Guidelines for Catching Cats
We have been selling to and working with TNR groups for over 17 years. Through this time we have learned many things about trapping cats, feral and domesticated. There are many different techniques and procedures for the successful trapping of cats. Not all people agree on any one approach so I will give just brief guidelines which work most of the time on most cats. You will occasionally run into the difficult cat that seems impossible to catch. But with time and patience you can even be successful with this scenario. We recommend searching the internet as there is a wealth of information on feral cats, cat colonies, TNR techniques, etc. We can only touch on the tip of the problem and the solutions.
A few facts about wild, feral cats.
Cats that are born and raised in the wild are true feral cats. They have not had human contact as kittens. Many of these feral's are from domesticated or semi domesticated stray cats that were dumped by the side of a road and left to survive on their own. If the kittens are born near a home, in a wood stack or an out building, it’s easier to catch them if you start a feeding program after they come out exploring. Some say never to feed a stray as this encourages them to stay. But if your goal is to TNR these kittens when they are ready, it’s important to keep them from wandering so you will be able to trap in the future. Regular feeding also tames the cats somewhat and there’s a chance that these cats can become adoptable in the future.
Unfortunately, most of the stray cats that are discarded are not spayed or neutered. This adds to the increasing population of feral's in this country. The kittens of these cats are unvaccinated and are prone to disease. Besides spaying/neutering, these kittens need vaccines to prevent disease.
Cat populations – One pair of breeding cats and their offspring can exponentially produce over 400,000 cats in seven years. The population statistics are staggering. More and more rescue groups are starting in order to help curb this problem. Hopefully, more towns and cities are going to get serious about the cat problems in their communities and start addressing this problem, helping with the TNR programs.
What is a TNR program?
TNR stands for Trap, Neuter and Return. This method has been very successful and somewhat controversial, especially by bird lovers. The feral cats are trapped, spayed or neutered then returned back to original location or put in cat colonies where they are fed and vaccinated on a regular basis. This gives the cat the freedom to live a happy life without breeding, creating more feral cats. Studies have been done that show that even though cats are efficient hunters and do kill birds, the population of the birds can withstand these levels of predators. If not, the birds would have disappeared long ago. Other causes of bird deaths are much more threatening – poisoning of the habitat and food sources due to deforestation, urban sprawl, large shopping complexes and lawn care and farming pesticides. These have much more impact on song birds than feral cats.
Choosing the right cat trap
The humane live catch gravity trap is hands down our favorite for trapping cats. The door comes down by gravity and cannot harm any animal standing in the doorway when the trap door comes down. We have heard so many sad stories thru the years about kittens following mom into the trap and having a spring load door come down on them. The gravity door is very gentle and will either boot the babe into the trap or allow the kitten to back out. By far, the best traps for feral or domestic cats are the Tru-Catch traps. The 30D and 30LTD are the two most popular for trapping cats. Many people also use the 36D as it affords the room for the big toms who can be reluctant to go into a smaller trap. It also is big enough for recovery after spay/neutering of the cats. A trap divider is an excellent tool to divide the trap so you can clean the trap without the fear of the cat escaping. We recommend 24 to 48 hours recovery time for the males and 2 to 3 days recovery time for the females. They then can be released back into their former environment or at a monitored cat colony.
Covering the trap during the trapping phase is also recommended. Cats like enclosed areas and feel safer and are quieter if the trap is covered. You can use old blankets, towels, sheets, etc. We also carry trap covers that stay in place during bad weather, allowing sheltering from the elements. These covers stay in place through the procedure of transferring to vet or shelter. When feral cats are covered, they are less likely to become wild in the trap. Bottoms are also available to protect your vehicle from feces and urine during the transport.
We recommend a snap ring or carabineer clip be attached to the trap, securing the trap door to the frame in case the trap rolls. The catch and release Tru-Catch traps will come open when the trap is rolled upside down. There is a rear door for easy transfer to a carrier or a holding cage. These also are used for releasing the cats when they are ready for the wild again. Spring load traps are also used for trapping feral cats but sometimes the nose of the trap door coming down can traumatize the cat in the trap and other cats watching the trapping procedure. If using a spring load, use ones with a rear door for easier baiting and transferring of the cat to a carrier or holding cage.
Bait for cats
Almost anything meaty or fishy will draw in a cat. Some swear by chicken nuggets nuked awhile in the microwave to bring out the scent. Another good bait is sardines. Get a can, poke some holes in the top with a nail and hammer, dribble the juice up to and just inside the trap. Put the unopened can behind the trigger. The cats will lick at the oil on top trying to get to the meat and there’s a high probability of a catch. This is also good if the cat is scheduled for surgery the next day as there needs to be as little food in their stomach as possible. The sardine can be used over and over, until the smell is too overwhelming for the trapper.
The Tru-Catch traps are powder coated to protect the trap from rusting in the elements but the biggest advantage is that they close very quietly. Some cats continue eating, not even noticing that the trap door has come down. It doesn't’t traumatize the cat in the trap or other cats that may be watching the procedure. Many people successfully trap the same cats again and again for medical purposes such as vaccinations or wound treatment.
For those hard to catch cats, tie the trap door up a few days with it baited. Get the cats used to going in and out to eat. Then untie the trap door, this method catches many hard to catch cats. Traps can also be camouflaged with sticks, branches, etc. Many untrusting feral's have been caught this way.
Before trapping the cats we believe they should get used to eating in the same place at the same time of day. Some believe that the cats should be shut off from food so they are hungry and will enter the trap more often to get food. We feel you will risk losing the cats if they are prevented from eating. They will travel someplace else to find a food source. Plan you’re trapping carefully, it’s best to trap the night before they are scheduled for surgery. Also remember that the kittens need to be old enough to be on their own and not nursing anymore. If the kittens are still nursing from mom, if you can wait, the better chances of catching the mom and the kittens. Kittens are old enough to be spay/neutered at 4 months of age.
Remember that trapping at dusk is the best time, especially in hot weather. Keep the traps in the shade and check them often. The floor of the trap, if on grass, does not need newspaper. In fact, the crinkling of newspaper can scare the cats and they won’t walk into the trap. A piece of old carpeting or carpet sample works and is quiet.
Make sure you wear high quality long gloves when handling the cats. They will literally climb your arm and will scratch and bite. This is best left up to the experts at the vet clinic, the animal shelter or the experts of a TNR rescue group. Cat bites can be very serious. Thick towels are best for kittens, wear gloves at the same time.
If you have barn cats, which are used to reduce the mouse and rodent population, please make sure they are also spay/neutered and their vaccines are kept up to date. Many people move every year leaving their cats to survive on their own. This causes the deaths of many of those cats due to starvation, disease and dying in animal shelters as there are so many, they are euthanized. We have at times more of a people problem than a cat problem.
Don’t corner a feral cat. It is more afraid of you than you are of him and will try to run from you. Feral cats can serve as a barrier to disease by killing rodents. But cats, like any animal, can become diseased by rabies, distemper and other diseases, are susceptible to fleas, can be injured in cat fights and infections can set in. There are also maimed cats that have been hit by cars and some that are born with birth defects that need special attention.
Feral cats can be very destructive to gardens, lawns, landscaping, outdoor furniture and vehicles. They will spray, urinate and defecate on expensive landscaping. The mating yowls and cat fights also disturb people’s sleep. Not everyone is a cat lover and will do what is takes to make sure the cats don’t do any further damage, most times they end up in shelters and are euthanized.
I salute all the volunteers that are working hard to reduce the cat population by TNR. And those who are educating the public and local governments on how to effectively control the cat population.
This information is only a guideline and is not all inclusive on cats or trapping cats. We encourage you to research more about feral cats and TNR rescue programs and we wish you a happy trapping experience.