A healthy colony in Washington Heights.

A healthy colony in Washington Heights.

What's TNR (trap-neuter-return)?

TNR is a way to reduce unwanted feral cat populations by sterilizing cats so they cannot reproduce. TNR, when accompanied by ongoing management of feral cat colonies, is a proven, effective, and humane method of controlling local cat populations.

Feral cats are trapped and taken to participating veterinary clinics where they are sterilized, vaccinated, and "ear tipped" so they can be identified as part of a managed colony. Healthy adult feral cats are returned to their colonies, and domesticated cats and kittens are socialized where needed and adopted out. 

Sterilization helps make cats better community citizens by reducing or eliminating the yowling, fighting, and wandering associated with mating. TNR also makes colonies themselves more stable, and decreases the number of new cats that will move into a neighborhood. Over time, managed colonies gradually diminish in size.

TNR saves money. It costs cities up to $250 to pick up, house and euthanize one homeless cat. For the same price, the city can spay/neuter five cats.

With the help of the Mayor’s Alliance for Animals and the member organizations of the NYC Feral Cat Council (including the ASPCA and Humane Society of NY), TNR is now practiced in neighborhoods all over New York City. Hundreds of volunteers working in neighborhoods all over New York have made NYC a model for TNR efforts nationwide.

What is the difference between a stray cat and a feral cat?


A stray cat is a domestic cat that has been abandoned or has strayed from home and become lost. A stray cat may be skittish in your presence, but because stray cats once knew human companionship, they can usually be re-socialized and re-homed.

A feral cat is born and raised outside with little or no human contact or is a stray that has lived outside long enough to revert to a wild state. Adult feral cats usually cannot be tamed and are most content living outside. Feral kittens up to eight or ten weeks of age, on the other hand, can often be tamed and placed in homes.

Is WaHi Cats an animal shelter? Will you take in a stray cat that I found or a pet I can’t keep anymore?

No, we are not a shelter, and we cannot take in stray or unwanted cats. If you have found a friendly stray, please see our detailed help page. If you need help surrendering your own pet, dealing with a friendly stray cat in your neighborhood, or helping an adoptable injured cat, please contact the nearest NYC rescue/shelter organization.

I found a stray cat. She seems friendly. What should I do?

Please refer to our detailed help sheet.

What is ear tipping? Why is it done?

Ear tipping is a simple procedure that is done by a veterinarian when the cat is spayed or neutered. It involves removing a small piece of skin from the cat’s left ear. The procedure is done while the cat is under anesthesia, and the process is completely painless.

Ear tipping is the best way to let colony caretakers, veterinarians, and animal control officials know that the cat has already been sterilized and vaccinated. It’s easily seen, even from a distance, and prevents the cat from being trapped again. An ear tip is the universal sign of a successfully TNR’d cat. Likewise, ear tipping helps colony caretakers and animal control identify new cats and cats that haven’t been TNR’d, since their ears are not tipped.

What does a managed, sterile colony look like?

It's a clean site with healthy cats, winter shelters and a feeding station. Volunteers check managed colonies daily to provide food, monitor cats' health and keep the area tidy. Winter shelters provide a warm place for cats to go when the temperature drops below freezing.

Where can I get more information about TNR and feral cats?

Check our list of TNR resources