Cat Colony at Risk: Gaining Community Support for TNR

Feral tabby cat with ear tip. He lives in a stray cat colony outdoors.

Best Friends Animal Society believes that the most effective and humane way to manage feral cat (aka community cat) colonies is the practice commonly known as trap-neuter-return (TNR), in which cats are trapped, spayed or neutered, and then returned to their colonies to live out their lives.

However, not everyone is a fan of free-roaming cats, and it’s not uncommon for community members and public officials to attempt to have them removed. Most of the time, people simply don’t know about TNR or understand the options available to them. Being prepared with the right information, establishing an open line of communication, and working to address people’s concerns are the best ways to provide safety and long-term care for the cats.

Learn more about TNR

Gaining community support for feral cats

Getting community members on board and personally invested in implementing TNR is the best way to ensure a successful program and safety for free-roaming cats.

Know your facts. Being equipped with helpful information and prepared to discuss the issue in a calm, thoughtful manner is essential for gaining public trust and changing people’s minds. Letting information rather than emotions guide the discussion is always the way to go. 

Get the media and like-minded residents involved. Sometimes, just starting a local petition to share information with people and get them on board can get things moving in the right direction. Similarly, teaming up with a sympathetic journalist or reporter who’s willing to write on behalf of the cats can help. Again, make sure to always have professional resources and helpful information about community cats and TNR on hand to share with people.

Keeping the peace with community members

Being proactive when it comes to addressing concerns and preventing conflict is the most effective way to keep the peace and ensure a positive end result for the cats in your community.

Ask questions and listen. People are always more likely to listen to you if you take the time to listen to them. Ask neighbors what concerns they have about the cats, get details that can help you find appropriate solutions and be empathetic to their point of view.

Offer words of encouragement. Educating people about the benefits of spay/neuter and TNR can also go a long way toward keeping the peace. For example, nuisance behaviors such as spraying and yowling are typically reduced once cats are spayed or neutered.

Keep a low profile. The less intrusive the cats are in the community, the less likely residents are to be bothered by their presence. The cats’ feeding stations should be out of the way and hidden from public view. Feeding cats right outside your door and/or in full view of your neighbors can be aggravating for some residents. If you need to move a feeding station that’s in a too-visible spot, gradually move the feeding station a little farther away over the course of a few days to help the cats adjust to the new location. And make sure that everybody involved understands that the cats should only be fed at the new designated location and nowhere else.

Work with the proper authorities. If you suspect or observe that the cats are being harmed in some way, it’s best to seek professional guidance and help with the problem. Reach out to your local animal control agency as well as other organizations that specialize in feral cat advocacy and help.

Read more about solutions to stray cat issues