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1. Program Set Up

Before you can start loaning traps, you have to get organized. Here are some steps for preparing your program before your first borrower comes to the door.

Acquire Traps

To start a trap depot, the first thing you need is traps! If you don’t already own traps or you need more, you’ll need to start thinking about how many traps you need, what type of traps to buy, and how you’ll fund these purchases.

Purchasing multiple traps can be expensive, so you may also want to consider pooling resources with other local caregivers. Network with other trappers and caregivers that you know, and request a list of Alley Cat Allies’ Feral Friends Network members to see who else is caring for cats in your area. Other options for acquiring traps are to hold a fundraiser and seek donations, or to ask local hardware stores if they will donate a trap to your program.

There are many considerations to keep in mind when deciding what type and how many traps to buy. Trap depots vary in size depending on how large of an area they serve. Consider the needs of your area when deciding how many traps to buy. The Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region in Colorado recommends buying 10 traps for every 200 community cats you expect will be trapped using your traps each year.

For brand and model recommendations, as well as other advice on buying traps, review our Traps and Humane Animal Equipment page. We recommend learning about the different types of traps before buying a large number of them. Our Traps and Humane Animal Equipment page will help you ensure that you’re purchasing appropriate and safe traps for the number and size of cats you and your borrowers will be trapping.

Identify Your Traps

Once you’ve invested in traps, you’ll want to make sure they don’t get lost or stolen. Clearly number each trap with a permanent marker or a tag to distinguish the traps from each other and make them easier to track. You will record this number when the trap is checked out and returned.

Next, mark each trap with your organization’s name and contact information. This information is especially important so that people other than the trapper can contact you in case anything goes wrong.

To identify our traps, Alley Cat Allies uses laminated tags. Each tag lists our name, contact information, and a brief explanation letting passersby know that the trap is being used for humane Trap-Neuter-Return and that the cat is not being harmed.

Laminated tags are best, but packing tape can also make tags more resistant to water. There is usually a flat metal plate on top of traps that would be a good place to tape a tag.

Here is a sample trap tag.

TIP: Hui Pono Holohohona, a group supporting TNR in Hawaii, spray paints their traps bright yellow to identify them. Consider spray painting your traps’ back doors (or front doors if they are single door traps). You can easily sort and group large numbers of traps when you can quickly distinguish one group’s traps from another’s traps.

Join The Feral Friends Network

A trap depot is only useful if people in your area know about it! If you’re not already a member, apply to join Alley Cat Allies’ Feral Friends Network. When people from your area contact Alley Cat Allies for Trap-Neuter-Return help, we’ll send them your way!

Other ideas for getting the word out:

  • Notify your local veterinarians, animal shelter, and TNR groups. Make sure to give them your phone number or email address so borrowers can contact you. Ask if they’ll post a flier in their building and put your information on their website, blog or social media pages.
  • Put up fliers around your neighborhood or areas where you know there are feral cats, or post on local listservs.
  • Tell your friends, so they can help spread the word.

Next Step: Once you get organized, you’re ready to start loaning traps. Read on for helpful advice on how to effectively track your equipment. »