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Trap, Neuter, Return

What is TNR?

Trap, Neuter, Return is a humane, effective way to reduce the number of stray and abandoned cats living on the streets which also works to improve their quality of life.

What are the benefits of a TNR program?

It stops a population from increasing, so that the group can decrease gradually. This allows the surrounding environment to adjust to the decrease, and accept it. When cats are only removed, nature assists the remaining few in boosting the number of new births. Other cats from outside the area also move in, creating an ongoing problem.

It demonstrates kindness toward animals which increases the good spirit of our community. Violence toward animals produces violence toward people. TNR gives us a chance to teach our children that when we have a problem, we can solve it kindly.

It allows us to fix the problem with a few easy steps, rather than a constant need to address the ever growing population. Strays that are spayed and neutered look nicer, are healthier, are less noisy, and create less problems for the neighborhood.

It may cost more at the beginning, but in stopping the need for regular intervention, there is a big savings over time. TNR is a community improvement project, which is an investment in making our community a kind and beautiful place to live.

It has not only been used all over the world, it has been used successfully right here in Japan. After 10 years of subsidizing TNR, Tokyo animal control centers report a huge decrease in the number of cats that they destroy yearly, number of cat related complaints, and number of stray cats living in public parks.

How do I start a TNR program in my community?

Prepare the proper materials, trap a cat, get it neutered, and release it in the same area it came from. Get other people involved as much as possible!

How do I prepare for TNR?

Arrange to borrow traps and prepare the following items:

  • Pieces of cloth to cover the traps after cats are inside.
  • Pet sheets to put under the traps during transport.
  • Strong smelling food for bait.
  • Plastic lock ties to secure the traps.
  • Scissors to cut lock ties when necessary.

Arrange veterinary service.

  • Find a vet that has experience working with ferals.
  • Discuss ear tipping.1
  • Agree on the cost for males/females, and research city subsidies.
  • Discuss additional services, such as vaccines, parasite treatment, etc.
  • Plan for surprises, such as pregnancy or injuries, which may increase costs.2
  • Make an appointment, leaving room for inability to successfully trap the cat.3

Arrange transportation/holding area.

  • A private car will be easiest.
  • Public transport is possible with adequate carrying preparation.
  • Prepare an overnight location, if scheduling makes that necessary.4
  • Make an effort to limit stress for the cat as much as possible.5


1
Ear tipping is the practice of having the tip of one ear cut to clearly indicate alteration. It may sound cruel, but it can be well worth the small amount of discomfort it causes the cats. It allows people to easily identify cats that have been altered and saves a great deal of wasted effort in re-trapping mistakes.

2 JCN’s position on pregnancy is that it should be terminated and the cat must be spayed. Vets working with ferals are generally comfortable with this, but you should discuss it beforehand to better plan, and there is generally a small additional cost.

3 Weather can be a factor, as can other mishaps involving passersby. Be sure the vet knows that you are trapping before the appointment and may not be able to keep it if your trapping is unsuccessful.

4 Depending on clinic services and appointment timing, you may need to keep cats overnight. They can stay in the traps, but never leave them unattended in traps in a location with access to the public. Do not release cats less than 24 hours after the operation, as they may be dizzy and unable to protect themselves.

5 The longer feral cats stay confined, the more stressful it is. Try to time everything well, so that you are trapping them, getting them to the vet, and releasing them in 24 hours.

Where can I purchase a trap?

JCN is happy to lend traps, but for people that prefer to purchase their own, JCN volunteers recommend Heart Of The Earth Animal Equipment and Tomahawk Live Trap, both based in the US. Please contact the companies directly about international shipping.

How do I trap a cat?

Step 1: Stay calm. Cats pick up on fear, and will be easier to trap if you are calm. Stay quiet and make slow movements. Remember your goal – you’re giving them their only chance at a reasonable life.

Step 2: Choose the location for your trap. It should be on the ground, in a place the cat considers safe, and as level as possible.

Step 3: Put a little bit of food leading to the back end of the trap.1 Set the trap as quietly as possible and do not leave it unattended.2

Step 4: Wait and watch from a distance, have the fabric ready to cover the trap. Be sure you are far enough away that the cat does not see you as a threat.

