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Trap-Neuter-Return Program (TNR)

What is TNR?

Trap-Neuter-Return, commonly referred to as "TNR," is the only method proven to be humane and effective at controlling feral cat population growth. Using this technique, all the feral cats in a colony are trapped, neutered and then returned to their territory where caretakers provide them with regular food and shelter. Young kittens who can still be socialized, as well as friendly adults, are placed in foster care and eventually adopted out to good homes.

TNR has many advantages; it immediately stabilizes the size of the colony by eliminating new litters. The nuisance behavior often associated with feral cats is dramatically reduced; including the yowling and fighting that come with mating activity and the odor of unneutered males spraying to mark their territory. The returned colony also guards its territory, preventing unneutered cats from moving in and beginning the cycle of overpopulation and problem behavior anew. Particularly in urban areas, the cats continue to provide natural rodent control.

Another significant advantage to TNR is that, when practiced on a large scale, it lessens the number of kittens and cats flowing into local shelters. This results in lower euthanasia rates and the increased adoption of cats already in the shelters. In fiscal year 2012 feral cat intake was down by 24% at our local Collier County Domestic Animal Services.

TNR is not just the best alternative to managing feral cat populations - it is the only one that works. Doing nothing has resulted in the current overpopulation crisis. Trying to "rescue" the cats and find them all homes is unattainable given their numbers and the futility of trying to socialize them. Trap and remove, the traditional technique exercised by animal control, is simply ineffective. If all the cats are not caught, then the ones left behind breed until the former population level is reached. Even if all the cats are removed, new unneutered cats tend to move in to take advantage of whatever food source there was, and the cycle starts again, this is called the "vacuum effect". This explains why more and more animal control agencies are willing to try TNR.

Finally, TNR is an idea whose time has come. It recognizes there is a new balance in our urban and rural landscape, one that includes feral cats. It seeks to manage this new population with enlightened techniques that allow the cats to live out their lives and fulfill their natures, while minimizing any possible negative impact. TNR is a movement that will continue to grow as more and more caring people see its potential and, in time, it will become the predominant method of feral cat management.

Alternatives to TNR

When you come across free-roaming cats in the park, chances are that your first thought about how to help them was adopting them out or dropping them off at a shelter. Unfortunately, because they are frightened by humans, feral cats are not easily tamed, so rehoming them indoors isn't an option for most. A lot of people think that bringing the cats to the local shelter is better than having them live outdoors. Unfortunately the cats being brought to shelters are usually always euthanized, because they are considered unadoptable. TNR really is the best way to humanely help community cats, it saves their lives and prevents the deaths of unwanted litters by preventing the births.

How to TNR

If you have a plan and follow a few basic steps, TNR is fairly easy to do.

Make sure the cats are not someone's pets. Also check to make sure that the cats do not of eartips. This would be a small slice off the top of the ear, which is the international symbol of a sterilized cat.

Plan ahead for trapping, transport, surgery and rehabilitation. Trapping equipment can be borrowed from Collier County Domestic Animal Services, 239-252-7387. Low cost spay and neuter is available at the Collier Spay and Neuter Clinic, 239-514-7647.

Time to Trap - Do not feed the cats the night before trapping. Line the trap with newspaper, set the trap with smelly wet food, tuna fish, sardines, etc. and wait. Don't leave the traps unattended if possible. Once in the trap, the cat can become prey for other animals or ill-intentioned humans. Once caught, cover the trap with an old sheet or towel, this keeps the cat calm during transport.

Transport the cat to the clinic.

Recover the cats post-surgery. Keep the cats in their covered traps at all times and make sure that they are kept in a safe and dry location. Watch for signs of illness or surgical complications. Make and sure you feed them through the trap, dry food can be dropped down through the cage wire.

Return the cats. After the cats have recovered, return them to the location where they were originally caught. When releasing the cat, make sure the end of the trap that they will use to exit is facing away from the road, parking lot or busy area. The cats will run straight out of the trap really fast, so make sure they are pointed in a safe direction, i.e. woods, empty lot.

You did it! Now that you have used TNR to help free roaming cats, they will be healthier, happier and won't have any kittens, great job!

TNR in Collier County

Just a few years ago it was against the law to TNR or even feed a stray cat in Collier County. Thanks to a small group of dedicated cat rescue people, a new ordinance went into effect in January of 2010 that changed the old "trap and Kill" feral cat ordinance to an ordinance that supports "TNR". In order for the ordinance to pass, an organization was formed, the Collier Community Cat Coalition, to commit to the responsibility of managing the community cats of Collier County, which numbers are estimated to be in the range of 23,000 cats. Free roaming cat estimates are determined by a mathematical equation of human population divided by 15. There are currently 145 registered cat colonies in Collier County. Each colony has a caregiver that provides food, shelter, medical treatment and ongoing TNR of new cats. Please register your colony, all information is kept private and is not submitted to Domestic Animal Services.

Below is the colony caregivers responsibility according to the Memorandum of Understanding with Collier County Domestic Animal Services and The Collier Community Cat Coalition d.b.a. Naples Cat Alliance. Please don't hesitate to email us with any questions or concerns at info@naplescatalliance.org Thanks for all your work with the homeless, free-roaming and abandoned and cats of our community.

Caregivers will report the following data to the CCCC/NCA on an annual basis:

  • Location of each colony.
  • Proof of property owner's permission to access private property.
  • Number of cats in each colony managed by the Caregiver.
  • Number of cats spayed and neutered in each colony.
  • Number of cats vaccinated in each colony.
  • Any significant medical care administered to cats in the colony.
  • Number of cats born to the colony and their status/dispositions.
  • Number of cats introduced to the colony.
  • Number of cats that have died and or left the colony.
  • Time in hours spent on colony care giving activities.
  • Any change in management of the colonies.
  • The schedule of routine care giving activities.

If DAS obtains custody of an ear notched/tipped/otherwise marked cat, CCCC/NCA will be notified and given five business days to reclaim; thereafter all normal provisions apply. For subsequent impoundments of the same cat fees will apply. Upon the third impoundment of the same cat, citations may apply. Where a colony is being managed and is not registered with the CCCC/NCA, the Caregiver will be given ninety (90) days to register the colony with the CCCC/NCA. Thereafter, standard enforcement protocols will apply.