I want to start by saying that everyone who works with feral cats has their own way and their own reasons for doing it the way they do. I applaud and deeply appreciate everyone who does the good work, no matter what their approach. I’m not writing this to condemn or criticize anyone who helps out in any way they can, just to clarify how and why “return” is essential to fully successful TNR.
So here’s the deal – “TNR” stands for “Trap, Neuter, Return.” Trap is easy to get. Neuter is technically correct for what you know as spay and neuter. Most programs, if not all, give a rabies shot. But the “return” part is where it gets murky.
A lot of people who do “TNR” don’t return. They re-home instead. I’m not talking about the kittens that can be adopted into real home, I mean relocating feral cats into barn cat situations and that sort of thing.
And this is my experience. All of my ferals were returned. They were brought back here and released where I trapped them. The population stabilized quickly, as it is said to do. Actually, the population reduced, then stabilized.
The people I know, and know of, who re-home rather than return have a constant population growth and turnover. They constantly have new cats. It’s a constant battle for them. And, like I said before, they are doing good work! But, it can give the impression that TNR doesn’t really work. That it doesn’t stabilize and reduce the feral cat population.
So, whatever you can do, whatever you choose to do, it makes a difference. Spaying and neutering alone does make a huge difference! But if you’re doing “TNR” and you are not actually returning the cats and you are frustrated with the results, please understand that it’s not because TNR doesn’t work.