Part of Ireland's TNR Manual
How to Help Community Cats
Identify and track the individual cats in the colony and chart the progress of your Trap Neuter Return effort! Trappers and caregivers can fill this form in together – or caregivers can retain the Identify & Track Your Colony section (and Supplementary Sheets if necessary) to complete at their leisure.
We are in the process of updating our Planning and Tracking Form - it will be available for download in pdf format soon! In the meantime, here's an example from Alley Cat Allies - click the Pop-out button at the top right to download/print.
Please feel free to use the form - or adapt it to suit your purposes.
Prior to Trapping
Log the basic details of the colony. Note the contact details of any caregivers, trappers and vets involved so you can get in touch easily. Include the location of the colony, and clear directions to it, so that other trappers can find it if necessary. It's also useful to note some of the history of the colony - has TNR been tried before?, etc.
While feeding, start a log of each cat and kitten you see, using the form.
When cats have similar colours and patterns, like two grey tabbies, it can seem impossible to tell them apart! That is, until you take note of even the smallest details in their appearance. Knowing how to accurately describe cats is important when identifying and tracking a colony. You might find Alley Cat Allies' Cat Identification Guide (pdf) useful - it covers cats’ traits from their overall looks, like coat pattern, to their tiniest features, like whisker colour.
Ideally, involve other caregivers and neighbours in the process. Go over the form with the primary caregiver first, filling in what you can, and then leave it in their hands. Set a date for when you’ll return to go over the completed form with them – and phone a few days before to motivate them to complete it on time! Encourage them to take digital photos to identify the individual colony members. Some caregivers may not be willing, or able, to do this – in which case it’s all up to you. Others enjoy the process, and their involvement, and will give you detail you couldn’t dream of getting yourself as a casual visitor.
If you can’t persuade a caregiver to go through the whole process, do at least go over the form with them when you’ve completed it. You’ll need their input to determine if there are any cats you haven’t seen (many may not make an appearance with a stranger around), any that the caregiver knows to be neutered already and other useful bits of information that you can’t determine as a visitor.
This process will help you to:
- identify individual cats and kittens
- monitor the number of cats and their health
- determine their approximate age
- determine if any cats are already neutered
- determine the numbers of trapping days, vet appointments and traps you will need
- identify if some cats are stray or socialised (friendly to humans) and may be candidates for adoption into homes, or if you will need to be prepared for trapping and fostering kittens (learn more in our Socialised Cat and Feral and Stray Cats pages.)
When you've completed the itemised tracking table, summarise the number of cats you have.
Note the cats you trap on the form as you trap them, and any notes on their general health, socialisation, etc that come up. Also note hard-to-trap cats.
When you return the cats, update the form accordingly, including any health issues and treatments that came up at the vets. When all the cats are returned, update your summary.
Keep track of disappearances, deaths, births (hopefully none if you've neutered them all as planned!) and newcomers.