Trap - Neuter - Return (TNR)


It’s Takes A Community To Help Free Roaming / Feral Cats:

You’ve seen the free-roaming & feral cats wandering the streets of Ottawa, KS and they are growing in large numbers each year. Let’s do something about it humanely! Trap-neuter-return (TNR) is a non-lethal humane program where free-roaming cats (not belonging to particular humans) are humanely trapped; ear-tipped, sterilized and vaccinated; and returned to the outdoor locations where they were found. Prairie Paws Animal Shelter is up for the challenge, are you? Let’s do this!

Did you miss the Ottawa, KS Town Hall Meeting on January 12, 2016, about TNR? No worries. To Watch the Meeting Go to:

Educate Yourself: Here’s A Must Read Article From The Humane Society of the United States Animal Sheltering Magazine: Trap-neuter-return, smart caretaking practices, and proactive neighborhood diplomacy are key to helping community cats coexist peacefully with the people around them. Michelle Riley/The HSUS:

Here’s A Few Common Questions:

What is TNR? Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is a humane program designed to protect and improve the lives of free-roaming /feral (not belonging to particular humans) cats. Communities all over the country have adopted TNR as a humane way to stabilize free-roaming /feral cat populations. Cats are humanely trapped; sterilized and vaccinated; and returned to the outdoor locations where they were found.

TNR immediately stabilizes the size of a cat colony.  Sterilizing 100 percent of the colony will result in a gradual decline of the population over time. In addition, the nuisance behavior often associated with feral cats is dramatically reduced. This includes the yowling and noise that comes with fighting and mating activity and the odor of unneutered males’ spraying to mark their territory. The cats tend to roam less and so become less of a visible presence, yet continue to provide natural rodent control, a valuable benefit in urban areas. Because there are hundreds of thousands of free-roaming cats, and because the vast majority cannot be homed, TNR is the best solution.

Read more go to:

What is a free-roaming / feral cat?

  • Cats born and raised in the wild.
  • Cats who have been abandoned or lost and turned to wild ways in order to survive.

While some free-roaming /feral cats tolerate a bit of human contact, most are too fearful and wild to be handled. Community cats often live in groups, called colonies, and take refuge wherever they can find food. They will also try to seek out abandoned buildings or deserted cars—or even dig holes in the ground—to keep warm in winter months and cool during the summer heat.

Read more go to

Why return them, why not just relocate them?

While it sometimes seems like an attractive option; it puts the vacuum effect into motion. And, it endangers cats’ lives and causes them undue stress and suffering. Instead of trying to uproot cats from their home, the education and community relations aspect of TNR addresses concerns within the community to reach a harmonious solution.

What’s the vacuum effect?

Well-documented among biologists, the vacuum effect describes what happens when even a portion of an animal population is permanently removed from its home range. Sooner or later, the empty habitat attracts other members of the species from neighboring areas, who move in to take advantage of the same resources that attracted the first group (like shelter and food). Killing or removing the original population does nothing to eliminate these resources; it only creates a “vacuum” that will inevitably draw in other animals living nearby.

To read more go to:

Why can’t the shelter just keep them or euthanize them? 

There are over 2000 free-roaming cats in the Ottawa city limits. While some community/free-roaming cats tolerate a bit of human contact, most are too fearful and wild to be handled are feral. These cats are not adoptable. However they still should be treated humanely. Euthanizing an animal is costly and goes against our no-kill mission.

What about the free-roaming /feral cats and the songbirds population?

It is an undeniable fact that cats are carnivores; their physiology demands this. However, the debate on cat predation focuses on the impact on the other species in their ecosystem. While it is clear that cats can and do have a large impact in exceptional situations (isolated ecosystems being the primary example), it is much more apparent that in our normal, everyday environments the actions of humans have a much greater effect on vulnerable and threatened species.

Although no studies support the misleading claims that cats are destroying songbird populations,
there’s no disputing that cats do in fact kill birds. The point that must be highlighted, however, is
that fewer cats mean less bird predation. That being the case, TNR should not be condemned
because of potential wildlife predation, but rather embraced so that free-roaming populations can
be curtailed as efficiently as possible to minimize potential predatory behavior.

To read more go to:

What’s the difference between a feral cat and a free-roaming cat?

A free-roaming cat is a cat that was formerly owned but has been abandoned or lost.  A feral cat, however, is the wild-born offspring of free-roaming or other feral cats.  Feral cats are not socialized and are not suitable pets, as they are often too fearful of people to ever be touched or domesticated.

Where’s the proof TNR works? Scientific studies show that Trap-Neuter-Return, also known as TNR, is the humane and effective approach for managing feral cats. Trap-Neuter-Return improves the lives of feral cats, improves their relationships with the people who live near them, and decreases the size of colonies over time. These studies have been conducted in multiple countries, and have been published in a variety of peer-reviewed scientific journals. To read more go to:

Who’s paying for this? K-State’s College of Veterinary Medicine Shelter Medicine Program has donated their services, which includes sterilizations and vaccinations to the TNR program. This is a HUGE blessing and this program could never been put in place if not for K-State’s College of Veterinary Medicine Shelter Medicine Program. Because we are a nonprofit organization we are working on getting grants to off the costs of traps, gas for the van, supplies, and employee time. Any donations to the program would be greatly appreciated.

