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How to Implement an Organizational Trap-Neuter-Return Program

Feral cats require a different kind of care because they are unsocialized to people and are not candidates for adoption. Many organizations recognize their unique needs, and offer information about how to improve the lives of stray and feral cats. Others want to go a step further and launch their own Trap-Neuter-Return programs. These groups understand that the best practice is to neuter, vaccinate, and allow feral cats to remain in their original habitat along with their colony members. Alley Cat Allies’ guidelines will help organizations interested in adopting this humane, life-saving program implement one that is effective and sustainable.

Because every community faces different circumstances when it comes to implementing a Trap-Neuter-Return program, there is no single formula for success—though there are basic common denominators. One town may already have a flourishing feral cat care model in place. Another community may face an uphill battle, with punitive laws or public perceptions that are obstacles to implementing a program.

Most effective programs include some element of the seven steps outlined and explained below. Though none are required, consider each one and how it applies to your organization and locale before moving forward.


Benefits of an Organizational Trap-Neuter-Return Program

Through Trap-Neuter-Return, cats are humanely trapped, vaccinated, and spayed or neutered. Stray cats (cats socialized to humans) and kittens are adopted into homes, and healthy adult feral cats are returned to their outdoor homes, where their lives are greatly improved without the strains of mating behaviors and pregnancy. Another important component of a Trap-Neuter-Return program includes outreach—promoting organizational services and educating the public about humane methods of cat care.

For an organizational program, it is important to understand that Trap-Neuter-Return involves straightforward steps that result in significant, measurable, and positive outcomes for the cats, the community, and your organization.

Organizations realize positive benefits after implementing Trap-Neuter-Return, including:

  • Improving the cats’ lives;
  • Stabilizing colonies—reproduction stops and litters are not born;
  • An immediate reduction in calls from neighbors about behaviors associated with mating, including spraying, caterwauling, fighting, roaming, and breeding;
  • Resources previously spent on ineffective removal and/or lethal services are spent on non-lethal, life-saving, positive, publicly-supported initiatives such as subsidized neuter services, adoption, and outreach programs; and
  • Positive public reaction, fundraising platforms and partnership opportunities, media exposure, and support from staff, volunteers, other like-minded organizations, and the community at large.


Seven Recommended Considerations for Trap-Neuter-Return Program Implementation

  1. Gather baseline statistics and assess your community. 
  2. Build your “people power.”
  3. Set policies and establish a trapping plan. 
  4. Determine a funding plan. 
  5. Set a veterinary care plan. 
  6. Organize a community outreach component to educate the public, promote services, and build support. 
  7. Evaluate the success of your Trap-Neuter-Return program. 

Next Step: Gather baseline statistics and assess your community