Community Cats & TNVR
The Community Cat Program was created due to revisions to the Animal Control Ordinance on February 3, 2020 (Section 3-122 [h]). This program is possible through the Animal Services Division’s (ASD) partnership with area Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return (TNVR) groups. The program addresses the issue of community cats (also known as free-roaming cats) through humane, non-lethal ways such as TNVR and the County’s Return-To-Field (RTF) program to reduce complaints and lower the number of community cats. Cats are altered, ear-tipped, vaccinated, and returned to the area where they were found. Trapping healthy cats for reasons other than TNVR is generally not permitted.
Customers calling to report healthy, free-roaming cats will be referred to the TNVR group for their area to discuss targeted actions. Complaints or concerns regarding underage kittens will be addressed on a case-by-case basis.
County residents interested in assisting with TNVR should contact their local TNVR group. Traps are available through area trap banks. Information on TNVR groups, low-cost spay/neuter clinics, area trap banks, and grant funding for TNVR is available on our Get Help with TNVR page or by calling ASD at 301-780-7200.
What is TNVR?
Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return (TNVR), also known as Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR), is the nonlethal process of humanely trapping, sterilizing, vaccinating for rabies, ear-tipping and returning a free-roaming cat (also known as community cat) to its original location. Organized TNVR efforts allow for conversations within a community to determine the number of free-roaming cats in the area, development of a targeted plan to TNVR all free-roaming cats in the area and monitoring of the cats afterward by caring residents who look out for them.
What is a free-roaming cat?
The Prince George’s County Ordinance, Subtitle 3 Animal Control, defines such cats in this way:
- Ear Tipped Cat shall mean a cat that has had a straight line cutting ¼ inch off of the tip of the left ear while the cat is anesthetized. A cat who has been ear tipped indicates that it has been neutered and vaccinated.
- Feral shall mean a domesticated animal commonly kept and/or cared for as a pet existing in an unsocialized state.
- Free-roaming cat shall mean a cat that may be cared for by one or more residents of the immediate area; a free-roaming cat may or may not be feral. A free-roaming cat is not an owned animal and a person who feeds or shelters a free-roaming cat is not an owner. A free-roaming cat is not an animal at large.
Why do TNVR?
- TNVR helps save lives. Many community cats brought to animal shelters are not suitable indoor pets, so they are not candidates for adoption and could be euthanized. TNVR allows these cats to live out their lives in their current outdoor homes.
- TNVR reduces animal shelter admissions and reduces both shelter operating costs and the cost to taxpayers. It also increases shelter adoption rates, allowing shelters to save the lives of even more shelter animals!
- Studies show that simply removing the cats does not work, since more cats will come and fill the void.
- Female cats go into heat every three weeks, so spaying and neutering the cats will reduce the overpopulation of kittens that animal shelters receive, especially in the spring and summer months.
- TNVR decreases behaviors associated with breeding such as spraying, fighting, howling and roaming.
- TNVR increases the number of animals vaccinated against rabies
Is TNVR legal in Prince George’s County?
On February 3, 2020, CB-46-2019 went into effect, which amends several provisions of the Animal Control Ordinance. It excludes free-roaming cats from the definition of “animal at large”, clarifies that free-roaming cats (and the feeding and caring for them) in general do not create a public nuisance, and establishes procedures for dealing with free-roaming cats.
Sec. 3-122. - Impounding animals; procedure.
(h) (1) Prince George's County promotes the responsible practice of trap-neuter-return to include vaccination against rabies and other diseases as an effective method for humanely reducing the population of free-roaming cats.
(2) Free-roaming cats shall not be impounded as a public nuisance animal solely for being at large or unlicensed. The Administrator may impound a free-roaming cat if complaints to the Administrator from residents and businesses remain unresolved.
(3) An impounded free-roaming cat that has not been ear-tipped may only be redeemed to an animal care organization having experience with trap-neuter-return that has a written agreement with the County. The agreement shall provide for rabies vaccination, sterilization and ear-tipping before the free-roaming cat may be released to the area from which it was impounded.
(4) Feeding, sheltering and/or otherwise caring for free-roaming cats shall not be deemed a public nuisance condition unless it disturbs the peace, comfort, or health of any person residing within the County.
