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Trap, Neuter, Vaccinate, Return and Manage programs (TNR for short) are the least costly and most efficient way to reduce feral cat populations. They are also the only true humane method. 

The Problem

Un-neutered free-roaming cats lead stressful, unhealthy lives and contribute to the tens of thousands of cats and kittens that flood NJ’s shelters every year.  And the majority of townships and municipal animal shelters continue to euthanize feral cats.

Trap-Neuter-Return programs address this problem by helping outdoor cats lead healthier, happier, safer lives, and by fostering and socializing feral-born kittens and move them to safe, nurturing homes.

The Solution

TNR involves humanely trapping feral cats, spaying or neutering them, vaccinating them against rabies and other common illnesses, and returning them to their outdoor “home” to live out their lives. A “colony caretaker” then continues to provide food, fresh water and adequate shelter to the colony cats and monitors their health.


TNR is proven to be the least costly, most efficient and most humane method to reduce feral cat populations. TNR is endorsed by numerous well-respected animal welfare organizations including the ASPCA,  The Humane Society of the United States, and the National Animal Control Association.

Got questions? Read our FAQ page

How It Works

The first trigger for a trap-neuter-return program is when free-roaming cats or kittens are seen in need and/or not having been neutered. A TNR program approaches the situation using the following recommended steps.


  • Assess the cats and their environment. Do they appear to be stray or feral; are there kittens and/or nursing mothers; are there ill or injured cats? Plan ahead for the care to be provided after trapping.

  • Communicate with neighbours and any caretakers. Build good community relations, working to address the concerns of others.

  • Establish a regular feeding schedule. This may involve providing feeding stations and winter shelters.

  • Secure a holding/recovery area where the cats can wait for surgery (if not immediate) and recover after surgery.

  • Find and coordinate with a veterinarian or clinic to perform the surgery and provide other medical treatment. Our group works with People for Animals in Hillside (click on the link to learn more!). Assemble trapping supplies, including humane traps, newspapers and other useful materials.

  • Withhold food (but not water) for about 24 hours before trapping, with the cooperation of caregivers and neighbours.

  • Bait and set the traps in a safe location, using as many traps as there are cats in the colony needing trapping.

  • Wait patiently nearby but out of sight, for cats to enter the traps and the traps to close.

  • Quickly cover each occupied trap with a cover or sheet, which helps to calm the cat within, and safely transport the cats in their traps to the clinic or holding area.

Neuter/Spay & Vaccinate

  • Provide extra care for cats not yet ready for surgery. Cats in poor condition may need to receive medical attention, gain weight and strength before surgery. Young kittens may be socialized in foster care, which prevents their becoming feral. Nursing mother cats may be kept with their kittens (and even other orphaned kittens) until the kittens are weaned.

  • When ready, a veterinarian performs spay or neuter surgery and provides other medical attention as needed. Multiple surgeries may be done in high volume clinics.

  • During the surgery of feral cats, ear-tipping (removing 3/8 inch or 1 cm from the tip of the left ear; proportionally smaller in a kitten) identifies that the cat has been neutered and treated, when later seen from a distance.

  • Vaccinations are provided as arranged in advance. Common vaccines include rabies and FVRCP, distemper (panleukopenia) and respiratory virus vaccine. 

Return & Manage

  • When the vet deems that the cats are ready to leave the clinic, transport them to the recovery area, and monitor them. Females for 48 hrs., Males 24 hrs.

  • If the original colony location is safe, transport the feral cats there and safely release them from their traps or carriers.

  • Keep detailed records of the cats assisted, and clean the traps and materials used.

  • Caregivers monitor the outdoor colony locations, providing food, shelter, and medical care, and watching for any new abandoned cats requiring trapping.

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