Feral Cat TNR Program

Please call our office at 217-789-7729 for a list of dates that feral cats can come in for surgery.

There are an estimated 70 million feral cats in the Unites States. Stray and feral or “community” cats are responsible for the vast majority of unwanted kittens, and left unchecked, community cat populations can grow rapidly. The most humane and effective method of managing feral cat populations is Trap-Neuter-Return, or TNR. APL’s Feral Cat Program offers affordable TNR services to caretakers of the community cat population in central Illinois. 

What is a feral cat? What is a stray or “community” cat?

A feral cat is an un-owned, unsocialized cat living outdoors, either alone or in a colony. Feral cats can live long, healthy lives, content in their outdoor home if properly cared for.


Stray or community cats are socialized to people, but are living outdoors and may have one or several caretakers. For our purposes, all outside cats are considered feral cats.


Feral cats will typically establish themselves in an area where shelter and food is readily available either by scavenging (accessible garbage bins or dumpsters) or provided by humans. Their offspring also revert to a wild nature and stay in the same colony continuing to reproduce. With rampant breeding and the onset of problem mating behaviors (fighting, yowling, etc.) unmanaged feral cat colonies can quickly become a public nuisance and make up a large portion of the cats euthanized at animal control facilities. 


Studies have shown that catching and killing the cats does little or nothing to reduce feral cat numbers long-term. Trap-Neuter-Return, commonly referred to as TNR, is the only proven method of humanely and effectively controlling a feral cat population. TNR has been endorsed by national animal welfare groups, as well as many animal control departments as the best option for feral cats and the communities they inhabit.

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What is TNR and how does it work?

TNR is the process of trapping feral cats, sterilizing them, vaccinating them, and returning them to their outdoor home. TNR stabilizes the colony size by eliminating new litters, and it reduces the nuisance behavior associated with unsterilized cats. Through vaccination, TNR helps ensure the health of feral cat populations. TNR’s most measurable effect is that fewer cats/kittens flow through animal shelters, resulting in lower euthanasia rates and increased adoptions of shelter cats. 


Here’s how TNR works:

  • A feral cat colony is identified.

  • The cats are trapped humanely.

  • The cats are transported to a clinic for their spay/neuter surgery and vaccinations.

  • The cats have their left ear “tipped”. (An ear tip is the surgical removal of approximately one centimeter of the left ear, which identifies it as an altered cat). 

  • The cats are returned to their colony within 24 hours.

  • Caretakers feed and care for the cat colony on a daily basis.


TNR has many advantages:

  • Immediately stabilizes the size of colony by eliminating new litters.

  • Dramatically reduces nuisance behavior often associated with feral cats, such as yowling, fighting and odor, making cats better neighbors

  • Fewer cats/kittens flow into shelters, which results in lower euthanasia rates.

  • Cats are vaccinated for rabies and distemper, protecting the cats and the public from disease. 

  • Cats physical health is improved and cats live long, healthy lives. 

  • It works! Other methods of feral cat management, like catch-and-kill and relocation, do not result in long-term reduction in cat populations. TNR does.

What can you do to help?

If you are feeding, caring for, or seeing stray and feral cats in your neighborhood, you can participate in TNR. Feral cats can be trapped, either individually or in groups, and brought to the APL Spay/Neuter Clinic, where they will be spayed or neutered, vaccinated, tattooed, and ear tipped for $25. (If you cannot afford $25, don’t worry, we still want to sterilize your feral cat! Call us at 217-789-7729 to discuss options.) Cats will stay overnight to rest and recover, and then are released back to their caretakers to be released in their home location. 


Feral Cat Protocols/Policies:

  • Please call our office at 217-789-7729 for a list of dates and times that feral cats can come in for surgery. Walk-in dates and times are limited to select weekdays. 

  • Our feral cat package is for outdoor cats only. If you have adopted a formerly feral cat as a pet, visit our spay/neuter clinic page for information on pet appointments. 

  • Feral cats should come to the clinic in a secure, live-release trap or cat carrier. This is for the well-being of the cats and the safety of our staff. For information on borrowing traps or learning how to trap properly call 217/789-7729.

  • Please cover the cat’s trap or carrier with a towel or blanket. This will help minimize stress for the cat. Line the bottom of carriers with absorbent newspaper or a towel.

  • All feral cats will receive spay or neuter, rabies and distemper vaccinations, ear mite treatment, and an ear tip. Cats in Sangamon County will receive a microchip. Individuals declining the ear tip will be charged our normal rate for surgery and vaccinations. 

  • We will treat, to the best of our abilities, injuries and illnesses to feral cats. Feral cats exhibiting signs of severe illness may be declined. Please call the clinic for more information if you see an injured stray cat.

  • Cats may have food and water until the morning of surgery.