Why would I need to trap a cat?
Sometimes, it’s necessary to use a “no kill” trap to help a homeless cat. That may be the only way to get the cat to the vet or remove it from dangerous surroundings to a safer place.
Typically, the “no kill” trap is a small and narrow wire cage designed so that the cat enters a door, walks onto a plate and a spring snaps the door shut. The trapped cat is extremely vulnerable to attack from predators or to injury trying to escape. However still that cat may be, it is in a state of panic and capable of biting or scratching (which demands medical attention). Even a “no kill” trap can kill unless you spring into action as soon as you hear the trap spring.
If you have any doubt about whether you can do trapping, ask for the help of a rescue organization such as Alley Cat Allies committed to helping feral and homeless cats. And before interfering with an entire colony of cats, seek their help.Where to get a trap
Many animal shelters will loan a trap, but there may be a catch. Some shelters with animal control responsibilities will need a promise to turn the cat in and if questioned closely will acknowledge that euthanasia is highly likely (which means certain). Some human rescuers have borrowed the trap and brought it back empty because the “cat got away,” but give serious thought to enlisting the help of a rescue organization that will not only loan a trap but also give help after capture. Or you might buy a trap if you think you may use it again
Remember FIRST rule: Do no harm
- DO NOT TRAP NURSING CATS. A nursing cat should not be trapped and if trapped should not be spayed unless the kittens are also captured and can receive foster care. The ideal age to wean kittens is 6-8 weeks. Kittens under 3-4 weeks have poor chances of surviving at all and will need very warm sheltered surroundings and feeding by bottle with kitten formula every few hours. If you find kittens, it may be better to leave them in place with better shelter and warmth until you are certain the mother cat is not coming back to them. You’ll need help from a rescue organization.
- PLAN AHEAD WITH THE VET. Talk with your vet in advance. You’ll want to know when you can bring the cat in, and time your trapping a few hours earlier. Discuss whether the cat should be euthanized if testing positive for feline leukemia or other serious illnesses or infectious diseases. Also discuss whether to spay the cat if she is pregnant. Routinely, the vet should test for feline leukemia and do a general exam, vaccinate for distemper and for rabies if a kitten’s old enough, do a fecal examination and worm if necessary, spay or neuter and notch or tattoo the cat’s ear so that other vets will also know this work was done.
- PREPARE WELL. Where is this cat going after leaving the vet? Line up rescue organization help, which may also cover vet expenses if you are willing to offer foster care during recovery and until adoption or spay/release. Gradually shift feeding time and place in anticipation of trapping so that there is no sudden change in time or place for feeding. Feed very lightly the day before trapping. Get your car and any temporary holding area ready, remembering that a frightened cat may spray. Check out the trap to make sure that it operates correctly. Bait the trap with pungent food such as sardines, and place a few sheets of newspaper on the bottom cage floor, because cats hate to walk on bare metal wire. If you’re trapping a mother cat and kittens, do you need traps for each kitten? Please don’t expect more than one cat to enter a trap; traps just aren’t built that way.
- DON’T GET DISCOURAGED. Just because you’re ready to trap doesn’t mean the cat is ready to appear for trapping.
- MINIMIZE STRESS. Never leave a trap unattended. Wait nearby to hear the sound of the trap snapping shut.It will go click. The cat may cry or thrash to escape or may remain absolutely silent. Either way, place a towel over the trap immediately, to reduce the cat’s panic. Immediately take the trap with the cat indoors or to your car, away from any other animals who might approach. Don’t try to view, feed or otherwise relate with the cat inside the trap. Take the cat as soon as possible to the vet, ideally immediately but if you’ve planned ahead you’ll not be leaving the cat in the trap longer than overnight. If you must release the cat, open the door and back off, recognizing that this cat will be very wary of traps in the future.
- STRICT HYGIENE. Until it’s certain that the cat has no infectious disease, strict hygiene is essential. Keep the cat in quarantine until you can get to the vet. Wash with a disinfecting soap after handling areas the cat has contacted, and keep other pets from direct or indirect contact too.
- RECOVERY. Get the recovery area ready in advance. What kind of recovery area? It depends upon the cat and the surgery. Let’s try two scenarios. In the first, which we’ll call homing, you’ve found a cat who has been cautiously friendly and you intend to have a continuing relation with that cat as a foster home (or perhaps even adopting). In the second scenario, which we’ll call feral return, you’re the human protector of a cat who is terrified by humans and will be returning to cat colony life. The variations on these scenarios are endless, so use your imagination.