Anatomy of a TNR project

Join our Trap-Neuter-Return Program Director Sandra Obi as she describes a recent TNR project for an insider look at what really happens when you TNR!

This particular project started with cats suddenly showing up at a school. It was close to where I live, so I could go check this one out myself. Step 1 – go assess the situation. Is there a feeder who I can work with and get this all done easily and quickly?

Nope, no known feeder. I can’t push ahead because what happens when the cats are returned? Who is looking after them? So I then make up flyers and walk up and down to all of the houses surrounding the school. I find a colony of ear tipped cats already done. Residents say the cats at the school are not coming over there. I jot notes on all the cats the maintenance workers at the school see. They agree to put up shelters and one of the workers agrees to start feeding the cats in an organized fashion.

All seems to go well – 5 cats and one kitten trapped. The kitten is friendly and a rescue agrees to take him. Adults are vetted and returned. No new cats are reported on location.

Weeks later, a call comes from one of the houses where I’d left a flyer. There’s a mom and 4 kittens about 8 weeks old.

This is often when people reach out – when they see little kittens running around.

It’s a little spill-over colony from the school and I wish I had found them sooner, but I’m so very glad this person didn’t wait until the kittens were 3 months old to reach out, at least!

I bring a drop trap – I get Mom and 3 babies within 20 minutes. The last one is presumably hiding under the shed. I put mom and siblings in a closed trap behind the open trap – but still no 4th baby. I show homeowner how to rig the trap with a juice bottle tied to a string so as soon as she saw the kitten go in, she should pull string and call me. I don’t know what that sleepy baby was doing but he finally appeared a few hours after, and he went right into the trap and she pulled the string and got him!

I’ve handled thousands of feral cats at this point and have never been bitten before. That last little tiny tabby baby absolutely nailed me when I had him scruffed and was trying to wrap him in a blanket to work with him! Oh boy – these guys were going to be tough!

Mom was vetted and terrified of me, so she went back home. Those feisty babies, though, I had to give them my best shot at socializing them so they didn’t have to go back outside.

I don’t know if people realize how many cats are never returned outside after they are trapped as part of a TNR program!

A few days later I got my first purr. Before I knew it, all 4 were the biggest love bugs you’ve ever met – and with the help of a local rescue, all 4 were quickly adopted. After creating such a bond, I welcome updates from adopters who want to stay in touch with me! Look at these babies!

The Princess       The Self-Assured One   The Affectionate One    The mush bug who bit me!

Of course that wasn’t the end of the story – because we obviously didn’t get daddy yet! Sure enough, now that she was watching, the homeowner saw him lurking about. I gave instructions on how to trap him: be consistent and don’t move anything. She had him trapped a couple of days later. Success!

He’s in my bathroom right now. He unfortunately tested positive for FIV – it should not in the least stop him from finding a loving home.

Look at this guy!

Total tally:

12 cats and kittens trapped and vetted; 6 cats returned; 5 kittens adopted; 1 cat in foster waiting for a home

And that is what your average TNR project looks like!

It is a lot more involved than just setting traps, vetting and returning cats! And I for one, love to do this ‘work’.

If you would like to sponsor our next TNR project or foster a feisty kitten, please mark your donation “Community Cats” and we will happily provide updates to you on the cats we help with your support!