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Beginning TNR

Thanks to Alley Cat Allies for all of its terrific resource materials on TNR
These instructions are general and do not necessarily take into account your colony’s specific circumstances. Each location may have unique elements for you to consider. Since these instructions are not exhaustive, you will need to use your discretion to determine any additional steps on planning. Please use caution and be aware of your surroundings at all times. You are responsible for your own safety when trapping. 
1) Never use darts or tranquilizers to attempt to catch a cat. These methods are dangerous and stressful to the cats. Always use a humane cat trap such as a Tru Catch, Tomahawk, or other brand. We do not recommend collapsable traps as they can collapse with the cat inside.
2) NEVER attempt to pick up a feral cat! No matter how friendly they seem, a scared cat can do a lot of damage with their teeth and claws. Use the correct trapping practices outlined below to ensure the safety of both you and the cat. Always use a humane cat trap.


3) Keep in mind that your trapping will be most effective if you employ targeted trapping, do not just randomly set traps.
This video by Kitten Lady Hannah Shaw is very helpful for beginners!


Before You Trap
  • Familiarize yourself with the Trap-Neuter-Return process and plan your trapping day in advance. 
  • Coordinate with caregiver/s who may be feeding the cats, prepare the cats for trapping by feeding on a schedule and in a designated feeding area (feed at the same place and time each day).
  • Determine how many traps you will need, and how many spay/neuter appointments you will need to schedule after assessing the colony, see our spay/neuter resources page for Bay Area low-cost spay and neuter vet options. 
  • Determine a safe, temperature-controlled location where you will be able to hold the cats before and after surgery while they recover, such as a bathroom, garage, or basement. Do not leave cats outside ever!
  • Gather and prepare all of the appropriate equipment and understand how it all works ahead of time—and practice! It is important to test all traps before trapping to ensure they are functioning.
  • Schedule your spay/neuter appt. BEFORE trapping.
  • Withhold food 24 hours before trapping, and you are ready to start trapping. Remember to make your vet appointment before setting traps!
  • We recommend trapping 24 hours before your scheduled vet appointment. The day or night before your vet appointment is best.
  • ​On the day-of - prepare the traps by lining the bottom with newspaper, or a potty pad. At the location bait the trap with wet/canned cat food or tuna (put food in the back behind the trigger plate). Cover the set trap with a towel, not blocking the door. Set the traps in the area the cats usually eat or hang out. Make sure your traps are set correctly.
  • ​​Set the traps and watch them from afar - at least 30ft away, or hidden out of sight / sitting in your car. 
  • After the cat has gone into the trap and is caught take the covered trap and secure it in your car. Make sure the trap is covered with a towel or sheet. Keep the cat in the trap at all times. Make sure the trap is secure.
  • After securing the traps in your vehicle, head to the veterinarian or clinic for surgeries that day or the following day per your appointment.
  • After surgery keep the cats in the trap at all times.
  • Transport the cats safely back to your secure, indoor location where cats will be in a temperature-controlled environment, dry, and away from danger.
  • Monitor the cats for any illness or bad reactions to the surgery.
  • ​For your safety and the cats keep them in their covered cages at all times.
  • ​​Feed the cats eight hours or so after surgery (or according to the vet's instructions). Return the cats to their colony following the guidelines given by the vet. Most cats can be returned the day after surgery. Nursing mom cats should be returned immediately.
  • Return the cats to the exact location where they were trapped.​
  • Clean traps with soap and water, always disinfect the traps with bleach.

People and Cats

A key part of carrying out Trap-Neuter-Return is to establish a friendly dialogue with neighborhood residents and address any possible concerns.
Familiarize yourself with the Trap-Neuter-Return process and plan your trapping day in advance. In order to ensure the safety and well being of the cats and reduce your own stress, make sure to plan all of your trapping endeavors in advance.
Trapping Equipment:
- Humane cat traps: We like the TruCatch cat traps
- Newspaper or potty pads (to line the traps)
- Old towels (to cover the traps)
- Tarp, shower curtain, or potty pads to put under the traps in your car and during recovery/holding period
- Canned cat food or tuna (to bait the traps) - always use a strong scented wet cat food or tuna
Remember to be safe and aware when you are trapping. Always let someone know where you are. Do not try to handle feral or stray cats with your hands. Use proper equipment, and make your vet appointments in advance. Always plan ahead!

Download this PDF for

a step-by-step guide

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