Controlling Feral Cat Populations Using Trap-Neuter-Return Programs

Trap-neuter-return, or TNR consist of the capture, sterilization, and release of feral cats in order to control the population of feral cat colonies.

Either local animal control or a caregiver who has been feeding the cat will use a live cat trap with food inside to procure the animal. Then, the cat is transported to a veterinary facility or animal shelter to be examined and spayed or neutered.

Trap Neuter Return Programs

In many cases, the cat may also receive vaccinations such as those for rabies. Treatments for common feline medical conditions such as deworming medications are sometimes also available. Often, clinics will perform a procedure called “eartipping”: a small segment of the tip of the ear is cut in order to identify sterilized cats. This practice prevents readmission of cats who have already received a vasectomy or hysterectomy. After a short stay in the clinic of one or two days, an adult cat is then returned to its original habitat where it was trapped. A kitten or stray cat is instead taken to a shelter to be cared for until adoption.

What are the pros and cons of such programs?


Trap-neuter-return provide communities with a solution to ever-increasing numbers of stray and wild cats. With a committed caretaker providing necessary food and shelter, feral cats who have been involved in a TNR program may have a lifespan of up to 10 years. Eventually, the colony will reduce since the individuals are no longer able to reproduce. In a complete absence of the colony, a new one would take its place, utilizing the resources the old one left behind. This fact makes trap-and-kill methods less effective than TNR. Feral cats who have undergone a TNR program, and are properly cared for, are useful for reducing rodent populations on farms and near restaurants and homes. Due to their wild behaviors, most feral cats are rarely accepted into shelters and cannot be adopted; fix and release programs offer both these cats and the community a less disruptive solution than euthanasia or relocation. In most areas, TNR programs are usually preferred to trap-and-kill since they are humane and cost roughly $60 as opposed to euthanasia, which costs around $100. Animal shelters that house feral cats, instead of adopting TNR, spend taxpayer funds and end up having to euthanize most of the cats due to low adoption rates.


Feral cats who are released back into the wild may develop diseases and infections such as feline AIDS, feline leukemia, upper respiratory infects, and anemia. Fleas, ticks, worms, and other parasites can cause unbearable discomfort and even illness. Feral cats are also subject to the elements, including extreme heat, freezing temperatures, and oncoming vehicles. Predators are yet another risk to their wellbeing; domestic and wild dogs, other cats, birds of prey, and even cruel humans may attack feral cats, injuring or killing them. Starving or consuming tainted prey, such as mice that have eaten poisons, are also likely causes of harm.

Pros ad Cons of TNR

In some cases, feral cats also pose a danger to humans: rabies, toxoplasmosis, typhus, and even bubonic plague. Cats left to their own devices in the wilderness will also decimate bird, small reptile and mammalian populations due to an innate instinct to hunt–hunger is often irrelevant.

Do TNR Programs Work?

In the event there is a caregiver who is consistent in meeting the needs of these cats, feral cats can live long, peaceful and fulfilling lives in their natural habitat. However, they are still somewhat at risk of the many dangers that come with living outdoors and still pose a risk to humans. For the benefit of local communities, TNR programs are more likely to bring significant changes to the local population of feral cats; trap-and-kill programs will lead to other colonies occupying the previous one’s habitat due to available resources left behind.

How to Care for Feral Cats

Fix and release programs only work if the entire colony is sterilized and there are consistent food and water sources made available. Not only will feral TNR populations reduce over time, they will avoid traveling in search of resources, virtually eliminating the spread of pests and diseases beyond their current colony area.

What Are the Alternatives

Common alternatives to Trap-neuter-return programs include trap-and-kill programs and relocation. Trap-and-kill programs aim to reduce local populations of feral cats by euthanasia; however, these programs only lead to new feral cats–who have not been spayed or neutered–moving into the area and utilizing existing resources. Also, there are many advocates for these cats that deem trap-and-kill programs cruel and inhumane. Relocation places the feral cats in another area, creating the same concerns as to whether or not this method is truly effective at reducing feral cat populations as trap-and-kill but with its own problems as well, including increased rates of starvation and disease. As animal shelters have housed many a feral cat, they have realized the financial burden on local taxpayers and charity organizations is much greater when a fix and release program is not implemented. Shelters provide food, housing, and veterinary care and attempt to acclimate feral cats to humans. When they cannot be adopted out of the system or cared for after a certain amount of time, the cats are euthanized, which is another large cost to the community. Overall, it is much simpler and cheaper for local shelters and governments to implement fix and release, or TNR, programs.

Who Funds Trap-Neuter-Return Programs?

