How to Catch a Feral or Stray Cat with a Trap

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When it comes to trapping, there are a lot of steps you should follow to ensure both your own safety and the safety of the cats. But with the right information and techniques, trapping is really easy to do!

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Use the proper equipment. Only use humane box traps to safely trap cats. Never use nets, darts, or tranquilizer guns, which are all dangerous and stressful to cats.
  • Don’t pick up cats. For both your and the cat’s safety, don’t attempt to pick the cats up or attempt to catch them with your hands or a blanket or the like. As sweet as the cat seems, being picked up can be extremely stressful to a cat who isn’t used to interacting with people.
  • Focus on targeted trapping. Your trapping results will be more successful if you target a specific colony or area of cats. The more cats in one location, the more cats you will likely trap in one day.
  • Cats don’t like being in traps. A trapped cat is not necessarily a happy cat. It’s likely the cat will thrash around the trap in attempt to escape. To help calm the cat down, cover the entire trap with a towel or blanket to give the kitty the feeling of safety and security.
  • Trapping is never the same. Locations such as college campuses, warehouses, farms, alleys, and parking lots offer unique elements you need to consider when planning your trapping efforts. For instance, you may need to work with college administrators, connect with other caregivers, or bring more traps than usual.

Now, it’s time for the fun part trapping! Here are some steps to help ensure you’ll do everything you need to in order to be successful on trapping day:

  • Withhold food from cats. It’s recommended that you withhold food from cats for 24 hours before trapping, but continue to provide water. This means the cats will be hungry enough to go into the traps on trapping day. Talk to other caregivers and neighbors in the area so they withhold food as well.
  • Line the bottom of the trap. When preparing a trap, line the bottom interior with one or two pages of newspaper, folded lengthwise, so that the floor is more comfortable for kitty paws. On windy days, it might be necessary to tape the newspaper down.
  • Tag the trap. Always tag the traps with the location of where it has been set up. When you trap the cat, write a brief description of the cat on the tag. This will help you in returning the right cat to her right home.
  • Bait the traps. The smellier, the better! Place approximately one tablespoon of bait (tuna in oil, sardines, or other strong-smelling food) at the very back of the trap, so that the cat will step on the trigger plate while attempting to reach the food. Lightly drizzle some bait juice along the trap floor toward the entrance. You can even place a tiny bit of food (1/4 teaspoon) just inside the entrance of the trap to encourage the cat to walk in.
  • Placing traps. For the safety of the cats, always place traps on a flat and stable ground. If you’re using multiple traps, stagger them and face them in different directions. Try to place the traps in quiet and hidden areas, so cats are more comfortable going near them.
  • Monitor and keep track of traps. Traps should never be left unattended. Check the traps frequently, but from a distance so you don’t scare cats away. Choose a location to wait where you are far enough away to give the cats a sense of safety, but close enough so that you can see them. Keep a close eye in the event a trap malfunctions and you need to spring into action to prevent a cat from being injured.
  • A cat has been trapped. The trapped cat will likely be frightened and thrashing to get out. Immediately cover the entire trap with a large towel or sheet to calm the kitty down. Carefully move the covered, trapped cat away to a quiet and safe area that’s temperature-controlled to prevent her from scaring off any remaining un-trapped cats. Remember, it’s possible for a cat to die from hypothermia or heat stroke when confined in a trap outside. A good rule to follow is if it’s too hot or cold outside for you, then it’s too hot or cold for the cats.
  • Hard-to-trap cats. Some cats are particularly shy or just too savvy to take the bait. Fortunately, there are alternate ways of safely trapping a cat who’s too smart to go into a regular box trap. For instance, a drop trap will give you more control over when a cat is trapped because you trigger the trap yourself.
  • Count your traps. Always remember to count the number of traps when you finish trapping so you know that you didn’t leave any traps behind, especially ones with cats inside.
  • Take the cats to a veterinarian or a spay/neuter clinic. If your appointments aren’t the same day as the trapping, place the trapped and covered cats in an indoor holding area that is dry, temperature-controlled, and away from dangers such as toxic fumes, other animals, or people. It’s recommended that trapping coincide with the clinic’s ability to neuter right away or the very next morning, so the cats don’t remain in their traps for too long.
  • Transport cats safely. When transporting cats in a vehicle, make sure they remain inside the covered traps and that they are placed on a flat surface. If traps must be stacked inside the vehicle, be sure to secure the traps with bungee cords or other restraints so they don’t topple over. Place puppy pads or newspaper between the stacked traps in case there’s a bathroom accident.

With all this trapping knowledge, you’re trapping day will run smoothly! Good luck!

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