Tips for Trapping Mom and Kittens

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These tips will help you effectively trap a mother cat and her kittens at the same time for Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). First, we recommend you review our general information on how to trap cats, which is your starting point for the whole trapping process.

The good news is it can be easier to trap kittens than adult cats. Since kittens often stick together and are naturally curious, they will likely follow one another into the same humane trap. This is great, but remember that you’ll have to separate each kitten before bringing them to a veterinary clinic for spay or neuter. Check out the different kinds of equipment to help you do so.

Trapping kittens first can be helpful in trapping their mother. Once kittens are in the trap, mom will likely hear their meowing and come to see what’s happening. She’ll try to get close to her kittens, which can be the perfect incentive for her to enter another trap if you set it the way we describe below. You can also use a trapped mom cat to easier trap her kittens in the same way. They will want to stay close to mom and are more likely to wander into a nearby trap.

Remember: Never take mother cats or kittens to an animal shelter. Many shelters still kill the majority of cats they impound, and young kittens are especially vulnerable. Kittens can also easily get sick in a shelter environment.

When trapping mom and kittens:

  • Always start with the basics. Set out at least one baited trap for each cat and kitten in the family. See if you can catch them all in separate traps first.
  • Think like a cat. If you’re able to trap one kitten, immediately set the back of a second trap of a similar size end-to-end against the front of the trap holding the kitten. Mom is likely to walk into the open second trap to reach her baby. Be sure not to open the trap holding the kitten.
  • Disguise your trap. To make sure mom goes inside the trap and not around the back or sides, cover both traps with a blanket and only leave the area where the traps meet and the opening of the second trap exposed. That way, mom will think she is seeing her kitten at the end of a tunnel and will feel safer entering the trap set for her.
  • It works the other way around, too. If you trap the mother cat first, keep her in the trap and use the same tactics above to trap her kittens. Once you’ve trapped one kitten, set up a new trap and repeat the process like a train.
  • Be adaptable. For example, you may find that kittens are too small to trip the trigger plate of a regular-sized box trap. Consider using a kitten-sized trap instead.
  • Get creative. If kittens can’t trigger a regular-sized trap but that’s all you have access to, no need to worry! In your trapping kit, pack a full 12- or 16-oz bottle of water and a string about 50 feet long. The string can be tied around the water bottle, then the water bottle can be used to prop open the door of the humane box trap. This will allow you to pull the string to close the trap door once the kitten has fully entered the trap.

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