Q&A Trap Neuter Return (TNR)

  • What is a feral cat?
    A feral cat is born and raised in the wild with very little if no human interaction.

  • Can you tame a feral cat?
    The key socialising period for taming a feral cat is between 6-9 weeks of age. This is the age their future behaviours are formed. If the key socialising period is missed, it is the more welfare friendly option to neuter and return feral kittens to their original outdoor home.

  • Where do they live?
    Feral cats often live in rural settings in Cumbria such as on farms, with farming families being their regular carers. They have been known to live in areas of Carlisle - we often call these “community cats”

  • I feed a feral cat and it seems pleased to see me, is it tame?
    If you feed a feral cat on a regular basis, it may appear friendly but they much prefer to retain their independence as an outdoor cat. They will hunt and scavenge for themselves but will also come to you for food. Studies have shown it is much more welfare friendly to neuter a feral cat, and allow them to live out their days as an outdoor cat.
  • Can I catch them and release them somewhere else?
    Feral cats will live and breed in an area if there is a “food source” present. Removing feral cats from this area is known as the “vacuum effect”. By removing them, it allows room for an influx of new cats to move into the area who may be harbouring diseases not currently present in the existing feral cats. The most successful approach is to neuter, ear tip and vaccinate the existing cats. This will stabilise the numbers in your area and prevent the spread of disease through mating and fighting to pet cats. 
  • Will I catch a disease from a feral cat?
    Feral cats are completely harmless to humans and all research has shown they are no more likely to carry diseases infectious to other cats or to humans, than pets. They are much more likely to run away from you.
  • Will feral cats mess in my garden?
    Because feral cats are wild and are more fearful of predators, they are more likely to hide their faeces. Therefore mess is more likely to be from a neighbouring pet cat.
  • What is “Trap, Neuter and Return?”
    Trap, Neuter and Return (TNR) is a neutering program specifically designed for feral cats. It is carried out by our Oak Tree team who are fully trained in the process, ensuring that the cats welfare is never compromised. The trapping can take between 2-5 days and our team often traps feral cats throughout the night. The following morning the cats are taken to our partnered vets where they will be neutered, ear tipped and vaccinated. They will recover with us over night and are released back to the area they were trapped the following day. 
  • What is an ear tip?
    An ear tip is when the end section of ear is removed by a veterinary surgeon whilst the cat is under general anaesthetic. We use this process instead of microchipping feral cats. By ear tipping the left ear, we can distinguish which cats have been neutered in the future from a distance, rather than causing a cat stress by unnecessary trapping.
  • What can I do about the feral cat population in my area?
    Creating a list of the cats in your area is a start, if you are the carer of your neighbouring feral cats, contact our community team here We can discuss our Trap, Neuter and Return program with you. This will ensure that the feral cats in your area live happy and healthier lives.


Q&A Trap Neuter Return (TNR)

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