Is Feeding Outdoor Cats Legal?
Section 3-122 (h) (4) of the Prince George’s County Animal Control Ordinance states that “feeding, sheltering and/or otherwise caring for free-roaming cats shall not be deemed a public nuisance condition unless it disturbs the peace, comfort, or health of any person residing within the County.” To avoid such a nuisance, it is recommended to feed cats during specific time windows only, in the most sanitary way possible. Do NOT leave food out overnight or for other extended times when it might attract rodents and other unwanted wildlife.
How To Perform TNVR
- Identify the food source of the cats. Someone is likely feeding them and your highest success will be achieved by trapping at their regular feeding site and ensuring the cats are not being fed while you are trying to trap. Obtain permission to trap on the property where you plan to trap.
- Discuss your plans with neighbors. Be sure to let them know that you are helping to reduce the cat population in their neighborhood and address any specific concerns they may have. Identify any neighbors who may also be feeding the cats or have indoor/outdoor house cats that you do not wish to accidentally trap.
- If possible, establish a feeding schedule at least two weeks before you plan to trap. The cats should be fed at the same time every day and food should not be left out for more than one hour at a time.
- Make a list of all cats in the colony. The cats will need to be named for record keeping purposes at the spay/neuter clinic. This can be as simple as "Black and White #1." Note a description of each cat so if someone does not show up on trapping day, you will know who is missing.
- Plan your transportation to and from the spay/neuter clinic. Be sure your car can fit as many traps in it as you plan to use. You should try to trap all of the cats at once. Trapping piece-meal is MUCH more difficult. Line your car with puppy pads for easy cleanup. Be sure you know when the drop-off and pick-up windows are at the spay/neuter clinic, especially if you plan to make more than one trip.
- Make an appointment at a high-volume, low-cost, spay/neuter clinic. It is recommended that cats who are spayed/neutered as part of TNVR are also ear-tipped (removal of tip of left ear to mark it as being spayed/neutered) and receive rabies and distemper vaccinations, along with pain medication. Deworming, flea treatment, and ear cleaning are also provided by many TNVR clinics. Testing for feline aids (FIV) and feline leukemia (FeLV) are not recommended.
- If you plan to trap in the evening, prepare a warm and predator-free space to keep the cats overnight. Covering the floor of your holding space with puppy pads will allow for easy cleanup. This space will also double as your recovery spot.
- Obtain humane animal traps from a trap bank. You'll also need old newspapers and canned cat food, tuna, fresh chicken, or sardines. Variety can be helpful.
- Withhold food from the cats 24-36 hours before trapping,. Water should still be provided. Be sure everyone who feeds these cats is withholding food at this time as well.
- Line the traps with newspaper, bait them, and set the traps out about 1 hour before normal feeding time. Monitor traps through the duration of trapping. Avoid placing traps out in direct sun or bad weather. Fully cover the trap once a cat has been trapped. Place cats somewhere climate-controlled and safe until their trip to the spay/neuter.
- Drop the cats off at the spay/neuter clinic for surgery.
- Pick the cats up after surgery. If you pick them up the same day as the surgery you should provide overnight recovery space for your cats in a climate-controlled environment. They need 24 hours to work the anesthesia out of their system. The cats should remain covered in their traps during this time. They should also be provided food and water during recovery. Watered-down wet food will provide both food and water.
- Note: You should ask the staff at the spay/neuter clinic if any of the females were lactating (producing milk to nurse kittens). If they were, those cats should be released immediately and not held overnight.
- Release the cats in the same place where they were trapped. They may not come back for a few days but they should soon return.
Avoid going near any cat that is acting strangely, including signs of aggression (when not caged or cornered) or paralysis. Ask for professional trapping help if you have concerns.
- NEVER place an unsocialized cat into a carrier or trap by hand. This can result in you getting bitten or scratched and the cat will need to be quarantined for a period of ten days prior to any surgery. In all cases, Prince George’s County Police must be notified so they can complete and submit a bite case report.
- Avoid feeding and trapping alone, especially after dark. Always use the buddy system.
- Always use caution when going near any cat.