Trap-neuter-return programs are funded by charity organizations, local government agencies, and communities. Some city and county governments in the following states have established and implemented fix and release programs for feral cats:Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Spay and Neuter

Local animal shelters may also provide vouchers which reduce or eliminate the costs to spay or neuter feral cats.

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Why Do Cats Love Catnip?

Catnip is the abbreviated name for Nepeta cataria, a perennial herb of the mint family originally from Europe and Asia. Interestingly enough, the Latin-derived word, cataria, is translated as “of a cat.” However, it wasn’t always a feline treat — its leaves were once used to brew tea for treating an upset stomach. It is still used today, but more for animals — particularly cats — instead of humans. The plant can grow up to three feet high, and it is characterized by soft leaves, small white flowers with purple flecks, and a poignant lemony fragrance.
High on Catnip

Dried, Fresh, or Sprays

This powerful herb has been modified into a wide variety of forms. You can buy catnip dry or fresh, and you can also buy catnip-infused toys, balls, bubbles, and spritz bottles. Dried catnip is one of the most commonly used versions of this cat treat since it has a longer lifespan. However, fresh catnip is also a trendy go-to product since the plant itself can be grown from home or bought in the store. Fresh catnip is also the most surefire way to see if your feline is sensitive to the herb. Catnip sprays and other unique products generally have less of an effect than dried or fresh forms, the substance of which is easily released into the environment and even more easily identified by the scrupulous scent-tracking abilities of cats.

Contains a Special Chemical

Of course, the big question is this: Why are cats so obsessed with this specific herb? It’s somewhat relieving to know that the source of this fascination is rooted in the nature of the plant itself and not the byproduct of a commercialized formula or dangerous chemical. This strange fascination is nothing new. After all, it is practically implied in the plant’s Latin name. It all boils down to chemistry. The oil within the stems and leaves of the Nepeta cataria plant contains a special chemical called nepetalactone. As it turns out, this chemical has some pretty powerful effects on cats, and it can act as either an aggressive stimulant or a soothing balm. When the cat sniffs the plant (in whatever form it is presented, but usually the leaf itself), a ten-minute period of feline bliss ensues — not unlike the “high” a person experiences in the presence of certain drugs or other concentrated substances.

Further Reading

A Different Experience

However, the reaction often varies. Some cats will experience soothing relaxation while others will be rolling on the floor or picking up a spritely game of incessant licking and nibbling. Upon the termination of this brief period of intense pleasure, the cat will not be able to experience the sensation again until two hours have lapsed.

Use in Moderation

The second question that might come to mind is whether this catnip stuff is safe. Given its unusual and often volatile influence, it’s only natural to be a little concerned and wonder if it isn’t a form of slow poison. First of all, to allay your worries, catnip is complexly non-toxic to cats. On the flipside, this herb can have a therapeutic effect on itchy kitty skin and, of course, it can greatly alleviate stress and anxiety as well. However, like most things, moderation should be practiced when exposing cats to this powerful herb. If the cat is exposed to catnip on a daily basis, for example, it may become desensitized to it.

Are There Other Herbs Cats Love?

Now, you may be wondering if there are other herbs that are attractive to cats in this way. After all, there is a chance that some cats will not have any kind of reaction to this one plant. Fortunately, there are other options. Some cats may have the catnip reaction described above in the presence of other mint herbs, honeysuckle, thyme, and the valerian herb. However, beware that cat thyme carries with it a pungent and rather unpleasant odor, and the plant itself takes a while to grow. But it may be well worth this little bit of stench and time since this plant is known to have a profound effect of peaceful contentment on felines. For unusually feisty or rambunctious kitties, this could be a magic bullet.

The valerian herb can have just the opposite effect. This herb is known for its strong sleep-inducing effect on humans, but just the opposite is achieved on our furry pets. This herb can propel the cat into vigorous exercise, providing an unlikely motivation method for lazy, chubby kitties. Not unlike a diet plan that includes yummy foods, cats often crave this stuff, so it’s not too bad for a catnip alternative — or a cunning way to get your pet off the couch.

As you have probably noticed, there are many unique herbs and plants that can have a vast array of effects on cats. Although catnip is often unrivaled in its poignant scent and powerful feline influence, there are many other alternatives that your cat (and you) will love.

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Why Is My Cat Peeing Outside of the Litter Box?

One of the great conveniences of owning a cat is the fact that they’re litter box trained. No getting up in the middle of the night to take the pet out to relieve itself. No unpleasant surprises left to be found in hidden corners. But sometimes a cat that uses a litter box without issue for years begins “missing” the box or relieving itself in a part of the house far from the litter box. The reasons as to why could be as minor as the introduction of a new puppy or renovating the kitchen. However, litter box issues can also indicate that a cat is suffering from a potentially serious health problem.

