Trapping ferals is hard work, and it’s emotionally stressful for humans and the cats. So first, you need to keep in mind why you are doing this, and stick to it. We do this to improve the life of ferals. Females who have litter after litter can suffer health problems. New litters often die out in the wild, and if they survive, they are often sickly, worm ridden, malnourished, and die alone and in pain from cars and diseases. Adult males, unaltered, will fight more often and so are likely to get FIV and feline leukemia. By trapping, spaying/neutering, vaccinating and releasing, we not only prevent new litters, but we improve the lives of the existing cats in the colony. That’s why the first thing I tell people who call me about trapping is that it is going to be hard at first, but that it is important, and you have to “steel yourself” before going into it.
- Get your ferals on a feeding schedule so that when you are ready to trap, you will know what time of day to do this. If you need help with the cost of food, we sometimes have food donations we can give you to help out.
- Observe your ferals: how many are there? is anyone nursing? if so, about how old do you think they are? Remember, these cats are “shadow cats” so there may be more than you think and you may end up trapping someone you’re not even aware of. (Note: If you do trap a tame cat, I suggest you have it altered as well, even if you are not sure if it belongs to someone.)
- Contact us to find out about reimbursement, what vets you can go to, etc.
- Get a trap; we can loan you one.
- Get canned cat food that has a pungent odor.
- Acquire a dog carrier (large enough for a small litter box and a bed area) and place towels and/or newspaper in it.
- Withhold food and water for about 24 hours.
Okay, so there’s more to trapping than just “trap!” The canned food needs to be placed as far back in the trap as possible. I usually create a trail of small bits of food (not enough to fill their bellies, though!) leading up to the back of the trap. Some people cover the trap, while others leave it uncovered. The important thing is that the trap is near their normal feeding location, and that it is somewhere that you can observe them through a window. This is important because I know of people who have attempted to trap members of the same colony for years and have failed because they set the trap up over night and do not observe it. While they are sleeping, a cat gets trapped, the entire colony sees this, and avoids the trap like the plague next time they see it. Cats are not stupid! So, observe the trap closely and as soon as someone is trapped, grab it up and take it inside. Be careful to use the handles on the top of the trap or you may get hurt.
Once a cat is trapped, he will do everything possible to get out, and this is the most stressful time for him and you. This is the part that makes you want to cry and just release him. But believe me, the cat will calm down once you place the trap in a quiet location and cover at least 3 sides of it. No matter how badly you want to convince the cat that you mean him no harm, avoid the urge to “keep him company.” He has been frightened of humans his entire life and your being near him will only cause him more stress. Some tips on keeping him over-night are to place some sort of vinyl or plastic covering on the floor beneath the trap. A tray from a dog kennel is even better to contain the mess.
You will take the cat to the vet in the trap, but bring the dog carrier along, with the towels/newspapers and litter box already inside. Ask the vet to place the cat inside this before he wakes up after the surgery. That way, you are all set to keep him confined for a couple of days until it is safe to release him.
That’s it! If you have any questions, just let us know. We’d are committed to this program and will be happy to help you in any way possible. Unfortunately, we are all volunteers here who have other full-time jobs (and colonies in our own neighborhoods to take care of), so we are generally unable to come out and do the trapping for you. But we are available to answer your questions, loan you traps, etc.
by Victoria M. King
Want more ideas on trapping? Have a feral that is not going in the trap? Check out the link below: