Our TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) program is a spay/neuter program for feral (wild) cats. Historically, feral cats were brought into animal shelters but, because they are wild and not adoptable, they were euthanized after the stray hold. We do not euthanize healthy wild animals when they come into our facility…feral cats should be no different. With TNR, the cats are trapped, altered and returned to the same area they came from. Ideally, people interested in TNR provide some type of shelter for the cats, as well as food and water. TNR is rapidly spreading throughout the country in an effort to control feral cat colonies, and fewer cats are being euthanized as a result.
During surgery, each cat that is 3 months of age or older will receive a rabies vaccine. They will also be “ear-tipped”, which means the tip of the left ear will be removed. This identifies a free-roaming cat as altered which prevents the need for future transport, stress and anesthesia.
Feral cats will recover at WCHS. Cats need to be held 24 hours after surgery and can be picked up on Thursday or Friday for re-release.
Feral cats should be returned to their established location where you found them. The alternative – relocation – is a difficult, time-consuming and problematic procedure, and it is not recommended except under extreme circumstances. Relocating cats without the proper steps can endanger the cat’s life. They will try to return to their old home, and may become lost or attempt to cross major roads. Also, feral cats form strong bonds with other cats in their colonies. Separating a cat from their colony members and leaving them alone in a new environment will cause stress, depression and loneliness.
If you have questions about our TNR program, please contact the shelter at (262) 677-4388.
Stress is very common in feral cats coming in to the TNR program. A trapped cat loses control over their environment and loses their ability to flee from perceived or real threats. This can produce intense stress that can affect a cat’s health, prolong their recovery from surgery, and compromise their return to their outdoor home.
No matter what your normal relationship with the cat is, a trapped cat will not be consoled by your talking to them. The best thing you can do is keep the trap covered and leave the cat alone. Do not play a radio. Quiet is the best environment for the cats.
Never move trapped cats in an open bed of a pickup truck or in the trunk of a car – this is unsafe and it terrifies the cats.
Feral kittens can sometimes be tamed and placed in homes, but they MUST be socialized in their first few weeks of life. This is a critical window and if they aren’t handled in time, they will remain feral, and therefore, unadoptable.
- Kittens that have not been socialized by the time they are 8 weeks old will most likely remain feral.
- Kittens over 8 weeks of age can possibly be tamed but it may take much longer, and many times they will only tame to the person working with them and remain quite wild with strangers.
Based on research data, WCHS does not test feral cats for Feline Leukemia or FIV because of the low incidence of these diseases (4%), and false positives can and do occur.
If you feel strongly that the feral cats you bring in to the program be tested, we offer that option for a suggested fee to cover our costs. However, in the event of a positive result, the cat will be euthanized.
Our goal is to insure that the cats brought to us are well suited for life as a free-roaming cat and have the health and capacity to live life without suffering in their colonies. If a cat arrives to WCHS sick, the caretaker will be charged a nominal fee for medications, or the caretaker may take the cat elsewhere for altering services/medications if they so choose. Sick cats will not be sterilized, and we may medicate their food in an attempt to improve their health. However, if our veterinarian believes that a cat is suffering, or determines that a cat is in very poor health, we may euthanize that cat.
Feral cats, like all wild animals, will strike out when frightened and unable to run away. NEVER stick your hand or fingers inside the trap!
In order to trap effectively, you will need the following:
- One humane trap per cat. You will be more successful if you trap as many cats as possible in the first trapping session. We do have traps available to rent right here at WCHS. A deposit will be required, but will not be cashed unless the trap is not returned or is returned damaged.
- A can of tuna, sardines, mackerel, or other enticing bait. If you are using moist cat food, use a food like Fancy Feast which is highly desirable.
- Lids or small containers to hold the bait.
- A large towel or sheet to cover the entire trap. Plastic tablecloths are an excellent choice because they allow moisture to run off in inclement weather. Before a cat has been trapped, cover the trap’s sides and top. This will calm the cat and lessen the risk of injury once it is inside the trap.
- Gloves for your protection.
Withholding Food – You must withhold all food from the cats you intend to trap 24 hours before trapping. This will ensure that the cats are hungry enough to enter the traps. While this may be hard, particularly if the cats appear hungry, remember that you are doing what is best for them.
Preparing the trap – it is best to do this away from the trapping site. Place approx. one tablespoon of bait along the back of the trap (in a lid or container). Set and cover the traps, and leave quietly. The cats are unlikely to enter the traps if you are standing nearby. Check the traps every two hours if possible.
After trapping, cover the entire trap before moving it which will help to keep the cats calm. It is normal for cats to thrash about inside the trap, and you may be tempted to release them. Even if a cat has already injured themselves, do not release them. Most injuries from traps are very minor, such as a bruised nose, scratched paw pad, or bloody nose. The cat should calm down once the trap is covered.
Release the cat in the same place you trapped him or her. Open the front door of the trap and pull back the cover. If the trap has a rear door, pull the door up and off, remove the cover and walk away. Do not be concerned if the cat hesitates a few moments before leaving. They are simply reorienting themselves to their surroundings. It is also not uncommon for the cat to stay away for a few days after release.