Trap-Neuter-Return FAQ’s

What is the definition of “free roaming cat”?

The term is a gray area.  First, a feral cat and a free roaming cat are not necessarily the same thing.  A feral cat avoids people, lives in a colony, and is for all intents and purposes, a wild animal.  All feral cats are free roaming. All free roaming cats are not feral.  Free roaming cats also include abandoned animals who have become scavengers and “moochers”, the unwanted litters that are unclaimed but fed by one or more residents, and pets which are outside roaming around.

Technically, a free roaming cat is one with no home and no owner. However, this is difficult to establish unless the cat is wearing identification. Regardless, any un-neutered cat running around freely can and does contribute to the population of an adjacent colony and is therefore part of the TNR program’s target.

Where are colonies of free roaming cats typically found?

Anywhere there is food. In our targeted areas, the areas around barns are the most likely places.  People often dump unwanted cats or litters in farming areas.  Industrialized areas near the water are also likely.  Colonies can form anywhere.  For example, there is a large one within the town of Bath, fed by multiple residents.

How are colonies found and identified?

People report them, often when they bring kittens into the shelter.  Part of the program is to post flyers, encouraging people to call.  People who travel around in various communities like social workers, home care nurses, and Meals On Wheels volunteers are often the first people to notice a colony.

What problems are associated with cat colonies?

Residents usually call in because they are bothered by odors, the sound of cats mating and fighting, problems with trash cans and other kinds of destruction.

From the TNR program’s standpoint, the main problem is the overpopulation of cats.  When these cats end up in shelters, they take space from owner relinquished cats that are more easily adoptable.

How do cat colonies begin?

It starts with dumping.  People somehow feel this is preferable to taking the cat to a shelter.  The kittens quickly multiply and very soon there are generations of feral animals living in the area.

What is involved when an organization “manages” a colony?

The colony is fed regularly and in a specific area.  This allows the person assigned to the task to monitor the health of the animals and to note additions to the colony. This person reports new arrivals and kittens.  When new animals reach a certain percentage of the group, trapping is indicated again.

What are the benefits of managing a colony: for the cats, the community, the environment?

The cat receives medical care under the anesthesia used for the neutering operation. After they are returned to the colony, they receive food, water and monitoring.  Because of predators, their lives are generally short, but under managed care, they are more comfortable.

The community gets a greatly reduced feral cat population and a subsequent reduction of the behaviors that they don’t like.  In addition, each trapped cat is given a rabies vaccination, which helps in the spread of that disease.

The environment and wildlife are less impacted with fewer cats foraging to survive.  The colony cats will still hunt in the area, but because they are fed and their population is drastically decreased fewer birds and small mammals are affected.  A sterile feral is better than not.

How are the cats trapped?

The TNR Coordinator determines where the traps go, and then tells volunteers where to set them up.   Only Have-a-Heart traps are used.  Cats are outdoors in the trap for a maximum of 24 hours, but usually less than 12.

Once a cat is trapped, what happens to it?

Traps are set on Friday or Saturday.  Within 24 hours, the cat in the trap is brought to the Pope Memorial Humane Society.  There, it is released into a medium sized carrier and given food and water. On Sunday they will be transported to the Freeport Spay and Neuter Clinic in Freeport.  They receive the spay or neuter procedure, other medical attention they may need, a rabies vaccine and an ear tip.  They are then transported on Monday and are released back into their colony, unless the colony is in an unsafe location.

What happens if someone’s pet is trapped?

If the cat is wearing an ID, the owner will be contacted.  Otherwise, it goes to the shelter.  If shelter workers observe that the cat is friendly and adoptable, it may be kept at the shelter after its trip to Freeport. At the clinic, veterinarians have several methods of determining whether the animal is neutered or not (tattoos, surgical scars and superficial anatomy.)  The cat generally needs to be anesthetized in order to be examined though.  If the cat is not neutered or if the exam is inconclusive, they will proceed with the operation.

How are residents living near the colony notified that trapping is taking place?

Posters, notices and door hangers explain what is happening and when, and urging people to keep their pets indoors. People who are feeding free roaming cats are told to stop so that they will be hungry enough to investigate the bait.

What information do residents need and what precautions should they take?

Cats that go outside should be wearing a collar and ID at all times. During trapping all pets should be indoors or confined.  No one should touch or approach a trap except for volunteers and staff.  They need to know that they can call the shelter if they have questions or concerns.

What volunteers are needed now and/or in the future?

  • Especially helpful would be people who are currently feeding colonies who are willing to help with trapping them
  • People willing to manage the colonies: feeding, trapping and monitoring
  • Transport from Rockland to Freeport, Freeport to Rockland


Jess Williams, TNR Coordinator 207-608-2793 or