Savannah's Paw Tracks

Autobiography of a Former Shelter Cat

Five Tips for Successful TNR Programs #BTC4A


This is a blog hop for all pet bloggers interested in participating in Blog The Change 4 Animals.

I pawticipate

I pawticipate

A month ago I had the privilege to visit one of the most successful TNR (trap, neuter, return) programs in the San Francisco Bay area. The program is Project Bay Cats and they can be found on Face Book. I learned  what it takes to create a well managed community cat (aka feral) colony and I saw first hand what real successful targeted TNR looks like. The caretaker who met me to introduce me to some of their cats actually apologized because she was concerned we might not see very many cats!!

And we didn’t!! Here is how you take a community cat colony from the size of approximately 175 cats to one that is only 30! Did it take time, of course it did! It took from the inception of Project Bay Cats in 2004 until now to reduce this large colony to only 30 cats. Here is how it’s done.

Tip One: Find a bunch of community cats with no care givers

So, maybe you are out for a nice Saturday afternoon kite board sail on San Francisco Bay. Likely you will first notice some apparent “stray” cats or cats with homes who are left to wander outside. You’ll think they all go “home” at night and are safe, fed, cared for including spay and neuter.

Cats roaming and head butting each other in the early days

Cats roaming and head butting each other in the early days

Then, you notice KITTENS!—lots and lots of them. And now you become concerned about the cats and kittens, wondering if they are really “feral” cats and no one is caring for them. No one is feeding them, making sure they are all spayed and neutered and have their medical needs met.

A TNR program is started.  Cimeron Morrissey found this feral colony living on the edge of the San Francisco Bay near a walking, biking path. They were living in the shadow of the high fennel plants and on the edge of a whole community who paid no attention to them at all.

I only saw about six to seven cats at the three feeding stations we visited. At the first station there is only one cat, Nadine. She was shy with me but she did come out after I left.

Always shy, but she does have another cat coming around to dine with her. And yes, he is neutered

Always shy, she does have a cat who dines with her. Yes, he is neutered

Then we visited Bat and Twinkletoes. It’s looking like Bat is next up for adoption!! So exciting. And likely Twinkletoes won’t be far behind. (captions show when you hover on photo)

At the third station we were greeted by a very hungry cat. And as with all cats, clearly she had expectations to be dining sooner that later. She showed up to make sure we knew just where to go, she was our GOOGLE MAP app for this feeding stations!

Over here! I've been waiting!!

Over here! I’ve been waiting!!

And then she went into her Google voice—”stay straight up this steep incline, take the right turn at the top…in another 15 feet you will be at your destination”.

I have to do everything for you guys!

I have to do everything for you guys!

Sadly, I had to depart before hitting the fourth feeding station. But here are the two “Dancing Black Cats” who are there to entertain all their caregivers.

I love you—I love you more—I love you to the moon and back

I love you—I love you more—I love you to the moon and back

Tip Two: Invite others to partner with you in managing this colony

Eventually Ms Morrissey was able to find a partnership with an existing cat rescue group, Homeless Cat Network. And in a ground breaking move, the two were able to gain the support from the municipality in which the Project Bay Cats live. That support it ongoing to this day, twelve years later. The city had signs made and posted all along the several mile stretch of the waking, biking path to let the public know what was going on.

municipal support

Homeless Cat Network does supply most of the food and necessary supplies, and some volunteers purchase their own as well as receiving food and supply donations from the multitude of Face Book supporters. But the most critical partnerships were those established with two veterinary clinics. These colony cats are not only all spayed and neutered (compliments of the two clinics), they continue to receive ongoing vet care when needed.

Tip Three: Get yourself some dedicated volunteers

Those who care for and feed this colony, many of them for the last twelve years, are so dedicated and it shows. Their job is not easy. Heavy containers of food, water, cleaning supplies and even large hedge clippers if the brush and Fennel need to be cut around the feeding stations and shelters. They have even had to build a bridge when the water bog kept them from getting to a feeding station.

Rain or shine, the food has to be delivered and the cats checked for health concerns.

Tip Four: Build proper feeding stations and housing

The feeding stations must be built to avoid as many extraneous visitors as possible. They are built about two feet off the ground as skunks are not suppose to jump. Of course there are always those rascals, the raccoon family, who can jump for sure. The housing is to protect the cats from inclement weather as well as provide them a simple respite from other cats to take naps, sleep and dream of a day when they will be able to have their very own home.

