Group of stray dogs

The Catch-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return Approach

The only humane and sustainable solution to protect millions of stray dogs and cats worldwide


Stray animal populations are a huge animal welfare issue, with an estimated total of over 200 million stray dogs in the world and an even higher number of stray cats roaming the streets (according to the World Health Organisation). In addition, many more homeless animals are waiting in shelters for a home which often never comes. Killing as means of controlling the overpopulation of companion animals is still legal and practised frequently in several countries across the world. Stray dogs and cats often live very hard and short lives, suffering from a lack of food, shelter, untreated illness, injuries, and sometimes deliberate abuse.

And of course, not only the welfare of the animals is compromised, but because they have been abandoned or born on the streets there are issues for humans too. For example, they may present a health risk to humans: either through the transmission of zoonotic diseases (e.g. rabies and toxoplasmosis) or the contamination of the environment (through urine and faeces), and they may cause a public nuisance (e.g. fighting and scavenging for food, traffic accidents).

The sad cycle of suffering continues

Did you know that a single female dog can give birth to more than a dozen puppies a year – or more than 80 during her lifetime. Female cats are even more prolific in their reproductive capacity. Each intact female cat potentially give birth to 180 kittens over the course of her lifetime. It does not take a degree in mathematics to understand how the population of strays can exponentially grow to significant levels when left unaddressed. Every new litter born is a huge stressor for the mother, who must sacrifice her body and health to feed her little ones, often with devastating consequences. The few puppies and kittens that do survive and make it to adulthood often become pregnant as young as 6 months and the sad cycle of suffering continues. Even though the infant mortality of stray animals is extremely high, with up to 75% of juveniles in some areas not surviving a month or two, dogs and cats are so fertile, that without intervention stray populations grow exponentially while more dogs and cats suffer.

A humane and sustainable approach

Although in an ideal world, each dog and cat would have a warm, loving home, this is not the reality and FOUR PAWS works hard to improve the well-being of stray animals. As a first priority, we work towards a reduction of the stray as well through humane methods to improve their wellbeing. It is widely agreed that the only way to humanely and sustainably control stray dog populations is by implementing the CNVR method: Catch – Neuter – Vaccinate – Return. For cats specifically, we speak of TNVR: Trap – Neuter – Vaccinate – Return. These methods are employed by FOUR PAWS for ethically and effectively managing stray dogs and cats. However, these methods only address the symptoms so FOUR PAWS also works with local communities (including local authorities and local animal welfare groups) to introduce solutions for addressing dog and cat abandonment and increasing responsible pet ownership.

The Catch-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return Method explained

The first step: Catch/Trap 

Our Stray Animal Care teams include highly-skilled professionals that are trained to catch, handle and transport dogs and cats in a humane way, causing them the least amount of stress possible. Dogs are caught either by hand when possible, or sedated by using a blowpipe. Cats are, when not possible to catch them by hand, safely trapped by using a spring-loaded trap. In specially designed ‘catching cars’, the animals are brought either to our mobile or stationary clinic for the next steps.

The second step: Neuter

Our veterinary teams work in both mobile and stationary clinics to neuter stray animals. Despite their focus on high-volume sterilisation surgeries, surgical quality and sterility is never compromised. All dogs and cats receive a clinical examination on arrival prior to surgery under general anaesthesia and every animal has appropriate analgesia (painkillers) to minimise discomfort in the recovery period. In addition to being spared the stress of pregnancy and having to look after their young, sterilisation has additional benefits. Females will not be at risk of developing life-threatening uterine infections called pyometras and their chances of mammary tumours are greatly reduced. Males benefit from a significant reduction in their reproductive hormones, resulting in less fighting and roaming, therefore offering a better quality of life.

The third step: Vaccinate

All the dogs and cats in our stray animal care programmes are vaccinated against rabies, a deadly, but 100% preventable viral disease. Many are also vaccinated against other deadly diseases, including parvovirus and distemper. 
Finally, dogs also receive a unique form of identification with an ear tag and microchip, while cats’ ears are tipped or tattooed. This marking ensures that dogs and cats are not caught again for neutering and signals to the public that these animals have been successfully sterilised and vaccinated.

The fourth and final step: Return

Following a successful recovery from surgery, the dogs and cats are returned, again transported with the specially designed catching car, to their original territories. Here they know the neighbourhood and its sources of food and often belong in social groups. When animals are too young or old, physically compromised or in need of medical care, we take care of them until they can be locally adopted.

Additional medical care for homeless pets

Homeless pets do not have access to medical care, and due to lack of adequate shelter, exposure to harsh weather conditions and not having a stable source of food and water, they are more vulnerable to getting sick or injured. In addition to sterilising and vaccinating animals to reduce stray populations, our veterinary teams also treat wounds and diseases and, if needed, perform additional surgeries.

Because each animal should be treated to the best of our abilities, it is important for our veterinary teams to stay up to date in the constantly evolving field of veterinary medicine. Vet training, with a focus on high-volume treatments for stray dogs and cats and high-quality clinical practice which is paramount for maintaining excellent clinical standards, surgical outcomes, and animal welfare, therefore happen on a regular basis.

Did you know that FOUR PAWS…

  • started sterilising and vaccinating stray animals in Romania, in 1999?
  • sterilised and vaccinated over 220,000 stray dogs and cats until 2022?
  • provided lifesaving treatments to over 55,000 homeless pets until 2022?
  • runs stray animal care projects in Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Moldova, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia and India?
Stray dogs in Moldova

Understanding stray animal population

Read more

Share now!