Engage volunteers at your next trap, neuter, release event

Community cats are found across the United States and have become an important topic in the animal welfare community. In Arizona, 30,000 cats were brought into Maricopa County animal shelters in 2013 — and the trend isn’t exclusive to the area. To address the aforementioned issue, animal welfare organizations and community members must work together. However, recruiting volunteers who understand the importance of trap, neuter, and return (TNR) principles can prove difficult. In order to better engage community members, the Arizona Animal Welfare League added a bit of fun to our TNR program.

While we have a colony near our main shelter that we’ve managed for years, we lacked volunteers for our regular TNR. We decided it was time to get creative with our recruiting strategy and our TNR party was born. Turning the event into a Mexican fiesta potluck, we not only drew in volunteers, but also kept them well-fed. Like any good party, there were also party games. To engage beginner volunteers, we decided to turn trapping a cat into a game.  We asked people to get into the mind of cats — thinking about where they may hide or seek food — and had them place their traps in those areas. As we waited away from the traps, we snacked on homemade guacamole and salsa and made friendly bets on whose trap would be the most successful. The volunteers became invested in the process in a new way and it allowed us to have important conversations about TNR in a light-hearted atmosphere. By the end of the night, we had caught 4 cats and had created a new volunteer base for our next TNR party.

The next time your organization hosts a TNR event, make it fun! One of our attendees described the event as “fishing for cats,” bringing a newfound sense of excitement to TNR. The light-hearted social atmosphere is also a great way to work alongside your neighbors and fellow community members. Inquire with your HOA or neighborhood about monthly events, like Bunco parties or poker games, and use such events to form a TNR team. As people who already engage in community activities, these neighbors will most likely be willing to give back while spending time with their friends. Neighbors working together will help solve community cat overpopulation problems in an innovative manner.

To learn more about solving pet homelessness and TNR, check out these reads below:

Feline Communication

Humane Feline Handling

Feline Behavior Guidelines

Michael Morefield

Michael Morefield is the Shelter Operations Manager at the Arizona Animal Welfare League.

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