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What is a feral cat?

Feral cats are cats who are undersocialized and unsuitable for adoption.  If you wouldn’t (or can’t!) pick up the cat, it is probably a feral cat.

What is the best solution for feral cats in my neighborhood?

TNR is the best solution for all feral cats. TNR stands for trap neuter return. It is the only effective, humane solution for community cats. Community cats is another way to refer to feral cats. With TNR, behaviors like yowling, spraying, and fighting are decreased or in some cases eradicated. Sterilized cats can live peaceful, quiet lives in coexistence with human neighbors.

Why TNR?

TNR reduces kitten intake at shelters. This helps conserve resources at shelters, increases adoption rates, and saves lives.

TNR includes vaccination making colonies are safer, healthier, and better for the community (humans included!).

TNR helps cats. Sterilization decreases fighting between males. In females, pregnancy and caring for kittens is hard on mother cats.

Sterilizing community cats reduces or even eliminates yowling, spraying, and other behaviors. This may make complaints from angry neighbors disappear.

How to TNR

First, you’ll need to get the cats on a feeding schedule. This schedule makes them easier to trap

Next, you’ll need to make an appointment with a vet that is able to handle feral cats. You can check with your preferred vet or call one of the following clinics:

St Louis City

Carol House Quick Fix Pet Clinic
(314) 771-7387

St Louis Vet Center
(314) 773-6400

St Charles

Operation Sterile Feral
(314) 995-9266


Hartz Second Chance
(618) 975-4434

Belleville Area Humane Society
(618) 235-3712


Cats will need to be transported in traps.

Trapping a Feral Cat

Cats should be trapped no more than 48 hours before your appointment. You MUST have an appointment before you begin trapping.

Locate a feral cat trap. We recommend traps with a front door that activates the trap and a backdoor that can be easily opened (but also easily locked). The best size for a cat is at least 30”x36”x12”. Slightly smaller is acceptable, too, but cats will spend several days in the trap so bigger is better. Make sure you can pick up and handle the trap.

Traps can be borrowed from local groups such as St Louis Feral Cat Outreach.

St Louis Feral Cat Outreach:  (314) 669-5228

Baiting your trap:

Lay newspaper or thin cardboard in the bottom of the trap. Cats don’t like the feel of the metal so this will increase your chances of success. When baiting the trap, use less food than you think. The best bait is smelly wet food. Use about a tablespoon smeared from the front center of the trap back to the kickplate (where the cat steps to trigger the trap). Then place another tablespoon in a pile between the kickplate and the back of the trap.

Set your trap up where the cats normally eat. Be patient. Do not hover but do not leave the trap unattended. A trapped cat is vulnerable to either hurting himself in the trap or humans walking past.

Once you’ve caught your cat, immediately cover the trap with a towel or a blanket. Cats that are newly trapped will show discomfort, anxiety, and may be violent. Covering the cat with a blanket or towel will nearly immediately stop this behavior and calm the cat down. Keep the cover on the cat for the duration of its time in the trap. Do not open the trap once the cat is in it. If the cat has a medical emergency, take them in the trap to the nearest available veterinary clinic.   

The Night Before Surgery

Food should be removed from the trap as much as possible by 10pm the night before surgery. Some food in the trap under the cat or in a hard to reach place is ok if unavoidable. Many feral cats will not eat because they are so stressed in the trap. Do not risk your safety or the cat getting loose to try to remove every crumb of food.


Your cat will need to be “ear tipped.” Ear-tipping is the removal of ¼” of the tip of the ear. This is done under anaesthesia and it will not hurt them. This allows trappers and animal welfare professionals to know that your cat is already sterilized. If your cat is captured by another trapper as part of a TNR program, they will immediately release your cat. Ear-tipping the cat is in the cat’s best interest as well as useful for saving TNR resources.

We also recommend you request a rabies vaccine. That is the minimum, but you may also request an FVRCP vaccine, a microchip, or other services. Do not request a nail trim. Do NOT request a SNAP test for FIV/FELUK. This is a test that is often inaccurate in feral cats and can lead to complications for them. TNR will already help stop the spread of disease. More information: https://www.neighborhoodcats.org/how-to-tnr/veterinary/fiv-felv-testing

When picking up your cat from the clinic, check to make sure both doors of the trap are secured. If a door is loose, use a carabiner or zip ties to secure it.


Allow your cat to recover in a safe, quiet, temperature-controlled place for 24 hours. Cats are unable to regulate their body temperatures very well while recovering from anesthesia so it’s important the cat is kept somewhere with a moderate temperature. Your cat should be awake and clear eyed. She should be able to sit up easily. The cat may find your presence stressful, so resist the urge to check on her too much. If your cat appears in distress or lethargic, seek medical attention. Do not open the trap unless directed to by a veterinary professional.


If your cat had a difficult surgery (or was pregnant), your vet may request you hold your cat another night. Always follow the recommendations of the veterinary professional who saw your cat. In general, though, a single 24-hour period is enough time to recover. Traps are stressful for cats and your cat will do his best healing when he’s back in his normal habitat. Returning your cat after 24 hours is not only sufficient, but ideal. If your cat is a mama and she is thought to have young kittens, the veterinarian may recommend releasing her early. Follow the recommendations of the veterinarian.

Cats in recovery may be given a small amount of food. Food can be dropped through the top of the trap.

After 24 hours, release your cat where you trapped her. Leave food and water because once calm they are typically hungry. Resume normal feeding schedule.

Here is a great video that shows the whole process.