People who are just learning about Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) often have many questions, such as how does it work exactly and how does it benefit the community? It’s important for cat advocates to know how to talk effectively to neighbors, public officials, animal control officers, shelter staff, and others to convey that TNR is in the best interest of cats and the community.

To help you be fully prepared, Alley Cat Allies has pulled together these talking points for you to keep on hand. The next time you find yourself fielding your community’s TNR questions, you’ll be ready!

For more in-depth guides on talking about TNR, advocating for community cats, and discussing humane change with your shelter, check out Alley Cat Allies’ Advocacy Toolkit, The Case for TNR resource, and Transforming Shelters to Save More Cats Activist Toolkit.

What Everyone Needs to Know:

  • Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is a program in which community cats are humanely trapped, brought to a veterinarian to be spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and eartipped (the universal sign that a community cat has been part of a TNR program), and then returned to their outdoor homes.
  • TNR keeps cats out of shelters and saves their lives. Community cats are not socialized (or friendly) to people so they’re not adoptable and can’t live indoors. When they enter shelters, they are likely to be killed unless the shelter has a program (called Shelter-Neuter-Return) to spay or neuter and vaccinate them so they can be returned to their outdoor home.
  • TNR stabilizes community cat populations. Because cats are spayed and neutered, the breeding cycle stops, and no new kittens are born.
  • TNR relieves cats of the constant stresses of mating and pregnancy. This helps cats and people co-exist peacefully. Neutering cats curbs behavior associated with mating, like roaming, yowling, or fighting.
  • Studies show cats’ physical health improves when they are spayed or neutered, particularly at younger ages. Most TNR programs also vaccinate against rabies.
  • Community cats can live long, healthy lives in their outdoor homes with the help of TNR programs.
  • Hundreds of communities, shelters, and municipalities around the nation and the world support and practice TNR because they’ve seen it work firsthand.

What Your Neighbors Need to Know:

  • Community cats can live safe lives outdoors and are as healthy as indoor cats. TNR programs often include rabies vaccines, which also improves public health.
  • If you want cats out of your yard, garden, or elsewhere, there are humane deterrents that are easy and effective. For example, scatter strong-scented orange peels and coffee grounds where you don’t want cats to be.
  • If a cat is part of a TNR program, they often have a caregiver, or several, who provide regular food and shelter.
  • With TNR, cats in the neighborhood will no longer mate, yowl, or fight.
  • Removing cats from your neighborhood will not work. When cats are removed from an area, it causes a well-documented phenomenon called the Vacuum Effect. That’s when new cats move into the space to take advantage of resources and breed back to capacity.
  • TNR is the only humane and effective approach to address and stabilize community cat populations. When cats are spayed and neutered, no new kittens will be born, and the population will naturally decrease.
  • It’s important to leave community cats in their outdoor homes. Taking them to the shelter is usually a death sentence. Because community cats are not socialized to people, they are unadoptable.

What Your Shelter Staff and Animal Control Officers Need to Know:

  • Community cats do not belong in shelters. They aren’t socialized to people and can’t be adopted. The shelter environment is stressful for community cats, and they will hiss and hide in their cage. They are most susceptible to getting sick when stressed, which can affect other cats in the shelter.
  • With fewer cats in the shelter, euthanasia rates decrease, there is less stress on shelter staff, and valuable resources can be directed to adoptable animals.
  • When cats have been a part of TNR, animal control officers get fewer calls about cats from citizens. This is because TNR eliminates disruptive mating behaviors in cats like yowling and fighting.
  • It is more cost-effective to neuter and return a cat to her outdoor home than it is to impound and euthanize her.

What Your Elected or Public Officials Need to Know:

  • TNR is the only way to address outdoor cat populations and save taxpayer dollars. Animal control officers have been catching and killing outdoor cats for decades. This has proven to be ineffective and costly.
  • Community cats are not socialized to people and are therefore unadoptable. If they are taken to shelters, they will likely be killed. This wastes taxpayer dollars, which could be spent on adoptable animals.
  • Removing cats from an area does not work. It only causes a well-documented phenomenon called the Vacuum Effect. This is when new cats move into the space to take advantage of resources and breed back to capacity.
  • People want TNR. According to a 2017 Harris poll, 84 percent of Americans prefer that their municipal officials use tax dollars to adopt sterilization as its cat control policy rather than bring cats found outdoors into shelters to be killed.
  • Hundreds of communities have already adopted an official TNR ordinance or policy. Yours can, too.

With these talking points at your fingertips, you’ll be prepared to make a TNR believer out of even the most skeptical members of your community. Now let’s spread the word and save more cats’ lives together.