Does TNR encourage the abandonment of cats?

Cats will be abandoned with or without TNR which is why TNR is necessary today. These periodic abandonments, however, will not derail the overall success of a TNR program because cat colonies can absorb the occasional newcomer yet still show a significant population reduction when the majority of the animals are sterilized.

It’s also important to stress that maintaining a local TNR colony is likely not the determining factor behind whether someone abandons a pet or not. Surely there are a variety of other issues that factor into this irresponsible behavior. However, efforts should be made to place feeding stations in out-of-the-way locations to minimize the likelihood of desperate people illegally abandoning their pet cats. Other strategies should also be employed to further reduce
potential abandonment, such as posting signs about abandonment ordinances at a high-profile cat

To Read More Go To

Why are feeding bans ineffective?

Feeding bans are impossible to enforce.

How many litters do free-roaming / feral cats have each year? For free-roaming /feral cats, the average number of kittens per litter is probably around three, but it can commonly be up to six or more and they can have up to 5 litters per year! Puberty (the age at which animals can reproduce) in the cat ranges from 4 to 12 months, with the average being 5 to 9 months. Female cats are unusual in that their heats are influenced by seasonal changes in the amount of daylight. Cats usually ‘cycle’ and breed between January and September. A female cat is also unusual in that she basically will keep coming back into heat every 14-21 days or so until she is pregnant or the number of daylight decreases (October). Generally, a cat has 4 to 6 kittens in each litter.  To read more go to

Do I have to worry about getting rabies from a free-roaming cat? K-State will be vaccinating the free-roaming / feral cats for the TNR Program.

I don’t want them near my home. What can I do?  To learn how to deter cats from entering your yard or garden go to 

A great humane way is to purchase a motion-activated sprinkler like the Hoont™  It can be found at



Why ear tip them, is that humane? Ear tipping identifies free-roaming /feral cats that have been sterilized. Ear tipping is completely safe and it is performed under general anesthetic. TNR-infoEar tipping provides immediate visual identification and helps colony caretakers track which cats have been trapped and altered, and identify newcomers who have not. Ear tipping avoids re-trapping and having the cat possibly have a second surgery to see if it has been sterilized already. Once a cat is trapped, one should look for an ear tip. If the cat has an ear tip it should be released immediately.

What about my house cat that likes to occasionally go outside. Will they get trapped? Possibly, if your cat leaves your property. If your cat is sterilized it most likely will not be leaving your property however you should have some type of identifier on your cat such as a breakaway collar.  Microchips are also an option. Currently, microchips are $15.00 plus tax at Prairie Paws. TNR trapping usually takes place over a few hours and in a small area.

Do you adopt out any of the cats trapped for the TNR program?

Yes, if the cat or kitten is determined to be an excellent candidate for adoption we will on occasion based on the availability of space at our facility place that feline on our adoption floor. We reserve the right to make this determination and all parties participating in the TNR program will be asked to sign a contract detailing the terms of the program and the service it provides.

TNR Agreement can be found here. 


There are a bunch of free-roaming cats by my house, what should I do?  Call  Debbie Nelson during shelter business hours at 785-242-2967 ex 1109 or email her at 

Debbie can talk to you about regulating a feeding schedule for our TNR  Program members so they can be successful at implementing TNR or give you some pointers if you don’t want them on your property.

Can I trap the cats myself and bring them to you? Yes, but the sterilization process is on a schedule, we can not house feral cats for long periods of time awaiting their sterilization. Please call TNR Team Leader Debbie Nelson at 785-242-2967  ex 1109 to find out more information on scheduling and trapping.

How can I help? There are so many ways you can help: Volunteer your time and help us trap. Help us get in touch with the feeders. Donate to the TNR Program. Let us know where the cat colonies are. Become a feeder (we can provide food for those in the TNR program). Sterilize and put identification on your owned cats if they free roam.  Spay Neuter KC offers really great prices on sterilizations. We sell breakaway collars for cats at Prairie Paws and microchips are just $15.00 plus tax. We need your help to make this program a success. Nobody’s cats are everybody’s cats.

Want more information about the trapping in Ottawa, KS or are you not located in the city limits of Ottawa, KS but are located in a neighboring community and want help with TNR? Email your questions to Debbie @ or call Debbie Nelson during shelter business hours at 785-242-2967.

Want to read more about TNR? Alley Cat Allies is the only national advocacy organization dedicated to the protection and humane treatment of cats. An engine for social change, Alley Cat Allies was the first organization to introduce and advocate for humane methods of feral cat care, particularly Trap-Neuter-Return, in the American animal protection community. In 20 short years, they have changed America to better understand and respect the lives of cats. Go to:

Providing shelter is a great way to keep cats safe from the elements and can help you monitor their ongoing well-being.