CatRescue cat imageTNR stands for Trap-Neuter-Release (or Return). This is a term commonly known in the US and Europe, and is starting to gain traction and acceptance in Australia as the most humane and effective form of management of stray and semi-feral cats in urban populations.

What does TNR involve?

Cats are humanely trapped and taken to a veterinarian to be neutered (desexed) and possibly microchipped and/or vaccinated. After recovery, the cats are returned to their home—their colony—outdoors. Kittens and cats who are friendly and socialised to people may be adopted into homes.

Grounded in science, TNR stops the breeding cycle of cats and therefore improves their lives while preventing reproduction.

Removing cats from an area by killing or relocating them is not only cruel—it’s pointless.

The Vacuum Effect is well documented and describes what happens when even a portion of an animal population is permanently removed from its home range. Sooner or later the empty habitat attracts other members of the species from neighbouring areas, who move in to take advantage of the same resources that attracted the first group (like shelter and food). Killing or removing the original population does nothing to eliminate these resources; it only creates a “vacuum” that will inevitably draw in other animals living nearby.

Trap-Neuter-Return stabilises stray cat populations who, if managed effectively, will eventually die out by natural attrition. Not only is Trap-Neuter-Return the humane option for stray cats, but it also addresses the needs of the community to have effectively managed and stable stray cat populations, rather than unmanaged, undesexed cat colonies.

Trap-Neuter-Return improves cats’ lives by relieving them of the stresses of mating and pregnancy, as well as greatly reducing the fighting and roaming as they are no longer competing for resources or mates.

For more Information on TNR, including a ‘How To’ guide, we recommend visiting the Alley Cat Allies (US based TNR group) website. And for scientific evidence and data on the statistics surrounding TNR, click here. This scientific study was carried out and complied under the guidance of Dr Levy DVM, PhD, Diplomate ACVIM, University of Florida.

Who can I ask for help?

Sadly, the numbers of stray cats and colonies in the Sydney area alone are easily estimated to be in the high tens of thousands, and there are so few volunteers actively involved in TNR. In addition, the long term care and management required is very time consuming and expensive, so unfortunately the situation for help with a stray cat or colony isn’t good, unless you’re prepared to put in the work and effort yourself.

We do have one TNR volunteer who is able to provide advice and instruction if you are serious about committing to the ongoing effort and management of TNR’ing and caring for your local cat colony. Before contacting us we request that you read through the TNR Guide on the Alley Cat Allies website so you have a comprehensive understanding of what is involved. If after reading this, you still want to go ahead, please message us via Facebook (with your contact number, email and suburb of colony location) and our TNR volunteer will contact you.

Is TNR Legal?

The short answer is no one knows. It simply isn’t covered by the existing legislation.

The main area of contention is Part 2, Section 11 of the NSW Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (POCTA) which simply states Animals not to be abandoned. Those who oppose TNR cite that the ‘Return’ part of TNR is abandonment. Of course, true TNR involves the ongoing care and management of the cat(s) so it would be difficult to classify this as abandonment. This has never been prosecuted so never tested in a Court of Law.

However, with the increasing acceptance of TNR as the preferred method to control the population of stray cats in urban areas in Australia, the City of Sydney MP Alex Greenwich has introduced a Bill to NSW Parliament to legislate for TNR. Click here to read more about this Bill and the issues.

What is the long term impact of TNR?

It is theoretically possible to eliminate an entire stray cat population in an area using TNR. However, in reality, this is far less likely. This doesn’t mean that TNR is not extremely valuable and important for the vast improvement to the lives of the cats involved, as well as to the medium term benefit of the community.

The reason for the difficulty is quite simple, yet extremely difficult to manage. This is that not everyone desexes their cats. So as the old TNR’d population die out though natural causes over the following decade, it only takes one irresponsible human to abandon a litter of kittens for the cycle to begin again.

What can we do to encourage people to desex their cats?

The main reasons that people don’t desex their cats includes lack of understanding or information about the importance of desexing, financial constraints, or it may be as simple as they don’t have a car to get their cat to and from the vet.

If you know someone with an undesexed cat or kitten, the first thing to do is to understand (without casting judgment) as to why their cat hasn’t been desexed yet so that you can then try to address the issue standing in their way.

If the person simply doesn’t believe that desexing is important, we recommend reading our web page on the Benefits of Desexing so that you can explain to them why and how desexing is so vitally important, not only for the health, safety and happiness of their cat, but for cats and the community in general.

If the issue is financial, you can help them by searching the internet to locate a local subsidised desexing program. We run such a program every September (available though our web site) through a number of vets around Sydney. Or click here for a list of participating vets and prices via National Desexing Networks subsidised desexing program. Or contact us via Facebook and depending on the location and circumstance, we may be able to assist.

If the issue is simply that they either don’t have a cat carry box or a car, then that’s a simple fix…just arrange that yourself.

Rescue volunteers are inundated with requests for help. We can’t do it all. So we are calling on caring and compassionate members of the community to be proactive and take action where you can to make a difference.



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