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Feral Cats and TNR

Frequently Asked Questions about Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)

Rescue Angels of Southern Maryland believes that Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is the best and most humane method for handling feral/wild cats in Southern Maryland. Here are some frequently asked questions about TNR.

What is TNR?


“TNR” means Trap-Neuter-Return. It is a method of caring for feral cats (also called community cats). The cat is humanely trapped, spayed or neutered at a vet clinic, vaccinated and provided additional vet care, and then returned to its outdoor home to live out its life. A human caretaker provides food, water, shelter, and medical care as part of the deal.


Why do you TNR?


Based upon experience, we believe TNR is the most humane way to deal with the large population of feral cats here in Southern Maryland and around the country. Feral cat communities begin and grow because unaltered cats have been allowed to roam, either because owners allow their cats outside or because they have abandoned their cats. Spaying or neutering the cats allows them to live out their lives without producing more kittens. When all of the cats in a colony have been spayed or neutered, the size of the colony will decrease as they cannot reproduce. TNR also helps decrease the spread of disease as well to have neutered, vaccinated, well managed colonies.


Relocation of feral cats is considered inhumane and does not work. It is incredibly difficult to relocate a colony of cats. Getting cats properly acclimated to the new location, a process that can take months, takes dedicated caretakers to feed them daily in enclosed barns or cages for 30-60 days to get them used to the location. Not following this acclimation process often means relocated cats run off and starve to death, being put in an unfamiliar place that they can not locate food or shelter. Removing the cats from the original location will soon be filled by other cats. This is called the vacuum effect. The location was a hospitable place for the original colony of cats to live because there was ample food and shelter. Over time, a new group of cats will move in to that location for the same reason.


We are completely against taking feral cats to shelters. This nearly always ends in the death of the cat. Shelters are overcrowded, and they are not equipped to care for feral cats. They are considered unadoptable and are euthanized. They are among some of the first cats to be killed when space is an issue. We will never advocate bringing feral cats to any shelter to be euthanized.


Why can’t feral cats be adopted?


Some feral cats – especially young kittens (under 8 weeks of age) – can be trapped, socialized, and adopted out as pets. We have had success adopting out kittens from the colonies we are working to TNR. Some adult cats are also friendly and can be socialized to live inside with humans. It is rewarding to be able to find a feral cat a forever indoor home.  The struggle is always to find available foster home space, so we can't always take in kittens/cats from outdoor locations/colonies.


Most feral cats, though, could never live inside. They are suspicious of humans and don't want to live indoors. The outdoors is their home, and they are far happier living outside than they ever would be living indoors.


What is an ear tip?


While the cat is sedated for surgery, the pointy top of the cat’s left ear will be removed. This is called an ear tip, and it doesn’t hurt the cat. The ear tip signals to everyone – community members, animal control, and shelter staff – that the cat has been altered and is part of a managed colony. Ear-tipped cats should never be turned into the shelter. Someone has taken the time and money to have the cat spayed or neutered, and they are caring for that cat. If you see an ear-tipped cat, leave it be. Someone cares about that cat.


How can I help?


If you are currently caring for outdoor cats, thank you. The next step is to contact us so we can help set up a plan to TNR. We have traps that we loan out also, and we can teach you how to use the trap, and help you get vet appointments. You can join our team to help others after we help you. We need help to raise funds for vet care, and if you can help pay for your colony cats, that is needed most. Volunteers to help feed feral colonies is always needed also.  If you're handy, helping to build outdoor cat shelters is also a helpful service.

We always need volunteers to help community members with their feral cat colonies. The more volunteers we have, the more cats we can help!

We are accepting TNR requests from Charles County and parts of PG County (Ft Wash and Brandywine) ONLY at this time.

We need more volunteers to help. If you can help with any part of the process (trap, transport to vet, care after surgery, donate money for vet care), please contact us at or complete the volunteer form.


Watch these videos to learn how to build a simple shelter for feral cats. Link 1 Link 2

Feral cat recovering in the trap after surgery.


An ear-tipped cat.

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