Trap-neuter-return is a humane, non-lethal method of controlling cat populations. Homeless, free-roaming (community) cats are humanely trapped, evaluated and spayed/neutered by a licensed veterinarian, vaccinated against rabies, ear tipped, and then returned to their original habitat.

What is an ear tip? Why is it necessary?

  • We use the words “ear tip” to describe when a small portion of the tip of a cat’s ear is surgically removed during neuter surgery as part of a TNR program to show that the cat has been sterilized and vaccinated. Ear tipping is done while the cat is anesthetized and is not painful for the cat. Ear tipping is the most effective way to identify sterilized community cats from a distance, to make sure they are not trapped or undergo surgery a second time.

Why is TNR important?

  • Stopping the breeding of stray cats over time helps to lower the number of cats in the community. These programs create safer communities and promote public health by reducing the number of unvaccinated cats. Sterilizing community cats reduces or even eliminates the behaviors that can lead to nuisance complaints, such as spraying urine. TNR can also improve the wellbeing of free-roaming cats. When males are neutered, they are no longer compelled to maintain a large territory or fight over mates, and females are no longer forced to endure the physical and mental demands of giving birth and fending for their young.  Friendly cats or young kittens are pulled to be sent to foster homes for socialization and then placed for adoption to find indoor forever homes, which also lowers the number of stray cats.

Where are you targeting?

  • Funding has been provided by the City of Lancaster and now Fairfield County so we are able to provide TNR services for any stray cat within Fairfield County.

When does it take place?

  • We hold TNR surgery days every other Wednesday and every Friday.  Trapping of cats is done on Tuesday or Thursday afternoons and evenings.  A consistent feeding schedule of your stray cats is an important part of trapping.  Withholding of food the meal before trapping is necessary to make trapping most effective.

How do we participate?

  • Community participation is key to the success of a TNR program. If you care for a colony of stray cats, please complete the form below to be added to our interest list.
  • As a small organization, we heavily rely on help from the community to trap cats, transport them to the shelter for surgery, and return them to their original location for release. We will provide traps for anyone willing to help trap and transport cats. We understand that trapping/transport may not be an option for everyone so we can try and make arrangements to help with that.  You will be added to our TNR list and contacted when we will be in your area.  We are aiming to target the most heavily populated areas first and then fan out from there. Though funding has been provided to keep the TNR program free for now, it is limited – so donations are appreciated to help maintain the program.
  • We are not a TNR specific organization and we have many hats that we wear.  We do, however, feel that this program can help on so many levels.  With that said, we offer different services for those with a stray cat or owned cat if this program does not fit your needs.

Set up and prepare for trapping. Do all of your set up and preparation away from the colony because it can be noisy. Remember, feral cats are generally fearful of people. Trapping will also go more smoothly if you don’t disrupt the cats. Throughout the entire trapping process, clinic stay, recovery, and return, you should make the environment around the cats as calm and quiet as possible. This will help minimize their stress.

Twenty-four hours before trapping, withhold food, but always continue to provide water. This will ensure that the cats are hungry enough to go into the traps.

Prepare the traps.

  • Line the bottom of the trap. Place newspaper, butcher paper, or puppy pads folded lengthwise in the bottom of the trap to protect the cat’s paws. Cats don’t like the feel of wire on their paws. If it is windy, secure the newspaper to the trap from the outside with clothes pins. This is done so that the wind will not move the newspaper and frighten the cats. Make sure the rear door of the trap is secure. Also, test the trap door to make sure that the newspaper is not too heavy. You want to make sure the trap door doesn’t fall open on its own.
  • Bait the trap. First, ensure the trip plate is functioning properly. Place small bits of bait from the front to the back of the trap in a trail (fried chicken, tuna, sardines, or other strong-smelling foods are best). Do not use too much food at the entrance of the trap for two reasons: 1) the cat may be satisfied before making it to the trip plate, and 2) cats should have a relatively empty stomach for at least 12 hours before surgery. Try a small pile of dried catnip at the back of the trap for cats that are not motivated by food.
  • Set the trap. Place a trap on the ground and make certain it is stable and will not rock or tip over. Cats will not enter an unstable trap. Do not place the trap on a hillside or incline. Move quietly and slowly so your movements will not frighten cats away.

Keep track of the trap at all times. Traps should NEVER be left unattended. Check the traps frequently from a distance. Choose a location to wait where you are far enough away to give the cats a sense of security but close enough so that you can see them.

There are several reasons to make sure you always have an eye on the traps. Leaving a cat uncovered in a trap for too long will increase the cat’s stress and could lead to injury since they thrash against the cage. When in a trap, the cat is exposed and could be injured by other animals or a malicious person. Also, the traps may be stolen, damaged, sprung, or someone who does not understand your intentions may release a trapped cat.

Be prepared for the fact that you may trap cats that are already ear-tipped. If you trap a cat that is already tipped, release him/her (unless it needs medical care beyond spay/neuter).

After the cat has been trapped, spring into action. Cover the entire trap, top and all four (4) sides, with a large towel or sheet before moving it. Covering the trap will help to keep the cat calm. Move trapped cats away to a quiet, safe area to avoid scaring any remaining, un-trapped cats.

It is normal for cats to thrash around inside the trap. You may be tempted to release a thrashing cat because you fear that it will hurt itself but cats calm down once the trap is covered. Remember, you are doing this for its benefit. If it is released, it will continue to breed, and you may not be able to trap it again. Also, most injuries from traps are very minor, such as a bruised or bloody nose or a scratched paw pad.

You should NEVER open the trap to try to touch a conscious feral cat. Behave appropriately around trapped cats by being calm, quiet, and not touching them even if they appear friendly under normal circumstances.

Take the cats to a veterinarian or a spay/neuter clinic. You should have already made appointments for sterilization and vaccination before beginning to trap. If using a private vet, confirm that only dissolvable sutures will be used, eliminating the need for a follow-up visit to remove stitches. Spay/neuter clinics know to use dissolvable sutures.

If your appointments are not the same day as the trapping, keep the cats indoors (garage, porch, laundry room, etc.) in their covered traps and make sure they are dry, in a temperature-controlled environment, and away from dangers such as toxic fumes, other animals, or people. Your trapping should coincide with the clinic’s ability to neuter right away, or the very next morning, so the cats don’t remain in their traps for long. (IMPORTANT: It is possible for a cat to die from hypothermia or heat stroke when confined in a trap outside. A simple guideline—if it is too hot or cold outside for you, then it is too hot or cold for the cats.)

Returning the cat to her colony. After you pick the cat up from the clinic, you should hold him/her for at least 24 hours in a quiet, safe indoor area while they recover. Keep them in the trap and keep the trap covered at all times. Offer them food and water inside the trap by slightly raising the trap door just enough to slide food/water inside. Use the shortest containers or bowls you can find. Watch for signs of excessive bleeding or any other problems. If health concerns arise, contact the vet immediately. Return them to the exact location you trapped them from the next day if all seems well.

Note: Lactating mothers should be returned to their kittens as soon as their anesthesia has worn off.