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La Plata County Humane Society provides TNR services to community

Feral cat populations can be reduced by working with organizations like La Plata County Humane Society to implement a Trap, Neuter, Release program in areas where they proliferate. The vet “tips” the left ear of neutered cats to avoid retrapping. (Courtesy)

Trap-neuter-return, or TNR, consists of the capture, sterilization and release of feral cats.

La Plata County Humane Society’s TNR program is free to all residents of La Plata County. Feral cats can be brought to the shelter in a live trap between 8 and 9 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Each person can bring a maximum of three cats per day. The cats will be spayed or neutered, administered a rabies vaccination and have their left ear tipped. Eartipping is when a small segment of the tip of the ear is cut in order to identify sterilized cats. This practice prevents readmission of cats that have already been spayed or neutered. The cats will be picked up the same afternoon to be taken home and released where they were trapped. A $5 donation for the service is much appreciated.

The TNR program is for feral cats, not domesticated cats. A feral cat is one that was born in the wild or raised without a human caretaker. Feral cats roam free and avoid human contact. Domesticated cats are commonly kept as house pets but can also be farm cats. LPCHS provides weekly spay/neuter clinics for domesticated cats. See our website for more information: lpchumanesociety.org.

TNR programs were initially brought to the United States in the early 1990s as an alternative to simply catching and killing outdoor cats in order to control their population. This approach continues to fail because of a phenomenon known as the “Vacuum Effect.” The Vacuum Effect occurs when a population of animals is permanently removed from its home range. The result is a temporary dip in population levels. The initial population lived in that location because there were resources such as food, shelter and water. Once emptied, this resource-rich habitat vacuum will inevitably attract other members of the same species. They will move in to use the same resources that sustained the first group. The members of the new group will reproduce. They may even reproduce at a higher rate in order to fill the habitat.

The solution to the Vacuum Effect has become known as TNR. Shelters and Animal Control agencies across the country have adopted this program as an alternative to catch-and-kill policies. With TNR, cats are spayed or neutered, vaccinated, eartipped and returned to live out their lives in their outdoor home.

Live traps are available for rent from the Humane Society as well. The rental fee is $5 per night and you can rent the traps for up to one week at a time.

In 2022, the Humane Society received more than 1,000 unwanted or homeless cats. Many of these were litters of kittens. Our hope is to reduce the number of unwanted litters in the upcoming year. This can only be done with your help. TNR improves the lives of cats, addresses community concerns and stops the breeding cycle. If there are feral cats in your area, please consider having them spayed or neutered.