats by providing them with daily food and veterinary care if needed.

When executed correctly, TNR is the ONLY effective method of care and control of the stray cat community. 

How Trap Neuter Release (TNR) Helps Out Stray Cats #cats #strays | Fluffy Kitty

How do you TNR a cat?

Taking on this process can be daunting, so we’ll cover the TNR process step by step in an effort to help you feel comfortable enough to tackle this project on your own!

Step 1: Once you realize that you have a stray cat community in your area, it’s best to make sure that everyone is on board if you are in a public setting such as an apartment complex or any home that you do not own. Most complexes are grateful for TNR efforts. 

It’s important to find a shelter or rescue that you are choosing to work with BEFORE you trap the cats. Some shelters and cat rescues will either cover the procedure costs themselves, or they have specific days where TNR cats are free of charge or discounted. You never want to trap a cat without a financial plan in place. 

Step 2: Now that you’ve gotten permission (if needed), you will need to find a warm and dry place to put traps. The trapped cats will often remain in their cages for a few hours, so you need to make sure they are protected from the elements. 

Step 3: Now that you’ve found a safe spot, you will need to implement a feeding pattern in this area. Feral cats are easier to trap once you learn their schedule, so it’s best to start this feeding process at least a week before your planned trapping. Also, make sure to offer them their food each day at a time you will be available for the actual trapping (ideally close to the time you would take them in for their procedure). Limiting their time in the cage will reduce their stress. 

Step 4: Ordinary pet cages will not work in TNR. You can purchase a TNR cage online, or reach out to your local shelter and cat rescues and ask to borrow or rent some cages for your upcoming project. This is usually easy, as everyone in cat rescue wants to help you achieve your goal. Rescues can also show you how to use their cages.

How Trap Neuter Release (TNR) Helps Out Stray Cats #cats #strays | Fluffy Kitty

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Step 5: Now it’s time to prepare the traps. Line the cages up near their normal feeding area with the cage openings all facing the same direction. Try to set the cages up hours before you normally feed, as this will help reduce the chance of scaring off the cats that come for dinner. Once your cages are arranged you can place the cat food in the proper spot, ideally, a smelly cat food such as tuna as this will attract more cats. 

Step 6: Now that your cat(s) are safely trapped in their cages, try to give them a quick look over for any injuries or obvious illness for good measure. Now it’s time to take your TNR cats to the nearest shelter or clinic that you are choosing to work with for their procedure.

Realize that most feral cats will panic once they are in their cages. They will yowl and cry, and it may break your heart. Remember that this is the best option for them, and soon they will be back to their normal routine. Stay strong, you are doing great work for the cat community!

Step 7: Your TNR cat(s) have been sterilized, and are now ready to heal from their procedure. Try your best to find a safe place for them to heal away from other animals and the elements for a minimum of 24 hours (your bathroom, garage, etc). You must keep them for at least 24 hours so you can monitor for any post-op complications, and since they are still in their TNR cage, you won’t have to handle them or risk injury. During this time, try your best to check their incision site for any oozing, inflammation, or sign of infection. You can do this by shining a flashlight into their cage to assess their incision, or even lift up their cage and check their bellies from underneath. Also, offer them food through the cage while they are in recovery. 

Step 8: Now that they are healed and free of any post-op complications, they are ready to be released back to their original home. Make sure to release your cat back to the exact same place you trapped them, as releasing them in a different colony can be extremely dangerous for the cat. 

Make sure to stand out of the way once you open the cage, as these cats are known to fly out!

How soon can you release a TNR cat?

When you TNR a cat, you should plan to keep them in their cage in your care for a minimum of 24 hours. If a male cat is trapped and shows no post-op complications, then 24 hours is a perfect time for release. Spaying a female cat is a more invasive procedure, so a female cat should be kept for 48 hours as long as there are no complications.

If you see any post-op complications then make sure to contact the facility that performed the procedure for further care and release times. 

How do you know if a feral cat has been fixed?

Once your Trap-Neuter-Release feline has been fixed, they will have their ear cropped during the procedure. This is the worldwide sign for “I’m already fixed, don’t mind me!”

A cropped ear makes it easy to identify a fixed cat and know if a colony has already been addressed or not. 

How much does TNR cost?

On average, the TNR process costs about $50-$75 from start to finish. This includes the food, renting of a cage, and a discounted spay or neuter procedure if it’s not covered.

TNR doesn’t have to cost you a thing if you find support. While some are able to afford this process with their own funds, you shouldn’t feel discouraged if you just cannot cover it on your own. 

There are resources for each step of the TNR process. 

  • Reach out to local cat rescues and see if any are willing to sponsor your project. Ask every single rescue that you can find in your area.
  • Ask your local shelter about their TNR protocol and prices. Most shelters have a certain day where they perform free or discounted procedures. 
  • Google or ask your local rescue about cat trap banks in your area. You can either borrow or rent traps from these organizations. 
  • Ask your local pet stores if they have any “damaged food” they are willing to give to you or sell to you at a discounted price. You’d be surprised how many dented cans or slightly torn food bags are thrown away. 


Each female cat can produce up to 180 kittens in her lifetime, let alone the number of kittens that a male cat can help produce. Trap-Neuter-Release is a great way to help your local cat community in a way that really counts. TNR can change the feline world!

Learn more about eco-friendly cat care in our eBook!

Helpful TNR Resources:

Neighborhood Cats- TNR & Getting started

Nieghborhood Cats – TNR Books, Videos, & more

Kitten Lady TNR Video