Trap Neuter Return: The program that can help contribute to healthy cat populations

Trap Neuter Return (TNR) is a program engaged in by many animal rescues, charities, and volunteer networks across America.

The goal of the program is to help control the populations of “freeroaming” cats, those that are feral or strays.

This process involves the trapping of cats that have not been spayed or neutered in humane traps, taking the cats to a veterinarian to be spayed or neutered and vaccinated, and returning the cats to the area in which they were found.

Cats are also ear tipped, which is the universal sign that a cat has been through a TNR program and so is spayed/neutered and has had its initial vaccinations.

Black and white tuxedo cat with their ear tipped
A cat with its ear tipped. This is a painless procedure that indicates that a cat has been spayed/neutered and has had its first vaccinations. Pic credit: @r/kellybdc/Reddit

These programs help to maintain cat colonies in communities that have gotten out of control, to the point were cats and kittens are malnourished, neglected, and diseased, and often live short painful lives.

Through TNR programs, it becomes easier for communities and animal loving neighborhoods to take care of their local cat populations, ensuring healthier, happier cats.

Where we are now

An infographic detailing the worst case scenario of a single cat pregnancy can produce
This infographic is an estimation of the huge amount of cats a single cat pregnancy can produce over nine years. Pic credit: @TNRMecosta/Facebook.

The infographic above is an indication of the worst-case scenario of the sheer amount a single cat pregnancy could potentially produce over the course of nine years.

However, the average number of kittens a single unspayed feral cat produces is closer to six kittens a year with 75% of her litter dying before reproductive age on average. But even this estimate would still result in a high mortality rate for feral and stray cats, something that all cat lovers wish to avoid.

The solution is manageable cat colonies.

And although some wildlife advocates and researchers are critical of TNR programs and their efficacy, most can agree that something must be done to reduce the number of needless feline deaths.

The benefits of TNR

People who love animals will always feed a starving cat rather than watch them suffer.

The practice of euthanasia for feral and stray cats is not only ineffective at population control, but unnecessarily extreme.

Furthermore, many stray and feral cats that are caught as part of local TNR programs are found to be sociable and are subsequently adopted into forever homes.

The practice of TNR significantly reduces the number of shelter intakes of cats and kittens, the number of nuisance complaints regarding cats, and more stabilized and reduced cat populations over time.

TNR programs that combine with a compassionate care-taking approach to free-roaming cats are shown to be the most effective solution to feline overpopulation problems for both people and the cats that live alongside them.

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