The shelters can be creative, as long as they can withstand weather.

Tip Five: Be patient. Think about the impossibility of socializing community cats

It was astonishing to me to learn that many of these cats, over the years, became so socialized just by the ever present caregivers, that they would not only allow pets, but actually come to live in homes. My concept of cats being unadoptable was shattered. Nothing can withstand the constancy of caring attention, ongoing medical care and the ability to sense and feel a safe living environment.

Project Bay Cats IS the change for all 175 cats. TNR works, and yes, it takes time—but isn’t that what change is all about?

Hope you stuck around long enough for this incredible video—demonstrating the before and after of Project Bay Cats.

Please allow time for the following link to cycle through to Face Book. Permission to use this video was granted to Savannah’s Paw Tracks by the author, Cimeron Morrissey.


PeeEssBat, the black girl with the white spot on her chest at the second station is now AVAILABLE FOR ADOPTION!! PLEASE SHARE!

Hey guys, I am ready for my forever home!!

Hey guys, I’m ready for my forever home!!

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49 thoughts on “Five Tips for Successful TNR Programs #BTC4A

  1. Great post Linda! And you are correct it takes time to reduce a feral colony.
    Took 4 years to clear the river here of the ‘River cats’. There are 2 still roaming around (TNR’ed) but the other 40 or so are all rehomed….
    We have 2 other colonies we are starting to work on. As there are only a few of us mobile enough it takes us longer but we do what we can…..
    It is so rewarding to help these sweet ferals out. Also to bring the pregnant Mums’ into a nice safe place to have their kits & find homes for everyone.
    The Project works!! And we hope Bat girl finds a forever home soon…
    Sherri-Ellen 🙂

    • Oh Sherri Ellen, you and your group do so much good in your Owen Sound area. Glad to call you friend! Time, consistency and patience works wonders doesn’t it? At PBC not one cat was relocated. They either died from old age, or they were eventually socialized and fosters then adopters found. That’s the part that totally amazes me.

      • Thanks Linda! We do our best! We had to condense the area to Owen Sound & Durham because it was so overwhelming…..We still take in ‘found’ cats to foster & try to reunite with their owners.
        We are also pursuing to have a proper Shelter here that we can work out of…trying to convince City Council is no small feat but we soldier on…..

  2. I find this truly wonderful, an example of how cooperation and dedication makes good things come to pass. I think everyone should take heart and the powers that be take note that it can be successfully done without the need to harsh means. Thank you for this great post!

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  4. Kitty Cat Chronicles on said:

    Wonderful post! How neat that you got to visit and take a tour of the feeding stations. I love what this organization is doing, and I’m sure the signs they have out help to raise awareness for passersby. I hope that TNR becomes a worldwide thing and that successful programs like this are established everywhere! Thank you for sharing

  5. meowmeowmans on said:

    WOW. Thank you for sharing about Project Bay Cat, and the wonderful work that they do. TNR totally works!

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  7. Project Bay Cats sounds like an amazing organization. I sure hope Bat finds a home as she looks very much like my cat, Rosie.

    P.S.: I take it you didn’t hear from the reporter?

    • PBC is indeed an incredible group of volunteers. To think that they have been able to socialize adult ferals by twice a day consistent loving care and feeding is truly inspirational. Nope nothing even again from the kid reporter

  8. What an amazing story – just shows what having a caring and “CAN DO” attitude does for a colony of strays who otherwise would possibly never survive without help. AND there are adoptions as a result of the socialization and interface with humans who are helping them which is truly a WIN/WIN!

    Thanks for sharing their story – more miracle workers at work!

    Hugs, Pam

    • thanks Pam. This group is indeed inspirational. It gives me hope for feral cats in colonies as being able to be socialized and adopted. But it takes special dedication from the volunteers to make that happen IMHO

  9. What a wonderful post and organization. Thank you so much for writing this and spreading the TNR word! I would love to visit this colony on a trip up north. But perhaps I won’t make it up in time if the program continues to work, as there will be none left in the colony to visit!

  10. ***clapping paws**** superb post and so important!!!!! I sooo wish the folks that are unfamiliar with TNR would get to see this!

  11. Paws up to Project Bay Cat for maintaining such a successful TNR program. We hope others can learn from their success.

  12. What a great explanation of what it takes for TNR. Thanks for sharing this us. We’ve added this post to our queue to share on social media!

