Outdoor & Barn Cats / TNR
Overview & City Law
Chapter 5 of the City of San Antonio Animal Care Code allows cats to roam free within city limits. However, all outdoor cats must be spayed or neutered.
A community cat colony is a concentrated group or population of socialized stray, wild, or feral "community" cats. The term is used primarily when noticeable populations of community cats live together in a specific location and use a common food source. A colony can range from 3 — 25 cats. Their locations vary. Community cat colonies can be in alleyways, parks, or neighborhoods. Members consist of adult females, their young, and some adult males.
What is TNR?
Removing a cat from an area does not "fix" a neighborhood cat problem. Cats are territorial and, as such, mark their territory. Removing a cat from a neighborhood just opens up their "territory" for a new cat to come in.
Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR) has proved to be the only long-term solution to humanely control cat populations.
For a long time, "catch and kill" was a widely accepted method of managing community cat colonies. The cats were trapped and removed from their established colony to be euthanized. While this method causes an instant decrease in the overall colony numbers, it is not effective over time. Colonies subject to "catch and kill" typically end up increasing in number back to their original size as a result of what is known as the vacuum effect.
What is the vacuum effect? Community cat colonies, like other populations of animals in the wild, have a certain population size at which they are most stable. When the population size of a colony is drastically reduced in a short amount of time, the colony reacts by trying to return to the stable size. The remaining members of the colony increase mating activities in an effort to create more offspring and stabilize the colony population size. A reduction in size also opens the door for newcomers to the colony - other cats in the area may move in. Because of the vacuum effect, "catch and kill" has no lasting impact on the size of a community cat colony.
The City of San Antonio promotes Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) for the management of our city's community cats.
TNR is a program in which community cats are humanely trapped, evaluated, vaccinated, sterilized, and marked by an identifying notch in the left ear, all administered by a veterinarian, and returned to the trap location. TNR is a proven method that is both humane and effective. Cats are humanely trapped, spayed and neutered to prevent any future production of offspring, and are returned to their original colony. The colony population size remains stable. When all cats are spayed, neutered, and returned to a colony, the population size will gradually decrease as offspring are no longer produced. Because of the gradual decrease, the vacuum effect will not occur.
Once the community cats within a colony are spayed and neutered, not only will the population size gradually decrease, but the cats will also be healthier and coexist more peacefully within a neighborhood. Female cats, prevented from having any more litters, will be healthier. Male cats will gradually lose the urge to roam and fight, and will be less prone to injury. Behaviors associated with unaltered cats, such as yowling and marking territory with urine, will disappear.
Please see a listing of zip codes and participating clinics below. Be sure to contact each participating clinic for their individual requirements. All grants are subject to availability of funding.
ACS Community Cat Program
Details: ACS CCP Voucher for each cat is required & cats must be in a wire transport or trap. No airline or soft carriers. Contact: Call 210.207.6696 or email
Zip Code(s): 78201, 78207, 78210, 78213, 78221, 78223, 78227, 78228, 78229, 78237, 78242, 78245, 78250, 78251
Participating Clinics: City of San Antonio Animal Care Services
City of San Antonio
Details: The surgery is free. The $10 is for the required rabies vaccination.
Zip Codes: 78201, 78202, 78203, 78204, 78207, 78208, 78210, 78211, 78212, 78213, 78214, 78218, 78220, 78221, 78222, 78223, 78224, 78225, 78227, 78228, 78237, 78242
Participating Clinics: SA Humane Society, Animal Defense League, SNAP, Pet Shotz (All Clinics Based on Funding & Space Availability)
Solutions to Cat-Related Issues
Whether you love or loathe community cats, trap-neuter-return (TNR) is the answer to effectively reducing the number of these cats. TNR reduces most cat-related nuisances, poses no threat to public health and safety, and keeps rodent control in place. Even so, cats living in our communities sometimes cause disputes between neighbors. What many people don't realize is that these disputes can be resolved without resorting to legal means or, even worse, killing of the cats. As with most disputes, it is important to look at both sides of the issue.
Cat Caregiver Side: Most of the time, the cat caregiver did not create the stray cat problem; rather, compassion toward animals prompted him/her to begin feeding hungry strays. Caregivers bond with the cats and value the cats' lives tremendously, even though the cats are often not approachable by humans and would not make good pets. They may not have heard of TNR, and may not realize that resources are out there to help them get the cats fixed and resolve cat-related issues.
Complainant Side: The cats are creating a legitimate nuisance: eliminating in gardens, yowling at night, spraying smelly urine. They have not bonded with the cats and they value their property tremendously. Complainants may not have heard of TNR, and may not realize that simply removing the cats will not solve the problem (the vacuum effect). They may not realize that resources are out there to help keep cats off their property. Community cat caregivers can alleviate most nuisance behaviors simply by spaying or neutering the cats. No more smelly male urine, no more late-night howling, no more kittens!
Top Cat-Deterrent Products
Some people just don't want cats on their property. For these people, there are a number of humane cat-deterrent products they can try. Most of these products can be purchased online; lawn and garden supply stores may carry some of them.
Scatter fresh orange and lemon peels or spray with citrus-scented fragrances. Coffee grounds, vinegar, pipe tobacco, or oil of lavender, lemongrass, citronella, or eucalyptus also deter cats.
Artfully arrange branches in a lattice-type pattern or wooden or plastic lattice fencing material over soil. You can disguise these by planting flowers and seeds in the openings.
Cover exposed ground in flower beds with large, attractive river rocks to prevent cats from digging. (They have the added benefit of deterring weeds.) You can also try embedding wooden chopsticks, pinecones, or sticks with dull points deep into the soil with the tops exposed eight inches apart.
Establish a litter box by tilling the soil or placing sand in an out-of-the-way spot in your yard. Keep it clean and free of deposits.