The Pros and Cons of Trap-Neuter-Release Approach

There is a lot of controversy regarding animal rights and welfare. Animal advocates sometimes are pitted against each other when it comes to the best programs and approaches of how locals should control the population of free-roaming animals such as cats.  One of the most controversial approaches is the Trap-Neuter-Release approach, or TNR.

Supporters of Trap-Neuter-Release programs feel it is the only proven humane and effective method to manage feral cat colonies.

Though it might seem that it is the best thing people could do to control the growing population of cats, short of euthanizing them, there are lots of other animal supporters who are against this method.  There are debates on a national scale regarding the effectiveness of TNR in keeping the feral cat colonies under control, and its effects on wildlife.

What is Trap-Neuter-Release?

For those who have not heard about the Trap-Neuter-Release approach, this is a method of capturing, vaccinating, spaying or neutering and then releasing the animals back to where it has been captured.  The animals are trapped in humane cages before any further action is done.  Vaccinations are done, and a rabies vaccination is automatically included in the package.

When the animal tests positive for potent viruses, they are euthanized.  It is important to keep a healthy feral community that would not endanger other members of the colony, or other animals in the surrounding environment.  Neutering or spaying is important for population reduction. After recovering from the surgery, the cat is released back to where it was picked up.  All this is done for a nominal fee.

TNR has become the alternative for massive euthanasia of feral cats, which other animal rights supporters consider inhumane. Also, massive euthanasia of feral felines is not practical, so local governments have resorted to TNR for a more natural control of the feral colony.

Breaking Down the Pros and Cons

The main reason supporters of TNR believe in this process is because they feel it is a practical solution.   The ASPCA endorses TNR as “the only proven humane and effective method to manage feral cat colonies.”  More and more cats are released on public lands due to the increasing population of domestic cats, and TNR is used to help reduce that population by spaying and neutering the reproductive adults.

However, there are a couple of studies that prove that TNR may be ineffective in controlling feral populations.  The movement of cats from one colony to the other can limit the effectiveness of the whole program.  Thus, the number of free-roaming cats in feral colonies does not decrease significantly over time.  Another point is that feral cats pose a danger to wildlife, particularly to ground-feeding and ground-nesting animals.  However,  feral colonies do provide natural rodent control as well.

Attempts to completely eradicate feral cat populations usually fail due to the “vaccuum” effect – other cats which have not been spayed or neutered will simply take their place.   A lot of factors still need to be considered to determine how to best deal with free-roaming cats.

What do you think about Trap-Neuter-Release programs?

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There are 13 comments

  • Cynthia says:

    I live in urban Chicago and do participate in a TNR program on occasion. From what I’ve seen I don’t think it reduces the feral cat population in my area but it HAS reduced the rat population in my immediate area. I am also more comfortable knowing the stray animals in my area have a reduced chance of having a disease that could be passed on to my children.

  • Kim mason says:

    I belong to an organization as well as on my own, that trap spay and neuter felines, Although it is not the ideal situation to release them back in to the wild, it is better than euthanizing them, I take many ferals and rehabilitate them with good success in finding them homes, If the cats are captured and the kittens born in a household and socialized then adopted out, then that is a substancial decrease in the population that will become feral. Our animal rescue contacts me when they need help with ferals as many find it difficult to understand and handle them, I welcome the challenge and always try to remember that a distant relative was once someones house cat in most instances and the ignorance of people for not spaying and neutering has led to the overpopulation. Dumping and discarding of them to barns just because there is a good source of food hence mice, is not the answer. Stiffer laws and guidelines should be followed when purchasing or adopting a kitten. I make sure all the kittens and cats that I come into contact with have appts made for this process so as to help in the terrible situation of overpopulation, and above all education at a very young age is the key.

  • Lisa Nicholson says:

    The only comment I can make is this: I have neighbors who have called animal control on me because of too many cat’s. I have caught a lot of cat’s and turned them over to animal control, for fear of being fined over $600.00. But these neighbors called a woman who practices TNR, she caught cat’s on my property that I didn’t even know were here, and re-released them back on my property, causing me to be in the position of being fined again!!! Luckily I contacted animal contol, they know who she is and put a “DO NOT RELEASE BACK” on my address.

    I should note that I live within the City Limits of my town, but live in a wooded area, back away from any main highways.

  • K Bates says:

    I think TNR is about the only feasible way to make any headway – and I would submit that there should be no expectation of any obvious shrinkage of the colony populations – they were spayed or neuthered, not killed. So they live on in the colony. The fact that the colony doesn’t grow, or only grows slowly would speak to the effectiveness of this method.

  • Karen says:

    I think the TNR program is not a good idea. The threat to wildlife, especially birds, is high. In some areas certain types of birds are being wiped out by these feral cats. Also, shots need to be updated annually. How is that going to happen? What’s to prevent them from getting rabies and other diseases once the initial shots wear off? And how can these cats be healthy without a proper diet? How do you keep them from becoming infested with internal parasites and fleas with putting preventives on them?

    This is not a good thing for the wildlife, and it’s not a good thing for the cats.

  • Mskitty says:

    It is the most humane way to try to deal with the problem and is definitely better than doing nothing.

  • james says:

    A neighbor feeds about 10 of these TNR cats who use the mulch in my garden as kitty litter, crap all over my yard and and hide out under that cars on my street. I think this is a terrible idea.

  • Amber says:

    I think TNR is a terrible idea. We’ve had multiple cats roaming our privacy-fenced yard, fighting all night long, and urinating on our front door/porch. We humanely caught 2 of them last night and took them to the shelter. They found by snipped ears that they are “TNR” cats. The woman said that she would contact the “owner” and let them know. So… Chances are they’ll end up doing the same again… This time we won’t be taking them to the shelter. We’ll take them far from our house and releasing them to the country rather than the middle of the city. The shelter asked me to post signs on our property to let cat owners know that we trap cats.

  • Susan Dunlap says:

    I don’t care if a cat imposing itself on my property and killing my chickens merely for sport are a part of the TNR program or not. I don’t want them in my yard destroying what I spend several hundreds of dollars each year to achieve in raising my chickens.

    Even if a cat goes through TNR they still pose a threat in the future because they will not be available for inoculations and testing for threatening virus’ that they can need/acquired in the future. Seems like a total waste of time and money.

  • […] are advocates that see the benefits and there are those dissenting folks. TNR programs get both. Pet Meds discusses the pros and cons […]

  • Susan Robinson says:

    I think TNR is great!!!! I live in an apt complex of 4 apt and These 2 cats were born next door in a garage and the mamma and two kittens got fixed, shots and ear tipped then returned. They have been living in a sm dog house in the parking lot of my appts for almost 8 years They keep the sm rodents and Raccoons away from the apt complex. The only complaint I have heard is them potting in gardens. I hope more programs like these are implemented everywhere.

  • […] small group of concerned residents came together in June 2009 to trap, neuter and return (TNR) community cats in Las Vegas and Clark County. The group evolved, and C5 was established in […]

  • says:

    I have seen too many cats, either as part of the TNR program or not, who live miserable, diseased lives scrounging for food, losing eyes/eyesight in fights, torn ears, in constant fear, freezing in winter, without water in summer. This is humane? I do what I can but am coming to the conclusion that I am just prolonging a life of misery and doing no favors.

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