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Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)

For help in different townships, please see the following link for help: 


tender loving cats.jpg

What is Trap-neuter-return?


Trap–neuter–return is a type of program through which free-roaming, community cats, are trapped, spayed or neutered, then returned to the outdoor locations where they were found. If those locations are deemed unsafe or otherwise inappropriate, the cats may be relocated.

Good Samaritans in neighborhoods across the country provide food, water and shelter for community cats. TNR provides a non-lethal, humane way to manage community cat populations. In some programs, like ours, friendly cats or young kittens are pulled from the colonies and sent to foster facilities for socialization and, eventually, placement into forever homes. Stopping the breeding and removing some cats for adoption is more effective than the traditional trap-and-kill method in lowering the numbers of cats in a community long-term.

Using TNR, cats are caught with humane box traps; fixed; vaccinated and returned to their territory to live under the eye of a human caretaker who provides food, water and shelter as necessary. During TNR surgery, cats have the tips of their left ears clipped (ear tipping) which identifies and safeguards them as part of a managed TNR program if ever re-trapped.


The success of any community cat program is contingent on sterilizing the majority, if not all, free-roaming cats in the vicinity. Any unsterilized, owned or un-owned cat who roams outdoors or frequents a community cat colony shall be physically evaluated; sterilized; vaccinated; ear-tipped, and returned to the area where trapped so the cat can be reunited with it’s owner or colony. Spaying and neutering colonies not only reduces feral population growth but also the nuisance behaviors associated with feral colonies—spraying and marking by males, fighting and noisy mating encounters.

Why not Trap-and-Remove?

Stray and feral cats populate an area because there’s food and shelter that supports them. If you trap-and-remove, other cats on the fringes of the area move in; this is called the vacuum effect: New cats produce more kittens which leads to renewed calls for trap-and-remove. The cycle is endless.

Why not adopt these cats to homes?

TNR is not about rescuing and rehoming cats. It is about permanently reducing the number of feral cats in an area; lowering intake and euthanasia rates in shelters and creating better, less hostile environments for cats.

Trying to domesticate a cat that has never lived indoors would be no different than trying to make a raccoon or a squirrel a household companion. You might partially succeed with a great deal of time and patience, but the cat would no longer be permitted 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 realize the cat is unhappy and spends life hiding under the bed, living in constant fear.

What happens after TNR?

TNR doesn't stop at the return after spay or neuter. Management of the colonies is key to the cats’ well-being. Across the city, community members care for these cats by trapping newcomers for surgery and keeping a careful eye on the population.

TNR Trap Rental

Call the shelter and the staff will help you with TNR in your community by renting out traps, spay/neuter planning, assisting with transport to/from the trapping area and the vet, and provide temporary housing till released. But we need you to trap. This means; setting the trap, baiting the trap, waiting for the cat to get trapped and then calling us to pick up the trapped cat or dropping the cat off at our shelter so the cat can be fixed. The shelter covers the total cost of surgery. 

Renting the Trap

Traps can be rented out to Town of Smithtown residents for a refundable $40 (cash only). We'll also need a copy of your license. Staff will demonstrate how to set and bait the trap during pick-up and provide on-going support as needed.

Setting the Trap

Traps should be set up as “dummy traps” for the first day or so, as to allow the cats to get used to something new. Dummy traps means the trap door is rigged open (either with a stick or tied up). This allows the cats to go in and out and feed without being trapped and become more comfortable.

Traps should be set up in the morning if possible, as to avoid cats spending overnight in a trap. We open at 8 am, so we can usually pick up cats by 9 am and throughout the day. Cats shouldn't be left unattended for long periods of time in the trap. Only set the trap if you are able to check it throughout the day.

Withhold food the night before (as to make them extra hungry), and food should be placed ONLY in the trap. Nowhere else! Some cats will be trickier than others. Some may need to be enticed with extra stinky food (sardines, KFC, tuna..etc.), or lured in with a trail of food leading to the trigger.


Please contact us for a plan about the timeline for your trapping as we will need to assure that we have a timely spay/neuter appointment available. 

Once a cat is caught, place a large towel or sheet over the trap. Covering the traps help keep the cats keep calm. You can either bring the cat to the shelter or call us and one of our ACO's will pick up the cat. By helping with this process you are creating a better life for both your community and the cats!

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