What is TNR?


With trap-neuter-return (TNR), cats are caught in humane box traps, spayed/neutered and vaccinated, and returned where they were found to live. TNR humanely manages feral and free roaming cats, while preventing the cats from breeding.

These cats have been “ear tipped” to mark them as spayed, neutered, and vaccinated as part of the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) Program.  These cats should never be re-trapped or brought to a shelter unless they are sick.

Spaying and neutering controls the growth of feral colonies and reduces nuisance behaviors such as spraying/marking by males, fighting and noisy mating encounters.

Why not trap-and-remove?

Stray and feral cats populate an area because it supports them with food, shelter and safety. If they are trapped and removed, the space will be filled with other cats who linger on the fringes of the territory. This is called the “vacuum effect.” As new cats migrate into the area, they produce more kittens, which leads to renewed calls for trap-and-remove.

Why not place these cats in homes?

Trying to domesticate a cat that has never lived indoors, and has been quite content and happy outdoors, would be no different than trying to make a raccoon or a squirrel a household companion.  You may partially succeed but only with a great deal of time and patience.  More importantly, the cat would no longer be able to live in a manner that best suits it.  Many well-meaning people feel they are “saving” a feral cat by bringing it indoors, only to find that the cat spends its life hiding and living in constant fear. 

TNR does not rescue and rehome cats. It controls the feral cat population and—via spay and neuter—gradually and permanently reduces the number of feral cats in an area. TNR lowers the intake and euthanasia rates in shelters and creates better, less hostile environments for feral cats.  

TNR does not stop at the return after spay and neuter. Colony management protects the cats’ continued wellbeing. Across the city, community members watch over and care for community cats, trap newcomers for surgery and keep a careful eye on the population.

Volunteers are needed to assist with trapping, transporting cats pre- and post-surgery and assisting us in the clinic during recovery. For more information on joining our program, please call us at 415.522.3539 or drop us an email.

Download our “What is Trap Neuter Return?” PDF (60KB

Ready To Adopt?