TNR, which stands for trap-neuter-return, is a program devised to humanely deal with the feral cat population in cities. While many cities have found success with the program, New Orleans in particular is discovering encouraging results. Learn more about TNR and the difference it’s making in New Orleans.
What is TNR?
As the name suggests, the idea is to trap a feral cat and transport it to a veterinary clinic to have it neutered or spayed. Many cats will also get a health checkup and vaccines during this time. Once the cat has had a few days to recover, it’s then released back into its colony. If kittens or tame cats are caught during this program, they’re moved into foster homes until they’re adopted.
Why Does It Work?
For years, some communities believed that the only way to control feral cat populations was to trap and kill. However, not only is this practice inhumane, it also creates a vacuum effect where new feral cats will take over the territory about four to six months after the original cats are gone. However, with TNR, the feral cats are still there to protect their territory and still offering rodent and pest control for these communities. Yet they’re no longer reproducing, which means the colony will start to shrink in size.
Why Feral Cat Populations Are Helpful
Although some people consider them a nuisance, feral cat populations do help the communities they live in. After Hurricane Katrina hit in New Orleans, the feral cat population was nearly eliminated. When neighborhoods were being rebuilt, rodent populations were also migrating back to the area. The communities then became inundated with snakes feeding on these rodents. When the feral cats started to come back, they controlled the insects, rodents, and other pests in the area.
TNR Reduces Nuisance Behaviors
Some people complain that feral cats exhibit nuisance behaviors. The cats can sometimes yowl, fight, and spray urine. However, these behaviors will cease when cats are neutered or spayed. Several weeks after sterilization, the hormones that cause cats to express these behaviors have left their systems, and they no longer do them. They will continue to hunt though, which is the main benefit feral cats provide to neighborhoods.
How TNR Works in New Orleans
In New Orleans, a group of volunteers will travel to parishes throughout the city to trap feral cats. They spend their own money on traps, food, and gas to help control the population of these cats. If they catch a cat that has been eartipped, they know it’s a sign the cat has already been fixed, and they’ll release it back to its colony.
Otherwise, they’ll take the cat to one of the community clinics that offer low-cost or free sterilization before returning the cat back to where it was trapped. Since cats can have three litters a year, this program helps keep the population manageable.
As more communities begin to adopt the TNR method for controlling feral cats, they should begin to see a difference in the population.