Preparing to trap
Here are several tips that will make trapping easier. A good place to begin is to review the Getting Started guide.
- Community outreach. Talk with the neighbors in the area you are trapping, hand out flyers, and educate them about trap-neuter-return (TNR). Find out who feeds the cats, and get their contact information to coordinate withholding food.
- Feed consistently. Feed the cats within a 30 minute time frame twice a day. This will help get a headcount on number of cats and make trapping easier.
- Count the cats. Using the above techniques, get a count on the number of untipped cats by asking neighbors and seeing who visits.
- Withhold food. Remove all food sources 24-36 hours before trapping. This ensures cats are hungry enough to enter traps.
- Trap training. If you have access to traps but are waiting for your appointment, zip tie open the trap (so it won't catch a cat) and feed the cats only out of the trap for several days before trapping. When cats see other cats get trapped, they start getting trap smart, and trap feeding ahead of time makes it a lot easier to trap the last few cats.
There are several variations of traps but I prefer Tru Catch for both kittens and adult cats. When set correctly, these traps are extremely successful and safe. Tomahawk has a Gravity trap similar to Tru Catch, which has a locking mechanism for the front door. For large tomcats or single cats, Tomahawk FixNation 32" with powder coating is a good option.
- Base: use newspaper, cardboard, pee pads, vinyl flooring. I find the vinyl flooring the best and easiest to clean.
- Bait: tuna, sardines, Fancy Feast flaked fish & shrimp, and Friskies are all good options. Only use a small amount at the very front of the trap (2-3 very small piles) leading towards the trip. The main bait (2 Tbsp) is placed at the very back of the trap behind the trigger plate. Note: do not put any bait on or near the trip plate, or it will cause an early trigger and the cat can escape.
- Placement: place the trap flush against a wall, plants, or other objects. The best spot for the trap is where they are used to eating.
- Cover: I like to trap uncovered with close supervision of traps. If the trap is uncovered, you must be able to immediately cover the trap. If you are not able to get to the trap within 30 seconds, the trap MUST be covered during trapping.
After the catch
If you catch a cat, cover the trap completely with a large towel and move to a quiet and temperature controlled area. For safety, it is best to secure both trap doors as some cats are great escape artists. Removable zip ties can be used to secure the front door and a carabiner on the back.
Keeping cats overnight
After trapping, you can transfer the cat to a trap with a secured a towel passing through both doors or a trap lined with newspaper. The secured towel ensures the cat remains comfortable and the towel stays put. Only transfer the cat inside a bathroom (with the doors closed) and if you are comfortable doing the transfer safely. Ensure the trap is covered at all times. Other things to help keep the cat safe and comfortable:
- Wet food. Feed the cat wet food mixed with 1-2 tbsp water. Usually, the cat will stir up the water so this is a much better way to keep them hydrated. Depending on if your vet is doing a same or next day spay, take away the food according to instructions.
- Trap divider. A trap divider helps feed the cat safely and can be used to swap out clean newspaper or towels.
- Pee pads. Pee pads are great for under the trap in your bathroom or car in case the cat goes potty in the trap.
- Temperature. Ensure the area is temperature controlled so the cat does not get too hot or cold.
- Clean. Keep the cats in clean traps, and spray everything down between cats with something like Rescue disinfectant.
Tips & tricks
- Wash traps between use. This keeps them clean and removes the scent of other cats. Cats are skeptical of all unfamiliar smells.
- Get connected with other trappers. Join the CATch! Facebook trapping group if you are trapping in the Bay Area.
- Join the Cat Resource Center (CRC). Sign up to help and respond to local trapping requests.
- Catching mom & kittens. After catching the mom (or a kitten) you can put the trapped mom (or kitten) in the covered trap backing up to the other trap, as in the photo below. Ensure the trap is fully covered except the part touching the set trap.
Here are the supplies I keep in my trapping backpack:
- Paper trays: for bait in the traps.
- Small carabiners: for securing the trap backdoors.
- Removable zip ties: for securing the trap front doors.
- Diatomaceous earth (DE): keeps away the ants and bugs from the bait/traps.
- Bait: dry food, wet food (Fancy Feast flaked fish & shrimp), tuna or sardines in oil.
- Trap liners: towels, vinyl flooring, newspaper, pee pads, or cardboard.
- Gloves: disposable for messes and thick gloves for handling aggressive cats both come in handy.
- Towels: for covering traps and as trap liners.
- Tarp and pee pads: for under the traps in the car.
- Can opener: for tuna and cans.
- Wooden popsicle sticks: for serving the cat food.
- Cleaning supplies: Rescue disinfectant, wipes, paper towels, and trash bags.
- Optional: backpack for supplies, small bungee cords for trap transfer, masking tape to secure newspaper.