Wherever you live or work, chances are that there are community cats living nearby.

You may see them hanging outside a neighbor’s home, lurking around the dumpsters behind a local restaurant or grocery store, or loitering around a commercial lot.

An estimated 10-12% of the American public feed community cats, but many lack the information or help they need to take the crucial next step: sterilizing and vaccinating the cats. As a result, community cats produce about 80% of the kittens born in the U.S. each year.

Through trap-neuter-return, you can significantly improve individual cats’ lives, reduce cat overpopulation in your region, and perform a valuable community service that benefits people, cats and wildlife.

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Identify local resources. There may be an organization or agency in your area that can help you TNR the cats, find homes for any young kittens, provide pet food or offer other forms of assistance. Check out our tips for what to do if you find a cat and how to identify animal welfare organizations, spay/neuter programs and other resources in your region.

Learn the basics. Check out the facts about TNR, then watch our Trap-Neuter-Return video and this short instructional video by kittenlady.org. With a few minutes’ study, you’ll be able to explain to others how trap-neuter-return works.

Identify the caretakers. Find out who cares for the cats. Keep in mind that many kindhearted people feed community cats but don’t know about available resources to stop them from breeding; they may feel overwhelmed with the endless litters of kittens and be grateful for your help. With diplomacy and a spirit of helpfulness, you can identify the barriers that are preventing them from getting the cats fixed and help fill those gaps.

Create a plan of action. Depending on the caretakers’ capabilities, your help may take different forms, from connecting them with a local TNR program, scheduling surgeries, borrowing traps, trapping the cats, transporting them to a clinic or raising funds to cover costs. Ask friends and other animal lovers in your community to join the effort. 

How to do TNR

Resolve conflicts with neighbors

Outdoor cats can sometimes be the cause of complaints. Check out these tips for keeping cats away from areas where they’re not welcome and resolving other nuisance issues:

Community cats, community effort

You don’t have to wait for community cats to show up in your backyard to start helping them. Many hands make TNR work lighter—here’s how to contribute.

  • Trapping. TNR programs are always in need of people with the patience and dedication to do the essential: catch the cats.
  • Transport. You can make a valuable contribution as a transport volunteer, delivering cats to the clinic and returning them to a holding place after surgery.
  • Safe keeping. Cats need to be held the night before and typically one night after surgery. Do you have a garage or spare room that can be kept warm in the winter and comfortable in the summer? You can make a difference simply by holding cats overnight and feeding and monitoring them.
  • Outreach. By knocking on doors, handing out flyers and engaging people in conversations about cats, you can raise awareness, identify cats who need services and learn about neighbors who are already feeding community cats.
  • Behind the scenes. TNR programs need volunteers to keep the effort afloat, whether that’s through fundraising, grant writing, record-keeping, website maintenance or answering calls and emails.

Other ways you can help

You can also make a big difference by doing the following:

Start your own group

If there’s no local group helping community cats, you may decide to start one. Check out our Rescue Groups Best Practices Guide and these free resources from Neighborhood Cats. Then talk with others in your community and find some like-minded individuals to help share the workload.