What is Trap-Neuter-Return?

Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is the humane, effective approach for feral cats. Feral cats are humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and eartipped (the universal symbol of a neutered and vaccinated cat), and then returned to their outdoor home. Socialized cats and kittens are adopted into homes. The colony’s population stabilizes—no more kittens! Trap-Neuter-Return improves their lives and their relations with the community: the behaviors and stresses associated with mating stop.

What is a feral cat?

A feral cat is a cat that has either never had any contact with people or for which contact with people has diminished over time. The cat is not socialized to people and survives on its own outdoors. Most feral cats are not likely to ever become lap cats or enjoy living indoors.

Outdoor cats have existed alongside humans for 10,000 years. They are not a new phenomenon. Feral cats are members of the same species as pet cats—and are therefore protected under state animal anti-cruelty laws. The difference between feral cats and your pet cat is that they have had little or no contact with people, and so they are wary of us, and cannot be adopted. They have a home—outdoors. They live and thrive in every landscape, from the inner city to rural farmland. Since feral cats are not adoptable, they should not be brought to animal pounds and shelters, because there they will likely be killed.

What are appropriate properties for outdoor cats

Cats are very resourceful and can fare well in a variety of outdoor environments. They need some form of weather-proof shelter such as a shed, barn, igloo, access to under a deck or similar types of areas for shelter and warmth. Properties with ample foliage and trees are preferable since they provide cats with a place to hide and escape danger, and are generally more interesting for the cats, increasing the likelihood they will remain on the property.

  • The ideal location is a safe environment with no known predators, such as coyote, bobcats or mountain lions, or busy roads nearby. Unfortunately, most properties in northern California have one or both these dangers, so we look for other characteristics of the property that can help keep the cats safe.
  • If there are predators in the vicinity, are there trees the cats can climb to escape from coyotes? Is there a barn or shed where the cats can seek safety and larger animals would not be able to gain access? Are there dogs present or other animals, such as, lama that deter predators? Are there roaming cats in the neighborhood or near the property that have thrived in the environment?
  • If there are roads nearby that might be dangerous, how far set back from the road is the house or other outbuildings? Is the property fenced to provide a visual barrier, despite the cat’s ability to jump over the fence?

Do outdoor cats need to be fed?

Yes, your outdoor cats need to have daily food, water and access to shelter.  The cats will still hunt for rodents even when fed every day, and a proper diet ensures their good health. In fact, as the rodent population declines, the cats will leave the property in search of a reliable source of food if they are not adequately fed.

Will TLF find homes for my outdoor cats?

No, we work exclusively with animal shelters to find homes for cats that are in danger of being killed at the shelter.  We do not find homes for non-shelter cats or take cats from individuals.

How can I get involved?

There are a variety of ways to get involved. Please contact us to discuss your interests and our volunteer support needs.