Health concerns aside, the longer a cat relieves itself indoors away from its litter box, the more ingrained the behavior becomes. To protect both the cat and its owner’s property and belongings, this behavior should be investigated quickly and thoroughly. Below are some tips to help you and your feline friend resolve its litter box issues.

Start Simple

While you would prefer a text message, your pets occasionally use their urine as a means of communication. Abnormal urination or defecation in cats and dogs can be a way of relieving or expressing stress. It also can be a way of marking territory perimeters. Domestic cats have territories that are comprised of surprisingly small amounts of area, even ones that go out of doors. As a result, they’re very attuned to changes in their environment. You may not be happy if another member of the household makes changes to a furniture arrangement, invites unexpected guests, or moves your belongings without warning. You might be really unhappy if that member unexpectedly adopted another family member without your permission or knowledge.

So as you ponder your cat’s litter box issues, ask yourself:

  • Have you made any recent or notable changes to the interior of your home?
  • Have you had recent workers or house guests?
  • Has the cat’s litter box been moved to another part of the house?
  • Have you recently adopted another pet, such as a cat or a dog?
  • Have you recently lost a household member, perhaps to illness or death?
  • Have you recently moved?

Sometimes a litter box problem can be as simple as the litter box itself. A surprising number of cat owners seem to think that cat litter boxes are “one size fits all”. But a cat that has outgrown its litter box may be peeing outside of its box because it simply has no room to normally and comfortably relieve itself. Cats reach their adult sizes at wildly varying rates, but in general, if there isn’t a couple of inches between kitty’s posterior and the litter box wall, then the litter box is too small.

Changing litter brands or buying a new litter box can be deal breakers for a cat when it comes to using a litter box. And how often is that litter getting changed? Cats don’t like dirty litter either, and if they find it in their boxes on too regular a basis, they’ll stop using the box altogether.


Humans aren’t the only ones who develop bladder issues as they enter old age. And just as with humans, the reasons for “accidents” are often the same. They can be caused by:

  • Dementia
  • Incontinence
  • Kidney infections
  • Cancer


If you’ve eliminated behavioral issues and aging as a reason for litter box accidents, then (sorry, kitty) it’s time for a trip to the vet. Sudden incontinence can be a red flag for a number of serious medical conditions in domestic cats, including:

Other unusual “bathroom” behavior like “dribbling” urine across rooms or non food related diarrhea may be disease related.


When It’s Directly Related To The Box Or Litter

Waste should be removed from boxes on a daily basis. Boxes should be washed and litter completely replaced every two to three weeks. Kittens, indoor cats, and ill ones may need box cleanings twice daily. For cats in love with a particular box, you may have to tolerate it until the cat literally wears it out. Sorry, but if kitty loves that stinky and non clumping litter, you might just have to grin and bear it. Once you and kitty have agreed on a location, try to move its box as little as possible. And in multiple cat households, each “sibling” should have his or her own box.

When It’s Caused By Stress

It can help to resolve “stressor” (new people, pets, locations, or territory changes) issues by avoiding, limiting, or introducing them as slowly as possible. Some very distraught cats are soothed by confining them alone along with dishes and litter box to a small room until the stressor is removed or slowly introduced.

When It’s Caused By A Medical Or Aging Issue

In both cases, medical attention should be sought as quickly as possible. Even in non serious medical or age related situations, rapid intervention can keep cats comfortable and avoid escalating medical problems.

vet care

Cleaning Up After An Incontinent Cat

Is it revenge? Is it because the pet thinks your shag carpet resembles your lawn? Whether it’s dog,cat, or rabbit, smelly “accidents” seem to happen more often on textiles than on bare floors. In order to remove both odor and cat urine from them:

  • Blot urine with dry paper towels
  • Apply a enzyme containing cleaner, such as laundry detergent
  • Combine one part vinegar with two parts water, and scrub solution into soiled area
  • Allow area to fully dry

If urine is being cleaned from a hard surface, disinfect after washing.

To Avoid Repeat Performances

Often, medical treatment or resolving litter box issues will correct “outside the box” problems. Some pets however, will continue to relieve themselves in undesirable locations either because of new learned behavior, or because they’re attracted to remaining urine residue. Never squirt water, strike, yell at, or scold an offending animal. This will only confuse it, and probably intensify the offending behavior. Instead, make the carpeted area unattractive by temporarily flipping it or placing double sided tape around its edges. Placing the cat’s litter box directly over the “pee spot” and moving the box back an inch a day until the box is returned to its original location can also help. And play with the cat more frequently near the box in its desired location,and leave toys nearby. This causes the cat to associate the box with pleasant experiences, making kitty more inclined to use it for the function for which it is intended.

