FAQs about TNR




Trap-neuter-return (TNR) is a humane, effective, and non-lethal alternative to the “catch-and-kill” methods of controlling community cat populations.  Topeka Community Cat Fix practices TNR as a management technique in which free-roaming, unowned (community) cats are humanely trapped, evaluated, and sterilized by a licensed veterinarian, vaccinated for rabies and distemper, treated for several internal and external parasites, eartipped, and then returned to their original habitat or colony.



In the long run, TNR lowers the numbers of cats in the community more effectively than the outmoded technique of “catch-and-kill.”  

Informed and compassionate caregivers in neighborhoods all across Shawnee County provide food, water, and shelter for community cats.  For our part, Topeka Community Cat Fix then provides a non-lethal, humane way to effectively manage these community cat populations.



There are so many!  Here are just a few:

  • TNR reduces shelter admissions and operating costs.  Fewer community cats in shelters increases shelter adoption rates, sometimes referred to as Live Release Rate, as more cage space opens up for adoptable cats.

  • Taxpayer dollars are saved when Animal Control officers aren’t spending their time responding to calls about nuisance cat behaviors (almost always involving non-altered, breeding cats).  

  • Our program creates a safer community and promotes public health by reducing the number of unvaccinated cats.

  • TNR improves the lives of free-roaming cats.  When males are neutered, they no longer are biologically compelled to maintain a large territory or fight over mates.  This means reduced roaming, spraying, caterwauling, and fighting. Females are no longer forced to endure the physical and mental demands of repeatedly giving birth and fending for their young.  Females who have gone into heat repeatedly and given birth are at a higher risk for mammary cancers.

  • As noted above, sterilizing community cats reduces or even eliminates the behaviors that lead to nuisance complaints to Animal Control.

  • TNR has a positive impact on shelter and animal control employees.  Job satisfaction among these workers increases when the work does not involve the unnecessary killing of healthy animals for the purpose of convenience or space.  More attention can be paid to potential adopters and to the shelter animals.



Simply put, the outmoded Catch-and-Kill method just isn’t effective.  It’s expensive, unpalatable to the general public, and demoralizing to workers who have to kill healthy animals.  It was practiced for decades, but it is obvious by now that killing as a form of population control does not work. In contrast, TNR puts an end to this cycle of killing and makes it possible to maintain a colony at a relatively stable number of sterilized cats unable to reproduce and multiply.



Research and experience show that populations rebound to previous levels following Catch-And-Kill.

Every colony or habitat has a “carrying capacity,” the maximum population size that can be sustained in a particular area.  This carrying capacity is determined by the availability of food sources, water, shelter, and other environmental needs. When a portion of the sustainable population is removed (e.g., by trapping and killing them) and the availability of resources stays the same, the remaining animals respond through increased birth rates, higher survival rates, and immigration into the area.

This is a biological reality, and there is even a name for it: The Vacuum Effect.  Trapping and removing cats from a given area does nothing more than ensure that the cat population will rebound to its original level, necessitating continued trapping and killing.  It may rid an area of cats temporarily, but it is not an effective long-term solution because new cats will quickly fill the vacated area and breed.



Humans contracting a disease from a cat is quite unlikely.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, people are not likely “to get sick from touching or owning a cat.”  And because free-roaming cats tend to avoid human contact, the likelihood of disease transmission is quite remote. Common sense tips apply, of course:  washing hands with soap and water after touching feces, or washing and disinfecting cuts after being scratched or bitten.

Studies show that cats are not a predictable carrier of rabies.  In fact, since 1960, only two cases of human rabies in the United States have been attributed to cats.  However, a key component of our TNR program is vaccinating the cats against rabies, distemper, and selected other viruses.

The possibility of humans contracting toxoplasmosis from cats is also quite small, as the CDC explains:  “People are probably more likely to get toxoplasmosis from gardening or eating raw meat.”



Simply put, TNR means fewer cats, which means fewer threats to birds!  Other factors pose more serious threats to bird populations.

