• Alisse

TNR saves lives: what it is, how it works, and why we need to embrace it (part 1)

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a close look at TNR and how we as doers can take action to save community cats. Starting today, we’ll be here for you every Wednesday, so make sure to follow us on Medium for updates so you don’t miss a beat!


Cats are everywhere.

That’s not an exaggeration. They are everywhere. In rural communities and metro cities, cats are out there doing their thing. Sometimes you see them, often times you don’t. Cats have an uncanny ability to make themselves unknown.

(Their thing, if you didn’t know, is having babies. Lots and lots of babies.)

Sometimes we find a young kitten crying alone in a bush and think “how could someone just dump a small, innocent kitten like that?”

Thing is, it’s not necessarily people that are putting kittens on the streets.

Black and white tuxedo cat, sitting on outdoor stairs.
Aurora, a semi-feral community cat

It’s cats.

The Humane Society ran the numbers and realized that 80% of the kittens born every year, are born to community cats.

Community cats are un-owned outdoor cats. Some are friendly with people and some are not. They’re living freely in your community, maybe popping by your back door for an afternoon snack every day… and they’re reproducing at high rates. Very high rates

With HSUS’s estimated 30–40 million community cats across the US- who are sick, suffering, and dying- people need to get involved.

PUFF fosters take these cats in from our communities and care for them until they’re ready for adoption. Fostering gives vulnerable cats the one-on-one care that animal shelters simply aren’t equipped or funded to provide, whether it’s intensive medical care or hands-on socialization.

It also gives cats a chance to thrive inside a warm, loving home, instead of suffering through life on the streets. And they do suffer.

But not all community cats are friendly or willing to become indoor pets, which means that for community cats who aren’t candidates for foster and adoption, the cycle of reproduction, overpopulation, and suffering continues unless we stop it.

So how do we stop it? With TNR.

What exactly is TNR?

Brown siamese kitten with black face, wrapped in a white towel, looking at the camera with an angry expression on his face.
Tabasco, a (now formerly) feral kitten

TNR stands for trap-neuter-return. It’s the only humane method to reduce the number of cats in our neighborhoods, it’s cheaper than euthanasia, and it works by stopping the cycle at its source: community cats.

TNR was introduced to the US in 1990 by a group called Alley Cat Allies as an alternative to the conventional (and ineffective) catch-and-kill method to manage feral cats. 

Cats are humanely trapped, and brought to a veterinarian or spay/neuter clinic to be sterilized, vaccinated, and treated for worms and fleas. While the cat is asleep under anesthesia, the vet snips off a small sliver of their left ear- a visual indicator to people that the cat is feral, sterilized, and does not need to be trapped again.

After a recovery period, the cats are brought back to the home they know in the great outdoors, where they can live out their lives on their terms.

Though you may see cats roaming around your community by themselves, generally speaking, where there is one cat there are more. Cats are not solitary creatures, and most of the time live in some sort of colony with other community cats. Some colonies have a person feeding them, some do not, leading them to roam to find their food- right up to your door.

Proof in numbers: TNR in Las Vegas

You may be one of Nikki Martinez’s 350k+ Instagram followers, but if you’re not, you should be. Nikki does high-volume TNR work in Las Vegas with the Community Cat Coalition of Clark County (C5, for short).

C5 was founded as a response to Las Vegas’ major community cat overpopulation. There are counties all over Clark County drowning in cats- and shelters don’t have a magic wand to save them all. So, the C5 volunteers took action.

In 2008, just before C5 was founded, over 18,000 cats were admitted to Clark County Shelters.

In 2018?


Line graph depicting shelter admission rates for community cats in Clark County, NV.
Property of

By using TNR, C5 volunteers were able to decrease the community cat population so much- and educate the public about feral and community cats- that they slashed the admission rate.

It’s incredible, right?

That kind of impact can be made everywhere, if enough people get involved. TNR is life-saving, it prevents suffering, and it’s so much cheaper and more humane than euthanasia.

We’re excited that you’re here, reading this now. Consider getting involved! TNR is a team effort.

Don’t forget to check back next Wednesday for part 2 of our TNR series, where we’ll go TNR step by step!


This winter, PUFF will be putting ramping up our TNR program, to stop the flow of cats in our community shelters.

To help us prepare to TNR community cat colonies in MA and RI, make a tax-deductible donation at: PayPal.Me/PUFFRescue!

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