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Neighborhood Cats TNR Handbook

Neighborhood Cats TNR Handbook


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Published by Tom
The Neighborhood Cats TNR Handbook. A guide to Trap-Neuter-Return for the Feral Cat Caretaker.

The Neighborhood Cats TNR Handbook. A guide to Trap-Neuter-Return for the Feral Cat Caretaker.


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Published by: Tom on Jan 15, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Withhold food & water

For adult cats, all food and water should
be removed from the traps by 10 p.m. the
night before the spay/neuter surgery. It’s
important for the cat’s stomach to be empty
during the operation. Otherwise, there is a
chance the cat will vomit while anesthetized
and the regurgitated food could cause him to
choke or gag, a potentially fatal
complication. Water should be withheld,
too. If too much water is ingested by a
female, her bladder swells and is more
exposed to an accidental cut during the spay

For kittens, food and water should not be withheld for as long. They need to eat
closer to the time of surgery than adults. How long before the surgery food and water
should be withheld depends on their age. The younger they are, the closer in time to the
operation they should be fed. Consult your veterinarian for the precise timing. For any
age, food and water should be removed at least a few hours prior to surgery.

Arrange for emergency post-surgery veterinary care

If you’re working with experienced, competent veterinary professionals, the
incidence of post-surgical complications will be very low. Still, it’s best to plan what you
would do in the rare event something does go wrong after the cat has been returned to
your care. If the veterinarian or clinic performing the spay/neuter will not be available at
all times, then try to line up a veterinarian who will be able to respond in an emergency
or locate where in your area late or early hour drop-in care is provided.

Special instructions for veterinary staff

Any special instructions for the veterinary staff should be written on a label on top of
the trap. For example, write down if the cat is limping and you want the left front leg
examined, the cat is older and you’d like the teeth looked at, there is a wound that needs
cleaning, the cat is pregnant, or you want any kind of veterinary care beyond the standard
treatment provided. It’s especially important to write it down in big bold lettering if you
do not want the cat eartipped because you will be adopting him out. (If a mistake
happens, don’t be overly concerned – eartipped cats are no less adoptable in our

In addition to placing special instructions on a label, make sure they are also noted on
the veterinarian or clinic’s intake form. If the clinic is experienced with ferals, they will
already have their own form and you’ll simply need to relay the instructions while they or
you fill the form out. If there is no intake form, don’t make the mistake of relying only

The Neighborhood Cats TNR Handbook


on verbal instructions. Something you say could easily be forgotten or misunderstood.
Type up your own simple intake form if necessary, stating your name, the cat’s
description, the date and your instructions, and hand it to the veterinary staff when you
bring in the cat. That way there’s no confusion about what you want done.

Traps and covers

Feral cats should always be brought to the veterinarian in traps. It’s safe and easy to
sedate a cat using a needle through the bars of a trap. In contrast, it’s difficult and
dangerous if the cat is in a carrier or similar container. Likewise, the traps should always
be covered with a sheet to keep the cat calm.

Educating the veterinary staff

Working with feral cats is still a relatively new area for many veterinarians and
clinics. As a result, you may know more than they do about safe handling of ferals. If
your veterinarian tells you it’s fine to bring a feral in a carrier and has never heard of a
trap divider, then educate him. Explain why it’s safer for him and his staff to have the cat
brought in a trap and buy him a pair of trap dividers, demonstrating their use. If they
have never performed an eartip, show them a photo of an eartipped cat and get them
literature on how to perform the procedure (see the Resources page on the Alley Cat
Allies website: www.alleycat.org). Find out if they intend to place the cat in a normal
cage before or after surgery and explain why it’s safer to keep them in the trap and avoid
risky transfers.

It bears repeating that you should show an eartip to an inexperienced veterinarian
even if they tell you they know what it is. Your idea of an eartip may not be theirs –
without guidance, they may do an “ear notch” by taking out a V-shaped piece of the ear
on the side, which from a distance outdoors is indistinguishable from a fight wound. Or
they may take off too much or too little of the tip of the ear. Don’t take chances when a
simple photograph or drawing will prevent a mishap.

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