Guidelines for TNR During Extreme Temperatures


TNR can be performed during extreme seasonal weather (hot and cold) as long as you are mindful of the weather and outdoor temperatures. You may need to hold a trapped cat post-surgery an extra day to ensure their recovery goes as smooth as possible. Here are some guidelines and tips to help you safely TNR community cats.

  • TRAPS NEED TO BE MONITORED CLOSELY. Check traps every 10  minutes while trapping in extreme conditions.
    • In cold weather, nighttime low temperatures should be at least 20 degrees Fahrenheit and the daytime lows should be at least 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, the warmer the better.
    • In hot weather, the outside temp needs to be no more than 85 – 90 degrees Fahrenheit and the trap should be put in a shaded area.
  • Trapping should be done in the early morning hours of the day you intend to bring the cat in for surgery.
    • If you must trap the night before, the trapped cat needs to be housed out of the elements.
    • Place the trapped cat in a garage, shed, barn, basement, or attached porch.
    • In cold weather, cover the trap with a heavier blanket.
    • Place the trap on 2 x 4’s to keep it up off of the ground.
    • It can be difficult for a cat to stay warm in a trap.
      • You can place a towel or straw in the trap while setting it.
    • In hot weather, the trap should be covered with a light sheet and placed in shade during trapping.
    • Immediately remove the trapped cat from the heat once caught (garage, shed, barn, or basement).
      • Stressed cats may pant when caught. If the panting lasts more than 10 minutes, try to move the cat into an air conditioned area, or provide a quiet fan to help cool them.
      • If the panting continues, or you cannot provide air conditioning, you will need to release the cat back outside. This is a last resort.
  • It is best to bait the trap with a can of canned cat food.
      • Use a short can of cat food (3 ½ or 5 ½ ounce can).
      • This will provide moisture since the cat will not have water.
      • Do not try to remove the can, even if there is still food in it.
    • We will remove any remaining food prior to surgery.
      • We will clean and reset the trap for the cat to return to after surgery
  • Pick up is the morning after surgery at 7 AM.
  • Patients under anesthesia are not able to maintain an adequate body temperature.
    • We take precautionary actions to help keep all patients warm during recovery.
    • Community cats may need to be held an extra day before being returned outside.
  • Factors influencing the decision to hold a trapped cat an extra day after surgery could be:
    • The weather- it is not ideal to release if it is raining or conditions are damp and soggy.
      • Too cold- if the daytime temperature is not going to be above freezing.
      • If the cat was ill or compromised at the time of surgery.
        • Discharge from the eyes or nose
        • Infected wounds
        • Bad teeth
        • Underweight
      • Females may need an extra day to recover where males may not.
  • Here are some tips if you are asked or decide to hold a cat an extra day after surgery:
    • Keep the trapped cat in a heated area (45 – 55 degrees Fahrenheit) when cold outside.
    • In hot weather, the area needs to be less than 85 degrees Fahrenheit or be in air conditioning when being held an extra day.
    • Keep the trap covered and up off of the floor.
    • Use the can in the trap as a water bowl. Give water with a watering can or turkey baster.
    • Trapped cats may need their trap cleaned.
    • Traps that open at both ends are easier to clean.
    • Use a tool to block the cat’s escape route forcing them to just one end of the trap.
      • Use a trap fork, potato fork, or dowel rods to block their escape route.
    • Clean one end of the trap and remove the fork.
    • Persuade the cat to the clean end, reinsert the fork, and clean the other dirty end.
Trap fork blocking cat from escaping while you open the door to clean the trap.

Please call IHA at (319) 363-1225 or email info@iowahumanealliance with any questions.

Guidelines for Community Cat Care during Winter Months

Insulated Shelters

There are many styles for winter cat shelters; from novice level to expert carpenter. The simplest style is a styrofoam cooler, with the lid duct taped on, and a 6” diameter hole cut in the side. More complicated design plans are provided on the internet. For the best results, you will want to have straw bedding, the shelters elevated off the ground, and have a barrier protecting the shelters from the wind.

Fresh Water

Sometimes the importance of fresh water is forgotten, but community cats often have a more difficult time staying hydrated in the winter than finding food. Electric heated bowls work well if there is access to electricity. Otherwise having a large, black, flexible bowl filled with fresh water a couple of times a day will be important. A helpful hint, you can add a pinch of sugar to lower the freezing temperature of the water and increase calories for the cats.

Higher Calorie Food

A common community cat caretaker tactic is to mix kitten food in with their normal adult cat food to provide a calorie boost in the winter. The cats burn more calories to keep their bodies warm, so this increase in caloric intake is very helpful! Canned food is always a bonus!