Step 5: Rush over as soon as you see the cat has been trapped and secure the trap doors with plastic lock bands.3 Cover and remove the trap from the location quickly.4

Step 6: Check the cat. Leave most of the cage covered if possible, this will help reduce stress. Raise the cage above your head, if necessary. Check the cat for obvious injuries or signs it has been nursing kittens. Address the issue of kittens.5 Let the vet know about any injuries.

1 Put only a little food outside the trap or leading in, as the cat can become somewhat satisfied and refuse to risk entering.
2 Leaving a trap unattended leaves a trapped cat vulnerable to any passersby, and terrible things have happened to caged cats left unattended in public areas. It generally doesn’t take very long to trap a cat if the cat is actually in the vicinity, so you probably won’t have to wait long.
3 If a cat gets out after trapping, it will be difficult or impossible to catch it again. Do not release a cat that has not yet been altered. If you catch a cat that you had not planned to catch, adjust your plans.
4 If you will trap other cats, you don’t want the untrapped ones to see a cat in the trap in distress, so get it out of the location. Be careful not to pinch cat’s feet when setting the trap down.
5 If the cat looks as if it is currently nursing (nipples are distended), search for kittens. Carry the mother with you, as the kittens may respond by crying for her, alerting you to their location. Mother cats will go back to care for kittens, and are capable of nursing, even after being spayed. Weigh the advantage of getting the cat spayed quickly and returned against releasing her immediately and not being able to catch her again. In the reverse, if you find kittens but don’t see a mother, use the kittens to trap the mother. Put the kittens in a cage or carrier adjacent to the trap and cover everything, so that the mother must enter the trap to see the kittens. It is far easier to care for newborn kittens if you can catch the mother, who will do most of the work and a much better job than you can.

What do I do with a trapped cat?

If you are involved in a TNR program, then we will help you try to find homes for them. Some cats are not friendly toward humans and are best returned to their territory, but friendly cats and kittens stand a much better chance of living happy, healthy lives if they are adopted or fostered.

The only exception would be ferals that are injured and have a good chance of a speedy recovery. Even then, every day is a hardship for them, so confinement for rehabilitation should be as limited as possible. Do not release cats that you know are in no shape to survive. Kittens under 4 months old should be socialized (if possible), severely injured or seriously health compromised ferals should be euthanized, and friendly adult cats should be rehomed. JCN does not, however, euthanize otherwise non-health compromised FIV or FELV positive cats.

The “R” in TNR

The R means Return.

Not Rescue – ferals are not happy in a shelter, which is only a kind of terrifying prison for them.1
Not Remove – if they don’t go back, new unaltered cats will take their place.
Not Release – they are unlikely to survive in an alternate location.
Not Regret – you’ve certainly done the best thing to give the cat a chance.2
Not Relax – they will still need maintenance care.
It’s okay to feel Relief – people report feeling much better about the situation once TNR is completed.

1 The only exception would be ferals that are injured and have a good chance of a speedy recovery. Even then, every day is a hardship for them, so confinement for rehabilitation should be as limited as possible. Do not release cats that you know are in no shape to survive. Kittens under 4 months old should be socialized (if possible), severely injured or seriously health compromised ferals should be euthanized, and friendly adult cats should be rehomed. JCN does not, however, euthanize otherwise non-health compromised FIV or FELV positive cats.
2 It’s natural to feel sorry for causing the cats discomfort, and they will certainly look to be in distress after trapping. But they have no future without the help you are providing, so feel secure in that, and carry on. They will almost always fall back into their normal feeding patterns within a few days after release.

How do I get others in my community involved?

Be responsive to complaints from neighbors by addressing problems.

If necessary, let neighbors or community leaders know what you’re doing, and explain. Be very polite, but hold strong to your position that you are following an organized plan.

Enlist the approval of the local animal control when possible.

Feed and water cats without creating a residual mess.1

Watch for any new abandonment and address immediately.

1 Feed on concrete, without paper plates, and don’t leave behind packaging or bowls. Don’t put down too much food down, which might rot if not eaten. Feed wet food, if possible, so that the cats get added moisture.

I need help with my TNR program!

We’re here to help! Contact us with your questions or post on our Facebook page or our Facebook group.

What if I have other questions?

Please check our Frequently Asked Questions or contact us.