top of page


Trap, Neuter, Return

What is TNR?

TNR stands for Trap, Neuter, and Release. TNR is an extremely important part of rescue, and not just for cats. Rafiki's Rescue remains heavily involved in TNR for the welfare of both cats and wildlife. In TNR, one will trap a feral or stray cat using a humane trap, have the trapped cat sterilized, and then return them back where they were found. In this section, we will answer some frequently answered questions about TNR as well as give an overview of the benefits of this effort. We believe that each animals' life is precious and TNR helps protect many just by spaying/neutering one cat.

It is estimated that there are about 30-40 million stray cats living in the US and 80% of the kitten population comes from these unaltered strays. One unaltered female can be responsible for 300,000 kittens over the course of 7 years. This overpopulation crisis leads to the heightened euthanasia rates that we are seeing in shelters across America. By spaying just one stray cat, you can make a huge difference in preventing this. 

Q: What is an ear tip?

A: In TNR, during the spay or neuter procedure, the veterinarian will tip a portion of the left ear to signal to others that this cat has been sterilized. This process is painless, heals quickly, and benefits the cat and trappers greatly. This way if the cat is ever trapped again, the trapper will clearly see that there is no need to put them through any more stress and release them immediately. 

Q: Isn't it cruel to release a cat back outdoors? Why not take them to shelter to find a home?


A: Nearly 1 million healthy cats are euthanized each year in shelters across the US. Because feral or stray cats are often unfriendly and un-adoptable, this puts them at high risk in shelter. Cats who have grown up and are used to life on the streets can actually live very full and happy lives outdoors. Just because they do not enjoy human company does not effect their overall quality of life. Sure, the goal is for all domesticated cats to be indoor-only, but TNR helps to do exactly that by preventing another litter from being born on the streets into the same situation.

Q: How does TNR help support wildlife?

A: Cats are an invasive species and are a threat to our natural wildlife. Outdoor cats kill approximately 2.4 million birds and 12.3 million small mammals yearly in the US. True, TNR involves releasing the cat back to the outdoors, but through sterilization we have now ended that cats family tree and no future kittens will be contributing to this problem. 

Q: Trap, Neuter, Release vs. Trap & Euthanize?

A: Some believe that the best way to both protect our wildlife as well as manage the cat overpopulation is to trap and euthanize. Before I explain why we at Rafiki's Rescue believe that TNR is the better option, let me explain to those alarmed by this process the thinking behind it. Outdoor cats are at far higher risk of injury or death and many believe that this life is not fair to them and that the only humane option is euthanasia. Also, by releasing a cat back to the outdoors, they will continue to effect the wildlife throughout the remainder of their life. We understand these concerns, but the reality is that this process is far more expensive and impractical. We also believe that every life is precious and stray cats have adapted to the environment that they are familiar with enough to live happy, fulfilling lives. Furthermore, when cats are not released back into their colony, less are left fighting for territory and food and as these things become more accessible, birth rates begin to rise. 

Q: Can I release the cat I trapped back to a different location than where they were found?

A: Unless it is to a safe and maintained feral sanctuary or absolutely necessary for the safety of the cat, do not release a cat anywhere other than at the location they were trapped. Cats adapt to their environment and learn where to find food as well as the dangers that need to be avoided in that area. When a cat goes through a TNR program, they are often left stressed and disoriented. The best way to keep them safe is to return them to the area in which they are familiar so that they do not run directly into an unknown threat. In the unfortunate event that a cat does have to be released to a new location, they should always be crated under the supervision of a caretaker in the location for 2 weeks prior to release. This should be done in a safe location such as someones home or garage, safe from any threats. This gives the cat time to adjust and for their body's natural compass to reset.

Q: How can I get involved?

A: Firstly, you will need a humane trap. The most commonly used trap is the Havahart 2 door trap. Please make sure the trap you do use has two doors and is non-collapsible. Rafiki's Rescue uses both Havahart and TruCatch. Secondly, reach out to your local humane society or rescues. There are often programs in place to help fund TNR efforts and some even provide traps. If there is not one available, call your local vets to see who will work with you in your efforts. Your efforts are needed!

bottom of page