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TNR: Trap, Neuter, Return

One of the best sources of information comes to us from a group called ALLEY CAT ALLIES. Alley Cat Allies, is the national nonprofit clearinghouse for information on feral and stray cats. For more than a decade Alley Cat Allies has advocated Trap-Neuter-Return - the most humane and effective method to reduce feral cat populations.


S.T.A.R.T. supports Alley Cat Allie efforts and utilizes the wealth of information and knowledge available to us on the subject of TNR. Please visit their website at for more information.


by Alley Cat Allie's

Before You Trap

Familiarize yourself with the Trap-Neuter-Return process and plan your trapping day in advance. Throughout all of your trapping endeavors, plan ahead to ensure the safety and well-being of the cats and reduce your own stress.

  • Coordinate with other caregivers who may be feeding the cats, and prepare the cats for trapping by feeding on a schedule and in a designated feeding area.

  • Determine how many traps and neuter appointments you will need to schedule after assessing the colony.

  • Determine a safe, temperature-controlled location where you will be able to hold the cats after surgery while they recover.

  • Gather and prepare all of the appropriate equipment and understand how it all works ahead of time and practice! It is important to test all traps, to ensure that the trip plate works.

  • Withhold food 24 hours before trapping, and you are ready to start trapping.


Go to our Before You Trap section to read these details in more depth.


  • On the day-of, prepare the traps by lining the bottom with newspaper, tagging with a location description, and baiting.

  • Set the traps and watch them from afar.

  • Once a cat is trapped, cover the trap - this will help keep the cat calm.

  • Cats can become trap-shy rightened to go near or enter a trap, or trap-savvy mastered the art of removing food without triggering the trap. Don't be discouraged. There are several unique but straightforward techniques to humanely trap hard-to-trap-cats. Ahead of time, learn how to deal with particularly hard-to-trap cats.

  • After securing the traps in your vehicle, head to the veterinarian or clinic for surgeries that day or the following day.


Go to our Trapping section to learn more about these steps. Watch Alley Cat Allies trapping video for a run-through of a successful trap-day.


  • After surgery (learn more about the surgery in our veterinary section), keep the cats in the trap at all times.

  • Transport the cats safely back to your secure, indoor location where cats will be in a temperature-controlled environment, dry, and away from danger.

  • Monitor the cats for any illness.

  • For your safety and the cats keep them in their covered cages at all times.

  • Feed the cats eight hours or so after surgery and return the cats, following the guidelines in the Post-Surgery section.

  • Return the cats to the exact location where they were trapped.

  • Clean the traps.


Go to our Post-Surgery section to understand all of the steps you must take after the cats visit the veterinarian or clinic.

People and Cats


A key part of carrying out Trap-Neuter-Return is to establish a friendly dialogue with neighborhood residents and address any possible concerns. Go to our People and Cats section to learn more.


- Alley Cat Allie's Identifies the Terms -

What is Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)

Trap Neuter and Return is a non lethal sterilization method to reduce the number of feral cats in the environment both immediately and long term. TNR is a comprehensive, ongoing program in which stray and feral cats already living outdoors in cities, towns, and rural areas are humanely trapped, then evaluated, vaccinated, and sterilized by veterinarians. Some kittens and tame (stray) cats are adopted into good homes. Healthy adult cats too wild (feral) to be adopted are returned to their familiar habitat under the lifelong care of caretakers. Cats that are ill or injured beyond recovery are not returned to the environment.


People caring for feral cats whom recognized that their numbers must be controlled and reduced through sterilization have widely embraced TNR and feral cat numbers have dropped. TNR programs operate largely or entirely through the dedicated efforts of committed volunteers. TNR works because it breaks the cycle of reproduction. In general, the cost of sterilizing and returning a feral cat is less than half the cost of trapping, holding, killing, and disposing of a feral cat. TNR protects public health and advances the goal of reducing the numbers of feral cats in the environment. The public supports humane, non lethal TNR as the long-term solution to feral cat overpopulation.

Feral Cat

Literally 'one wild', a domestic cat that was lost or abandoned and has reverted to a wild state, or a cat that was born to a stray or feral mother and had little or no human contact. Adult feral cats are usually impossible to tame and are not suited to cohabiting with people. They live in family groups called colonies that form near a source of food and shelter. Feral cats can survive almost anywhere and are found worldwide.


Stray Cat

A Stray Cat is a domestic cat that strays from home and becomes lost or was abandoned. Because a stray cat was once a companion animal, he or she can usually be re-socialized and placed in an adoptive home.


Feral Cat Colony

A group of free roaming cats living in a specific geographic area. Prior to the implementation of Trap-Neuter- Return (TNR), feral cat colonies consist of both stray (tame) and feral (wild) cats of all ages, from kittens through adults. After TNR is completed, a feral cat colony consists exclusively of adult feral cats.

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