In July 2015, we recognized an issue in the Metro East that needed to be addressed. After years of hard work providing free spay/neuter resources for pet dogs and cats, we started seeing a large increase in the homeless cat population in the area. Community cat caretakers care for colonies of cats. While the cats aren’t owned, they are certainly loved and cared for. But if left alone, these colonies continue to reproduce, taxing the caretakers and leading to more homeless pets. As a result, we started our Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) Program to help community cat caretakers control the size of the colonies they care for.

TNR specifically targets stray and feral cats—cats that otherwise could not be adopted out into a family home. In TNR, cats are humanely trapped and taken to a clinic to be spayed/neutered and vaccinated. After recovery, the cats are returned to their home—their colony—outdoors. TNR improves the lives of community cats, improves their relationships with the people who live near them, and decreases the size of colonies over time.

We have been hard at work for almost three years, fixing cats and helping residents in the Metro East care for the colonies. Recently, we started a project where we reconnected with every caretaker we’ve worked with over the past three years. 84 colonies total, each with a caretaker doing the best that they can to help care for their colonies, ranging from 2 to over 30 cats in any single colony. As we’ve reconnected, we’ve learned exactly how impactful this program truly is—the numbers say it all!

Since 2015, we have helped fix cats at 78 of 84 different colonies—a total of 477 community cats (417 from 2015-2017, 60 in 2018). Of the colonies we fixed prior to 2018 with which we have connected, we’ve seen a 34% decrease in the size of those colonies. Only 6 of these colonies (9%) have increased in size, and only minimally—just one to two cats each.

One successful case is that of Fred and his seven community cats. In 2016, we helped Fred fix his entire colony. In just two years, his colony has reduced to three cats. No additional cats have been added, and the ones that are no longer there either passed away or moved elsewhere. Thanks to TNR, his colony is manageable and he is able to continue to love and care for them. TNR is a humane approach to addressing the homeless cat population; and not only does it help the community cats, but it helps those that care for them, like Fred.

Learn more about our work in the Metro East by visiting Gateway Pet Guardians’ Community Programs.