If you have proven methods for getting a cat to stop peeing outside of its litter box, please share those with our readers

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Should I Declaw My Cat – Are There Safer Alternatives?

If you own a cat, then you probably experienced an incident that showed you the light about how sharp their claws are. You may be considering the declawing option because someone told you that you could do that and prevent yourself from ever having to be cut by your cat again. There’s a little more to the declawing process than meets the eye, however. The following is some information on the process as well as some alternatives that you may want to consider before you go that route. Ultimately, it’s up to you, but you should have the information so that you can make an educated decision:
Kitten scratching furniture

What Is Declawing a Cat?

The clinical name for declawing a cat is an onychectomy. It is a full-blown operation in which the specialist amputates part of the cat’s bones to cut the claw off from the toes. Unfortunately, that’s the only way that they can get the entire claw off. The full recovery time for the procedure is about two to three weeks, so the procedure is a major one. Many pet owners and organizations do not allow declawing because of how extensive the surgery is. If the procedure were performed on a human being, it would be similar to having his or her finger amputated at the knuckle. For that reason, many people think twice before they order this procedure for their cats. Laser declawing is available as well as traditional declawing, but there is a debate ongoing about whether or not it is a pain-free experience.

How Is Declawing Done?

The first thing that some specialists do before they even begin the process is give the kitty a sedative and anesthetic. This stops the cat from feeling pain while it is going through the declawing procedure. However, when the sedative wears off, the cat may suffer extreme pain if the vet doesn’t provide the owner with some pain management medication.

kitty cat after trip to the vet

The specialist uses a tourniquet to stop the blood flow from being excessive. The specialist then quickly pulls each claw bone away from the rest of the paw. When each claw is out, the specialist then uses medical glue to close the cat’s skin. The last step in the procedure is bandaging the kitty up so that it can recover from what just happened. The pet owner then has to try to care for the cat as it heals from such traumatic surgery.

Are Cats Different After the Procedure

There are quite a few issues that can occur in a cat that has been stripped of its claws. Cats have claws to protect themselves, to climb and to hunt. Therefore, a declawing experience can be very traumatic for a cat. It could cause the cat to feel some of the symptoms of depression because it may feel hopeless and lost without that part of its natural body. On the other side of the coin, the cat could become angry once it realizes what happened. Anxiety is something else that could rear its ugly head. Just imagine how a person would feel if he or she woke up with no fingertips. A typist or writer would suddenly have no way to do what that person does instinctually. The cat may take the declawing procedure the same way a person would take a random fingertip amputation.

Physical repercussions may occur because of the declawing, as well. One thing that a few pet owners have reported is increased biting. Cats may increase their biting because of the loss that they feel from not having their claws. Another issue that they may have is the chronic pain because of the severity of the procedure. The pain from it may never cease. Litter box issues may occur, as well. The cat may stop using the litter box because it’s upset, or it may feel pain when it tries to move the litter around in the box.

Further Reading

Is It legal in the US?

Cat declawing is now illegal in a few states. California, for example, has banned the practice, and violators can experience severe punishment and fines. Denver and New York have outlawed the practice, as well. If you are thinking about taking your cat through this procedure, you must find out the regulation not only in your state but in whatever county in which you live.

Are There Safer Alternatives?

You can try a number of alternatives before you go ahead and declaw your cat. One alternative is buying clippers and taking the time to patiently cut your cat’s claws. Your cat will put up a bit of a fight, but it comes from more of a fear of the unknown than actual pain. The process of cutting a cat’s claws down is not painful for the cat at all unless you go too far down. You won’t do that because you’ll have a professional show you how to do it first.

Exotic Cat Breed
You could also put some caps on the tips of the cat’s claws. The pet stores have a vast assortment of caps that you can find in fun colors and designs that you can your cat will love. This, too, takes patience. you will have to put some glue on the tips of the cat’s claws and then put the cap on top of them. You may have a little bit of a struggling doing it, but it will be well worth it because you can avoid getting scratched for weeks. Just keep up with the grooming, and you won’t have to declaw the cat.

Buying a scratching post for your cat can stop her from scratching the upholstery, but it won’t stop her from her self-defense scratches or her playful cuts. You can find one for less than $20 and then graduate to higher quality posts after your cat rips them to shreds. An other options to deter a cat from scratching furniture is to place double sided tape onto the furniture. A cat may see those sticky spots as not a suitable place to scratch and thus move along. Eventually you may be able to remove the tape if the habit is broken.

Hopefully, you will make the right decision for yourself and your cat. You do have other options besides declawing, and you will probably feel good that you made one of those choices or at least tried them first.

If you have other alternatives and proven methods for dealing with you cat’s claws, please share them with our readers.

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