National Geographic Society has conducted exhaustive research on this topic and has concluded that “the top three threats to birds overall are habitat loss, habitat loss, and habitat loss. (Ken Rosenberg, Director of Conservation Science, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology)”  

Gary Langham, chief scientist of the National Audobon Society, stressed that “loss of habitat is the number one problem” as riparian habitat and wetlands continue to be removed or converted for human use.  Other significant hazards to bird populations, recognized by experts worldwide, include chemical toxins and direct exploitation from hunting or capturing birds for pets.

But let’s be honest here.  Although no studies support the misleading claims that cats are destroying songbird populations, there is no disputing that cats do, in fact, kill birds.  The point that must be emphasized is that fewer cats mean less predation. That being the case, TNR should not be condemned because of potential threats to wildlife, but rather embraced so that free-roaming cat populations can be curtailed as effectively as possible in order to minimize potential predatory behavior.



Yes!  Non-lethal deterrents for cats are effective and readily accessible.  Here are some ideas from Alley Cat Allies:

Problem:  “Cats are getting into my trash!”

Explanation:  Cats are scavengers and are looking for food

Quick Solutions:

  • Place a tight lid on your trash can.

  • Ask if neighbors are feeding cats.  If so, make sure they are doing so on a regular schedule.

  • Start feeding the cats yourself if you find no regular feeder, at a set time, during daylight hours, in an out-of-the-way place.  Feeding cats regularly and in reasonable quantities that can be eaten in less than 30 minutes, will help ensure they don’t become so hungry that they turn to the trash.


Problem:  “There are paw prints on my car.”

Explanation:  Cats like to perch on high ground.

Quick Solutions:

  • Gradually move the cats’ shelters and feeding stations away to discourage cats from climbing on cars.

  • Purchase --- and use --- a car cover.

  • Use deterrents (see below)


Problem:  “Cats are digging in my garden.”

Explanation:  It is a cat’s natural instinct to dig and deposit feces in soft or loose soil, mulch, or sand.

Quick Solutions:

  • Scatter fresh citrus peels.  Coffee grounds, vinegar, oil of lavender, lemongrass, citronella, or eucalyptus also deter cats.

  • Plant rue (an herb) to repel cats.

  • Use plastic carpet runners, spike-side up, covered lightly in soil.  Alternately, set chicken wire firmly into the dirt, with the sharp edges rolled under.

  • Arrange branches in a lattice-type pattern, or use wooden or plastic lattice fencing material, over the soil.  Disguise by planting seeds or flowers in the openings.

  • Embed wooden chopsticks or pinecones deep into the soil with the tops exposed, 8” apart.

  • Obtain Cat Scat, a nonchemical cat and wildlife repellent available at www.gardeners.com.

  • Use large, attractive river rocks to prevent cats from digging.

  • Keep sandboxes covered when not in use.


Problem:  “Cats are lounging in my yard or on my porch.”

Explanation:  Cats are territorial and will remain close to their food source.

Quick Solutions:

  • Apply cat repellent fragrance liberally around the edges of the yard, tops of fences, etc.

  • Install an ultrasonic animal repellent such as CatStop or ScareCrow, both available through www.amazon.com

For other issues, or further explanation, please feel free to call our hotline at 217-7151.

Ways to Volunteer

Our greatest need is for trappers and trapping assistants.

We also need volunteers to:

  • Transport cats to and from their colonies.
  • Help prepare cats for surgery.
  • Feed and clean in the evenings for cats awaiting surgery and release.
  • Prepare meals for KState and TCCF volunteers on surgery days.
  • Clean the staging area after the TNR is over.
  • Power-wash traps after the TNR.
  • Sew trap covers.
  • Build shelters.
  • Help to organize special events.
  • Help to canvass neighborhoods.
  • Help with community presentations.
  • Maintain the web site.
  • Answer the hotline and speak with caregivers.
  • Fund-raise