Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
, 7 (11)

An Examination of an Iconic Trap-Neuter-Return Program: The Newburyport, Massachusetts Case Study


An Examination of an Iconic Trap-Neuter-Return Program: The Newburyport, Massachusetts Case Study

Daniel D Spehar et al. Animals (Basel).


The use of trap-neuter-return (TNR) as a humane alternative to the lethal management of free-roaming cats has been on the rise for several decades in the United States; however a relative paucity of data from TNR programs exists. An iconic community-wide TNR effort; initiated in 1992 and renowned for having eliminated hundreds of free-roaming cats from the Newburyport; Massachusetts waterfront; is cited repeatedly; yet few details appear in the literature. Although the presence of feline population data was quite limited; a detailed narrative emerged from an examination of contemporaneous reports; extant TNR program documents; and stakeholder testimony. Available evidence indicates that an estimated 300 free-roaming cats were essentially unmanaged prior to the commencement of the TNR program; a quick reduction of up to one-third of the cats on the waterfront was attributed to the adoption of sociable cats and kittens; the elimination of the remaining population; over a 17-year period; was ascribed to attrition. These findings illuminate the potential effectiveness of TNR as a management practice; as well as call attention to the need for broad adoption of systematic data collection and assessment protocols.

Keywords: TNR; feral cats; free-roaming cats; sterilization; stray cats; trap-neuter-return.

Conflict of interest statement

In recognition of MDPI policy and our ethical obligations as researchers, the authors acknowledge that the funding sponsors provided general guidance for the design of the study and were periodically apprised of project status during data collection, analysis, and interpretation; and the writing of the manuscript.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Locations of feeding stations established as part of the trap-neuter-return project for managing unowned, free-roaming cats on the Newburyport, MA waterfront.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 15 PubMed Central articles

See all "Cited by" articles


    1. Rowan A.N. 2013 National Council on Pet Population Research Symposium Presentations: CATS, The Ins and Outs: Improving Their Future Through Research. Society of Animal Welfare Administrators; Tempe, AZ, USA: 2013. Cat demographic analyses in the USA.
    1. Hadidian J., Gibson I., Hagood S., Peterson N., Unti B., McFarland B., Lisnik K., Bialy H., Fricke I., Schatzmann K., et al. Outdoor cats: An animal welfare and protection perspective; Proceedings of the 25th Vertebrate Pest Conference; Monterey, CA, USA. 5–8 March 2012; Davis, CA, USA: University of California; 2012.
    1. Hurley K.F., Levy J.K. New Paradigms for Shelters and Community Cats. [(accessed on 16 May 2016)]; Available online:
    1. Levy J.K., Gale D.W., Gale L.A. Evaluation of the effect of a long-term trap-neuter-return and adoption program on a free-roaming cat population. J. Am. Vet. Med. Assoc. 2003;222:42–46. doi: 10.2460/javma.2003.222.42. - DOI - PubMed
    1. American Veterinary Medical Association 2012 U.S. Pet Ownership Statistics. [(accessed on 7 September 2016)]; Available online: