Community Cat Programs Handbook: Strays and Ferals

Wed, 11/28/2018 - 01:01
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Ear-tipped black cat who is part of TNR cats program

About this trap-neuter-return resource

Through various partnerships, Best Friends operates more large-scale community cat programs (CCPs) than any other organization in the country. We are, therefore, in a unique position to comment on what it takes to make such programs effective. Indeed, we feel an obligation to share our knowledge with individuals and organizations interested in creating their own CCPs. This handbook is one manifestation of that obligation.

Different names for TNR and stray cats

No two CCPs are alike; some include kitten nurseries and extensive foster programs, for example, while others are limited mostly to return-to-field (or shelter-neuter-return) efforts. But at the heart of all CCPs is the trap-neuter-return, or TNR (sometimes mistakenly referred to as trap-neuter-release), method for managing community cats. With TNR, stray and feral cats are humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and then returned to the outdoor location where they were living.

Best Friends prefers to call feral, stray, alley, and/or otherwise ownerless free-roaming cats by the term “community cats.” This is because these animals are a part of the community in which they live, and valued by many of the residents. We are working to change the often-negative public perception of these cats.

The 28 chapters that make up the CCP Handbook fall into three sections, as follows:




Note: Any resource of this scope is necessarily a work in progress — a living document. Unlike printed documents, though, its online format allows for frequent revisions and updates, thereby extending its “shelf life” significantly.


Much of our knowledge of CCPs has been acquired through the aforementioned Community Cats Projects, and we are deeply indebted to PetSmart Charities, Inc.,™ for the opportunity to participate in these innovative public-private partnerships in communities across the country. We owe an additional debt of gratitude to the elected officials, shelter and enforcement leadership, veterinary partners, staff and volunteers, and everybody else whose tireless efforts have made these programs successful beyond all expectations.

In addition, the following individuals and organizations have been invaluable resources in making the CCP Handbook a reality, allowing us to benefit from their experiences and integrate their materials with our own. Thank you all!