  13. I’d heard of Project Bay Cats, so was interested to read more about the wonderful work they are doing in their local community. Thanks for sharing.

    • This is a very impressive operation to say the least. Just the scheduling of who feeds on what day at what time is incredible. No one volunteer is ever overloaded. They have had to become engineers to create that cement block bridge to one feeding site (now shut down! success!)

  14. pilch92 on said:

    Such beautiful cats, I am glad they are so well cared for. And I hope this cutie gets a home soon.

  15. I think TNR programs are awesome! I don’t understand why they cause controversy for some people, but I know some people are very much against TNR. It sounds like this one is very successful. I am impressed with the dedication the volunteers have for these cats!

    • Thank you for visiting and commenting Beth. The challenges with TNR usually come from local wildlife organizations such as Audubon as fear the cats will kill off bird and small mammal populations. The reality is that if the cats are getting their food intake met, they do not hunt to any degree of concern. This has been explained and demonstrated to those associations, but they would rather demand all community cats be killed. And then there are those that have experienced some “free feeder”, those who are not part of a sanctioned rescue, who just toss food out on the ground and walk away leaving the cats to fend for their food with raccoon and skunk etc. Properly managed colonies with targeted TNR will over time eliminate that colony in the only humane way available at this time

  16. I am learning a LOT about TNR. Incredible results. Love the video.

  17. randomfelines on said:

    Thanks for sharing this group. We love that you got to meet some of the cats. We follow them on Facebook and applaud their efforts.

  18. This is WONDERFUL. Purrs, Seville.

  19. I LOVE THIS. LOVE. I’ve been researching the TNR issue and there are a lot of rather high-profile animal right groups or individuals that are against it. The one that bothered me the most was a vet with a syndicated animal column who claimed TNR (and namely releasing the cats back into the wild) was animal cruelty. Given that the alternative is catch and kill (or completely hands off which means cat explosion), I have a really hard time buying it. I’m working on a blog post about this issue and I might link to this organization to show that TNR works!!! I hate that people and groups who “regular” people listen to are being irresponsible and not properly educating themselves on the reality of the situation.

    • randomfelines on said:

      Our group does a lot of TNR. And follow Vox Felina on facebook

      • I am sure your group does this Jeanne. What has impressed me is the amount of success being so dependent on volunteers who are very organized, all committed to the same end and the amazing partnering with the local municipality. To have the city put up signs sanctioning the colony management is really something I think. And I believe this can be duplicated.

  20. What an inspiring post. Every TNR person should read to know with time and perseverence (sp?) their work will pay off. Mom L and Dad P are to be commended for the work they do to Be the Change for these cats.

    • thank you Pattie and CK. As you know, I do most of the rescue work and Peter has selected the part he has time to also do. We have thankfully both found ways to give back to our community which keeps us really very busy. He spends far more time on Rotary endeavors but he is always up for assisting me with my animal rescue work and he is my blog editor!

  21. hannahandlucy on said:

    We knew that some groups of people look after feral cats but the sheer numbers of the cats makes you wonder how they will ever be able to feed them all. Project Bay Cats are very lucky that they are looked after so well by their human volunteers.

    • If the colony is well managed, meaning feeding and medical care is consistent then overtime, the numbers diminish. If colonies of cats are destroyed as some want to do, then the vacuum effect takes over and more cats move in because there are feeders who will feed the next group. Only TNR and colony management humanely eliminates the colonies. Thank you for you comment and visit

  22. This made my day. I’d heard about the project but you brought it to life with you words and images. And those black cats! Love the dancing tails. It’s amazing what love, time and a few resources can do.

  23. How awesome to see a longterm feral colony managed the best way possible!

    • Summer it was so exciting to visit 3 of 4 feeding stations…right on the bay. Amazing. There are more cats on the other side of that big bridge. Several feeding stations have already been closed due to the decrease in number of cats. To,learn that so many have been socialized and adopted. Happy Tails Ending

  24. I’m so glad to read about people who help our feral friends… we support our community workers with a bag of food efurry week, this men are so nice to feed the barn cats who lost their caregiver as the old bristish lady died…

  25. * stands and cheers *

    Tthis is so heartening and encouraging to see. Project Bay Cat is truly being the change for these cats. TNR WORKS!!! IT WORKS – it’s blooming marvelous!!!!!

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