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Feral Cats

Trap/Neuter/Return & Community Cat FAQ


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Community Cat Voucher Request Form

On January 2, our new pet food pantry opened for community cat caregivers and low-income pet owners. Click here to learn more.

What is Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR)? Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR) is a humane and non-lethal approach to community (sometimes called "feral") cat population control. It is a comprehensive management plan where healthy community cats are sterilized and vaccinated, then returned to their habitat and provided with long-term care.

Trap/Neuter/Return: What it is and why it works

  • 20 years of evidence shows that trap and kill programs are not effective population control methods for community cats. The remaining few cats will breed, and in some cases over-breed to replace the missing cats.
  • TNR has proven to be the most effective method of reducing the number of community cats in a specific area over the long-term. It stops the problem because it stops the breeding.
  • TNR saves taxpayers money by reducing wild, free-roaming cat populations which in most cases end up in municipal shelters and have to be euthanized.
  • Community cat caregivers, who did not create the overpopulation problem but rather responded to it, are able to preserve and protect the lives of these cats without adding to the problem. Community cat caregivers provide day-to-day monitoring of the colony so that any newcomers can be quickly trapped and sterilized.
  • The negative impact of the cats is greatly reduced simply by spaying/neutering and is further reduced as the number of cats decrease. No late-night howling, smelly male urine or unwanted kittens.
  • Best Friends - Utah can help work with caregivers to resove any cat related conflicts by providing humane cat deterrents which are available to keep cats away from areas in which they are not wanted.

Visit the  community cat resources section for more information.


Q. What is a community (feral) cat?
A. A community/feral cat is a cat that is un-owned, free roaming, wild or stray. Many are wary of humans as they have very little exposure to human beings.

Q. Where do community cats come from?
A. Community cats are the result of people abandoning their unsterilized pet cats. These cats then breed, producing kittens that receive very little human contact.

Q. Can community cats live without human help?
A. Although community cats act in many ways similar to wildlife, they are the descendants of domestic cats. Some may seek out a meager existence without human assistance, but without man's help, they do not thrive. In order for community cats to thrive, they need cat food, fresh water, and shelter from the elements.

Q. Does Utah have a community cat problem?
A. Over 20,000 cats and kittens are killed in Utah shelters every year. Many come from the offspring of feral cats and many end up being killed in shelters. Cat euthanasias greatly outnumber dog euthanasias in Utah.

Q. What is being done to combat Utah's community cat problem?
A. Historically, people have either ignored the problem or have trapped the cats and taken them to be killed. However, these methods have been shown to be ineffective and often times very costly. It's just in the last ten years or so that Trap, Neuter, Return has become an alternative method of dealing with community cats in the United States. Now, thanks to Best Friends - Utah, TNR is easily accessible to Utahns— and inexpensive!

Q. How do I take advantage of the program?
A. Our voucher program allows Utah's community cats to be spayed or neutered for free. In order to qualify for the discounted surgery, the cat must be truly feral or "un-owned and free roaming." The feral cat must be brought to a participating veterinarian in a humane trap, and a small tip of the cat's ear will be removed while under anesthesia.

Q. What is a Trap Trading Post?
A. At your local Trap Trading Post you can: borrow a humane trap or traps, receive instruction on how to conduct a TNR program in your area, and receive answers to your specific questions regarding community cat care and management. Some of the more common questions are touched upon here; however, your local Trap Trading Post can give you written materials that go into much more detail. E-mail us at or call 1-866-PETS-FIX (1-866-738-7349) to be connected with a Trap Trading Post near you. 

Q. Where are the Trap Trading Posts in Utah?
A. Currently Trap Trading Posts have been set up in the following counties: Box Elder, Iron, Kane, Millard, Salt Lake, Sevier, Utah, Washington, and Weber.

Q. I'm so nervous about trapping the cats. Does it stress them out?
A. There is sometimes a certain amount of stress involved in trapping the cats. This can include the cat, and in many cases, the caregiver! However, altering the cat will greatly increase its chances for a happier, healthier life! A just trapped cat will often panic a bit and may thrash around in the trap. The best way to minimize stress on the cat is to cover the trap with a sheet or large towel. When the trap is set to catch a cat, cover at least half of the trap but leave the area near the front door uncovered. When the cat is trapped, quietly and quickly cover the entire trap-this will immediately calm the cat. Take the cat to a quiet, temperate indoor location until you can get it to a vet. Read "Humane Trapping Instructions" for more information.

Q. I'm worried the cats will no longer trust me if I trap them. Is this true?
A. No. Many cats will remain hidden for a few days after trapping but in the experience of expert caregivers, the cats often become more familiar with their caregiver after they have been altered. Some TNR experts believe this is because, after altering, the cats tend to hang around their food source more and will actually get to know their caregiver a little better.

Q. Doesn't the ear-tipping hurt?

A. The cats are under anesthesia when the tip of the ear is removed. Most caregivers quickly become used to the "ear tipped" look and it doesn't seem to cause the cat pain. The ear tipping is very important as a way to quickly identify an altered cat. Tipped ears have saved many cats from undergoing an unnecessary second spay/neuter surgery! Even if the caregiver is very familiar with all the cats in a colony, you never know when a new cat might arrive onto the scene. Cats can live over 15 years, and if someone new takes over the care of the colony, it is an easy way for a new caregiver to identify altered vs. unaltered cats. In addition, many local ordinances are giving a certain amount of protection to feral cats. All such ordinances require the ear tipping as a way to identify, and potentially protect, a community cat.

Q. My neighbors complain about the community cats I feed. What should I do?
A. Most importantly, stay calm. If a disgruntled neighbor reports to the local animal control that the feral cats you feed are causing a nuisance, many animal control jurisdictions have it written in their animal control ordinances that they must respond to such a complaint. So, for the well being of the cats, it is critical that you try to work on solving the complainant's issues without hostility. Simply spaying and neutering the animals can remedy many nuisance issues: no more late night howling, smelly urine, or kittens everywhere. Other issues related to community cats include: cats eliminating on neighbors property, food left out is attracting wildlife, and cats climbing on cars.

Q. I heard it was illegal to feed community cats. Is this true?
A. Different jurisdictions in Utah have varying ordinances regarding cats. Some ordinances allow for TNR. Others do not recognize community cats at all since they do not fit into any traditional category. Some ordinances state persons can "own" only a certain amount of cats per household. They may assume, or it may be written, that by feeding a cat, you are claiming "ownership". Some progressive ordinances allow residents to obtain a community cat registration or permit. Many progressive municipalities across the country are now writing ordinances that humanely deal with community cats, defining them as "un-owned, free-roaming cats." Community cats are unique in that they are not quite wildlife and they are not owned pets and many municipalities are now recognizing that they need to be dealt with in a unique but humane manner. Call your local shelter or city offices to find out what ordinances apply in your area.

Q. I need to relocate some community cats. How should I do it?
A. Relocation should be viewed as a last resort in dealing with community cats unless you have a suitable relocation site and the time to properly handle a relocation effort. Many times, people can actually resolve the issues around the cats without having to relocate them. Really examine the reason for considering relocation and see if there may be alternative solutions. For example, it might be a lot easier to put up cat fencing or build a cat enclosure to ensure the cats cannot roam the neighborhood. If you must relocate cats, finding a suitable site can be a great challenge but not an impossible one! Many people assume ferals need to be relocated "on a farm", but for small colonies, someone's back yard can easily be a safe haven for a few community cats.