Written by Karma Cat + Zen Dog Foster, Socializer, and Blog Writer, Jacqueline R.

I recently had a conversation with our Executive Director, Krystal, and one of our volunteer TNR team members, Allison. What wonderful food for thought.

TNR stands for Trap-Neuter-Return. It’s when we humanely trap cats living outdoors, arranged for them to be neutered, vaccinated, and then return them back to where we trapped them. Once a cat is trapped, neutered and given a three year rabies vaccination, kitty is returned safely to the place it was trapped; the place they know and call home.

Why don’t we keep them and adopt them out? KCZD is dedicated to saving the lives of as many animals as possible and keeping them out of shelters. Here’s some of the reasons we don’t take in and try to socialize feral cats:

  • Socializing a feral kitty is no small feat, and while there are obvious benefits to a cat no longer living outside, there are often limitations on just how friendly a somewhat shy/scared/feral stray can come towards domestication. While we fully commend the efforts of our “lion tamers” – it’s important to realize there are some drawbacks to taking these cats inside
  • It takes the space in our rescue from a friendly, adoptable cat who is currently sitting in a shelter who has no experience surviving outside (so rescue, adoption, or euthanasia become his only options). The feral cat is acclimated to life outside and has that fourth option a domesticated shelter cat doesn’t have.
  • Many scared/shy/feral strays are happier outside! Yes, there is more danger to them, but they are often kept by a homeowner or colony keeper who is happy to care for them regularly and keeps an eye out for their health. Is it ideal from our perspective that they be outside? Probably not. But from the cat’s perspective, it may be the difference between a somewhat shorter life due to potential danger, or living terrified and cowering in someone’s basement, a cage, or euthanasia in a shelter.

For me, it was eye-opening to ponder that question: from the cat’s perspective, how would they live their happiest and best life? For some, who would never truly adjust to living indoors with humans, returning to their community home is their best and happiest place.

The “Freedom Run” is when we take the cat we have trapped, neutered and vaccinated, and return them to their happy place. We open the door of the trap and let them run free once again.

It is amazingly beautiful to see a cat return to their colony, and their home. We have ensured that they won’t continue to reproduce and add to the population of community cats, we have vaccinated against rabies and other common cat diseases, and we have assessed that they would be happiest if we simply returned them to their homes.

Remember that feeling, when you’ve been travelling, and return home to slide under familiar covers and fall asleep in your own bed? Or when you walk back into the home you grew up in, and smell all those familiar smells, and see all those familiar things? I imagine it’s that same mysterious and beautiful moment for the cats as well.

We know we have done the best we could for this one cat, and the best we could to help with controlling the population of community cats.

I’m reminded of an old story:

A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.

She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, ‘Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!’

The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied,

Well, I made a difference for that one!

Yes. We made a difference for that one.


Are you interested in helping us TNR more cats to give them a chance to live disease and offspring-free? Your donations to our TNR program can make the difference for one, or many, cats in our neighborhood!

Karma Cat + Zen Dog Rescue Society is a registered 501(c)(3 )non-profit; donations may be tax-deductible in accordance with your local tax law. The mission of the Karma Cat + Zen Dog Rescue Society is to provide a safe and peaceful haven for homeless, abandoned or abused animals. We will help decrease the number of cats and dogs being destroyed in kill shelters through the work of our adoption, trap-neuter-return, and education programs.

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