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Community Cats and TNR

Many well-intentioned people in communities throughout America encounter cats living outdoors, and bring them to shelters with the belief that they are doing what is best for these animals. Tragically, however, the majority of these innocent creatures are killed…
Did you know that cats have lived outdoors for more than 10,000 years?
Some outdoor cats are strays, meaning that they were likely once someone’s pet, but were abandoned or became lost. Other outdoor cats are born outside in the wild, experiencing little to no human contact, and are described as feral. While the main difference between stray and feral cats is their level of socialization with humans, both live in close proximity to people, and are dependent upon the sources of food and shelter that residential or commercial areas can provide.
While we may view a life outdoors as less than ideal, it is the only life that many of these cats know. The outside is their home and their sanctuary. It is where they feel safe and, generally, where they are safest.
So, what should you do when you encounter an outdoor cat, or a colony of cats, in your community?
Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is the most humane and effective approach for dealing with stray and feral cats. Scientific studies have proven that TNR improves the lives of feral cats, improves their relationships with the people who live near them, and decreases the size of colonies over time by preventing reproduction.
When an outdoor cat is brought to the Women’s Humane Society, we scan the cat for a microchip, check for identification, and observe the mandatory hold time for found animals, which allows time for an owner to step forward and claim it. If the cat is determined to be friendly with humans and more suited to a home environment, we put that animal up for adoption. If the cat is deemed feral, we spay or neuter, vaccinate and ear-tip the animal, then return it to the location in which it was found. As a nonprofit with limited resources, we rely on the cooperation, support and joint efforts of our community to implement and advance this lifesaving program.
Unfortunately, too many animal shelters throughout the nation continue to operate under outdated, inhumane policies, or simply do not have the capacity to effectively carry out TNR. As such, it is up to those “well-intentioned” people to work with their local shelters, rescue groups and fellow citizens to be the change they want to see. If you are reading this, you are likely one of those people.
Extensive resources and networks have already been developed to best assist residents and businesses in implementing TNR programs in their communities. Alley Cat Allies is the only advocacy organization dedicated to protecting and improving cats’ lives at the national level. For information and resources, please visit