You’ll see the term “TNR” thrown around this site a lot. Here’s what it means and what it doesn’t mean:

What TNR is

TNR = “Trap, Neuter, Return.” It’s the boiled-down version of what we do with feral community cats. Here’s how the whole process works:

Scope out a colony. Feral cats often live together in colonies in backyards, alleys, vacant lots, abandoned houses, wherever they can band together and live with minimal interference. Once we target a location, we can begin planning a project.

Get the cats on a feeding schedule. Once the cats get on a solid schedule (ie, once at 7 am, once at 6 pm) they will be ready to trap.

Trap! We stop feeding the cats a day or two before trapping (and make sure nobody else is slipping them treats when we’re not looking!) so they’ll be extra-hungry on trapping day.

Hold. Before they go to the clinic, we usually need to hold them for a day or two.

Neuter! Or spay as the case may be, at the clinic. Cats are also given a rabies vaccination, and we usually get them some other shots and basic vetting.

Recover. We hold the cats for a day or two after the surgery to make sure they are healing well.

Return! We take the cats back to their home location and release them.

Manage. We (or a dedicated caretaker) feed and provide shelter plus a watchful eye on an ongoing basis.


Cats multiply fast and quickly exhaust their environment. TNR helps control the population, and improves the health of the existing cats.

Feral cats are unsocialized to humans and do not make good pets. They prefer living outside among their own kind, assuming they have food and shelter.

A properly TNR’d, managed colony will maintain its territory, keeping out new (unfixed) cats.

TNR cats are quieter (no fighting/mating!), healthier and generally less trouble than their unfixed cousins.

TNR means fewer feral cats going to the shelter where they usually get killed right away (since they’re not adoption candidates and can’t be handled).

What TNR is NOT

TNR is not abandonment. After being fixed, cats are managed and provided with food and shelter. They wouldn’t make good pets so adoption is not a viable option. When tame cats turn up in colonies, they are removed and adopted out.

TNR is not a way to ‘get rid of’ tame cats. Critics say maintaining a feral colony will encourage irresponsible pet owners to dump their ‘extra’ cats in colonies. Tame cats are drawn out of colonies and adopted out, and wherever possible we try to educate the community about the need for spay/neuter and responsible ownership.

TNR is not a breeding ground for disease and illness. All TNR cats receive a rabies vaccine and are monitored for health as time goes by. Any cat who appears ill or injured it re-trapped and given the necessary care.

TNR is not helping to ‘decimate’ the bird population. Various bird advocacy groups scapegoat community cats, claiming they kill ‘billions’ of birds and small animals every year. But these claims are based on bad science and agenda-heavy conclusions on the part of the ‘researchers.’ As usual, if there is any cuplprit, it’s us humans who continue to over-develop the environment with little regard for the repercussions. Read more about these flawed studies at Vox Felina.

TNR is not death by attrition. Populations of TNR colonies dwindle over time, as the older members die off naturally. If a cat has a noticeable health issue, we re-trap and get them the care they need.

TNR is not perfect. But it’s the best means to a solution out there. If just one family participated in TNR on every block, we wouldn’t have a feral cat problem in Brooklyn. Let’s make that happen!

More information about feral cats and TNR can be found on Alley Cat Allies site.

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