Monitoring the Colony

Part of Ireland's TNR Manual

How to Help Community Cats

Adapted for Ireland from Alley Cat Allies Conduct TNR Guide.

See also our Monitoring the Colony guide for Caregivers.

TNR doesn't end with the return of the neutered cats. The colony needs ongoing care and monitoring. In particular, any new arrivals need to be trapped, health checked, treated for parasites, neutered and eartipped - otherwise we're back to square one in no time. This section of the TNR Manual for Ireland is specifically aimed at TNR trappers - find out more about Caring for the Colony in our Caregivers pages.

Monitoring the Colony

TNR the remaining members of the colony

Your TNR effort is not complete until you've trapped the remaining members of the colony, including those that only visit sporadically. You can now easily identify neutered cats by their eartip, and avoid trapping them again. If you do re-trap cats that are already eartipped, it is sometimes best to hold that cat in the covered trap until the cats you are aiming for have been trapped. This is when a manual trap can come in useful - enabling you to pick and choose the cats you trap. Don't forget any cats who were neutered before you started your TNR who are not eartipped. And update your Planning Form as you go along.

Maintain the feeding schedule

It's a good idea to maintain the feeding schedule you set up for the TNR. This acclimatises the cats to a set feeding time and ensures they're having regular, healthy meals. Having all the cats turning up at a known time is useful in a number of ways:

  • Monitoring health, numbers, arrivals and disappearances is straightforward.
  • Parasite treatments are more reliably distributed.
  • TNR of newcomers will be simplified.

Newcomers & kittens

Any newcomers should be TNRed, as per the TNR Manual, on arrival. Kittens that were too young to be neutered in your initial TNR efforts, and any that turn up subsequent to it, should be neutered as soon as they're old enough - they can be neutered as young as eight weeks, as long as they're at least a healthy 1kg. Early-age spay and neuter eliminates any chance of an 'oops litter', since female cats can become pregnant as young as four months.

Create a plan for potential adoptions

Kittens and cats that are friendly to humans can be adopted into homes, but we don't advise removing healthy cats from the colony at present. It's difficult - emotional involvement with members of a colony is inevitable for many of us. However, looking at the bigger picture of overpopulation in Ireland, it really is best not to let your emotions drive your TNR effort. Many more cats will benefit from Best Practice TNR than the individuals you become attached to, and healthy cats live good quality lives in a colony situation.

At a stretch, and NOT currently Best Practice, exceptions to the 'no adoption' rule would include:

  • kittens you've taken in and fostered due to ill health - Often very young kittens will become socialised and acclimatised to an indoor environment while receiving medical treatment in a foster home. It seems unfair to return them to the outdoor colony under these circumstances and we tend to look for forever homes for them.
  • unhealthy, socialised cats - Felines with chronic, debilitating illnesses or heading towards the end-stage of illness need more care than they can be given in an outdoor colony situation. Many organisations kill these cats. We find long-term foster homes for their final days.

If you decide to go down the adoption path anyway create a plan, before a potential adoption situation arises, itemising the kind of cats you're prepared to find homes for, your budget, etc. Read our Socialised Cat pages for help with adoptions and kitten socialisation and our Feral and Stray Cats pages to help you determine the level of socialisation.

Best Practice

While some TNR groups attempt to rehome stray and socialised cats, sadly the situation in Ireland makes it impractical. With so many socialised cats (many Irish ‘ferals’ are, in fact, quite friendly and used to humans) and so few homes, CATalyst recommends returning all healthy felines to their colony – at least until TNR improves the national situation.

TNR ideally should be kept separate from rescue. If you are removing felines from a colony for adoption, Best Practice would be to co-ordinate with a rescue group, rather than spending much needed TNR funds and time on fostering and adoption.

Don't let your emotions interfere with your TNR effort.

Record Keeping

You should hold on to all medical records for each cat in every colony for which you care. A medical record should contain a listing of medical procedures. The record should also include documentation of the cat’s neuter and, if the cat was microchipped, the manufacturer, and the number of the chip. Include a photo of each cat with his or her record. Make sure to update the photo occasionally as their colouring and size can change with age.

You should always be prepared for the possibility that someone such as animal control could question the status of your colony. This is why it is important to keep current, accurate health records for all of the cats.

It's also useful to keep detailed statistics of the colony, for your own benefit and to feed into feral cat and TNR research. Such stats would include: the date cats arrived in the colony; numbers of males and females; when they were neutered, vaccinated, microchipped, treated for parasites; when they’ve been ill; deaths and births; who’s been rehomed and when; etc. You can continue to use our Planning Form for this purpose.

Best Practice

One way to stay organised is to keep all information for a colony together in a ring binder. Not only will you be prepared to provide documentation about your cats if needed, you will also represent yourself as well-organised and on top of the situation when conversing about the cats.

Relocation of the cats should only be done as a last resort

CATalyst does NOT recommend relocation; it should be done only under extreme circumstances when the cats’ lives are in imminent danger. In that case, be fully prepared by reading our Guidelines for Safe Relocation of Feral Cats.


You've made it through a successful trapping!!!

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Part of Ireland's TNR Manual

How to Help Community Cats