Note: This is a chapter in the Community Cat Programs Handbook.
It’s estimated that at least 30 percent of cats who enter our nation’s animal shelters each year don’t make it out alive. Approximately five of every 10 cats brought to a shelter are unowned, free-roaming “community” cats, many of whom are not suitable for adoption into homes. Most are free-roaming “community cats,” many of whom are not suitable for adoption into homes. This ineffective, costly and inhumane approach to managing community cats is steadily being replaced with progressive community cat programs (CCPs). These shelter-based programs, based on the trap-neuter-return (TNR) method of population management, are effective at reducing the numbers of these cats, reducing shelter admissions and shelter deaths, saving taxpayers money and providing a public health benefit to the community. In such programs, unowned, free-roaming cats deemed healthy enough to qualify for the program are sterilized, vaccinated and returned to their original location.
Targeted TNR programs offer a commonsense, animal-friendly, effective, and economical alternative to the traditional method of managing community cats (i.e., impoundment followed, in many cases, by lethal injection). In addition, TNR has a strong basis in science and enjoys broad public support. Indeed, national surveys commissioned by Best Friends in 2014 and 2017 found that Americans prefer TNR to lethal roundups by nearly three to one — not only for its obvious benefit to community cats but also for its benefit to public health. These results correspond to those of previous surveys revealing strong opposition to the lethal roundups of community cats and to lethal methods in general as a means of population control.
 As vaccination against rabies is becoming more common, many TNR programs are now adopting the acronym TNVR to emphasize this important public health component.
 P.J. Wolf, 2015. “New Survey Reveals Widespread Support for Trap-Neuter-Return.” Faunalytics.org. https://faunalytics.org/new-survey-reveals-widespread-support-for-trap-neuter-return/
 K. Chu and W.M. Anderson, 2007. Law & Policy Brief: U.S. Public Opinion on Humane Treatment of Stray Cats. Alley Cat Allies: Bethesda, Md.
Download the Community Cat Programs Handbook Basics (863 KB PDF)