Targeted Trapping—Organize Your Efforts and Help More Cats

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“Targeted Trapping” is a term that was coined by Alley Cat Allies for the most efficient and effective effort to help the most cats in the shortest amount of time trapping. Targeted Trapping means aiming to trap every cat in a colony or specific area for Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) and then expanding to surrounding colonies. Targeted Trapping is a strategic, smart approach because it produces measurable results, and maximizes your resources and staff/volunteer time.

This method is about “working smarter, not harder.” Since targeted trapping focuses on an entire colony instead of only neutering a few cats at a time, life improves for every individual cat in the colony immediately and there will be no more kittens.

With this technique, you’ll also gather invaluable documentation like medical records, colony tracking sheets, and records of time and money you spent on the cats. This will help you show your success and expand your efforts.

Step 1: Gather Information and Build Relationships

If you’re part of an organized TNR effort, you’re likely getting calls from the public about community cats—also called feral cats. Create a spreadsheet and record as much information from callers as possible, including:

  • Full name
  • Address
  • Phone number(s)
  • Location of cats
  • Number of cats
  • Who is feeding the cats, if known
  • Property owner’s info if the caller isn’t the property owner
  • Nature of the call (concern, interested in helping, etc.)

You may want to solicit calls—consider placing an ad in your local newspaper with a number people can call about community cats. Don’t use your home phone number, and indicate callers’ information will be kept confidential.

Animal shelters may know where large cat colonies if they are tracking intake reports and calls from the public. Consider contacting them, if you feel comfortable.

Step 2: Identify “Hot Spots” Where Cats Live

Analyze the information you’ve gathered and look for trends. You can plot calls and reports on a hard copy map, or use mapping programs such as Google Maps or Microsoft MapPoint.

You’ll start seeing obvious areas and neighborhoods where residents are calling about cats. These “hot spots” are target areas where your trapping will have the greatest impact.

Step 3: Create and Implement a Targeted Trapping Plan

Once you have determined your target areas, pick the one you’ll start with. Investigate the colonies: where do they live and who is feeding them? Then, talk to neighbors about your targeted trapping plan. Use Alley Cat Allies’door hangers and publications to help, and use this as an opportunity to listen to any concerns neighbors might have about the cats. Don’t skip this step—when community members understand TNR and feel involved with the project, they are more likely to cooperate and even support your efforts.

Ask neighbors about their own cats to make sure your spay/neuter plan covers all cats, including indoor and indoor/outdoor cats. Ask that pet cats be kept indoors during trapping, and arrange spay/neuter for pet cats as needed.

Next, create a plan and schedule the trapping, transporting, vetting, and returning of the cats. Learn more about conducting Trap-Neuter-Return.

Step 4: Document Your Progress and Success

Maintain records for every cat you trap, neuter, vaccinate, and return or adopt—and all the pet cats you neutered. The better your records, the better case you can make for contributions, recruitment, or proving the program is beneficial to the community.

The number of cats in the colonies you target will stabilize. Caregivers should continue to monitor the colonies and trap and neuter any newcomers. Try to get positive testimonials from caregivers and neighbors as evidence of the program’s benefits.

Your targeted trapping efforts will keep you organized and allow you to help more cats in the most effective way possible. The cats will be thankful for your work, and so will the neighbors!

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