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Trapping Tips and Guidelines


Trapping Supplies


Here is a list of basic items you should always have with you when you trap:

  • Traps (2 or 3 more than the number of cats)

  • Trap divider (at least one)

  • Bait (two kinds)

  • Can opener

  • Plastic forks or spoons

  • Small paper or plastic plates

  • Pounce or a similar cat treat which can be easily crumbled

  • Sheets/Large Towel (one per trap) –to keep cats calm

  • (If needed) cardboard extenders for the trip plates of the traps & duct tape

  • First aid kit



Having a few more traps than cats makes it easier when you are after the last member or two of the colony. You’ll be able to spread out three or four traps to catch the last cat instead of only one. Extra traps are also insurance against any unfamiliar felines making an unexpected appearance. A trap divider is important to have on hand in case you need to separate two cats caught in the same trap, reduce the space in a trap that a frantic cat can thrash around in or transfer a cat out of a trap.




The standard trap used for feral cats is a “humane box trap.” Shaped like a large rectangular box, a cat enters through the raised open door at the front in order to reach bait placed at the back. On his way to the bait, he steps on a “trip plate,” causing the front door to shut and lock behind him.

There are many different manufacturers and models of humane box traps available. For working with feral cats, two features are essential: the trap should have a rear door that opens by sliding it up (a “guillotine-style” rear door) and be 30 to 36 inches in length. The sliding rear door makes it possible to use the trap as a cage after the cat is caught by facilitating feeding and cleaning. It allows for transfers out of the trap and into a transfer cage, feral cat den or another trap. The rear door also makes it safer when releasing the cats or any inadvertently captured wildlife.


To double as a cage, the trap must be large enough or at least 30 inches in length. Preferred width is at least 10 inches. At Neighborhood Cats, we prefer the 36 inch length traps because of the extra room they provide during the cat’s confinement. However,many experienced TNR groups prefer 30 inch traps because they weigh less and are easier to transport and store. Traps larger than 36 inches in length are bulkier and heavier than needed.


When the first edition of this handbook was released, there were no traps on the market specifically designed for feral cats. Traps

made for other animals, like raccoons, had to be used and adapted. Recently, Neighborhood Cats partnered with Tomahawk Live Trap ( to design a box trap, and other equipment, just for feral cats and TNR. The “Neighborhood Cats Trap” by Tomahawk, described below, is the model we now prefer. 


Trapping Bait


Two kinds of bait should be placed on each plate because some cats may prefer one over the other. There are as many favorite types of bait as there are trappers. Usually, cheap tuna cat food does the trick, but also add a smelly wet food for those occasional cats who dislike tuna. Other tried and true delectables include roast beef, grilled chicken, human quality tuna, sardines, mackerel, fast-food hamburgers, white bread dipped in clam sauce, valerian root and freshly cooked fish of any sort. Fresh catnip is another favorite, but only put it inside the trap and on or behind the trip plate. If you try to entice kitty over by sprinkling it outside the trap, you may end up with a very happy feral who rolls around on the ground by the front door, then gets up and walks away.



The cats will need to be confined during the course of the trapping and while they recuperate from their surgeries. The traps double as cages which the cats never leave except during surgery. In a mass trapping, a space to hold the cats in their traps will typically be required for between two to four and up to six days.


An adequate holding space is one that is warm, dry and secure. “Warm” means at least 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. While confined, the cats can’t move around, huddle together or sleep in insulated shelters, so if the space is cold, they can get sick. In addition, during the spay/neuter surgery, a cat’s body temperature drops and does not return to normal until they have fully recovered from the anesthesia. If a cat is placed inside a cold space before the anesthesia has worn off and body temperature has returned to normal, he could die.


A “dry” space is protected from the elements, especially rain or snow, but also wind or direct sunlight (which could cause overheating inside the traps). A holding space is “secure” if it is only accessible by people associated with the project and not by strangers or other animals. Examples of adequate holding spaces may include a garage, basement, ventilated shed, empty trailer, empty room in an apartment, empty retail or office space, part of a warehouse, a bathroom if there’s only a couple of cats involved, an empty adoption van, or a cargo van parked in a driveway. Indoor spaces are preferable because they’re better protected from the elements and usually are more secure. In a pinch, if the weather is warm and calm and the area secure, a canopy tent set up in a private backyard, an open porch or a terrace could serve as holding space.


Trapping in the Cold and During the Winter Months


Cats have a 63-day gestation period and usually mate in the winter. Trap-Neuter-Return can be done during the winter months, as long as you take precautions to make sure the cats are not exposed to extreme weather. Cats are very vulnerable when in traps and can’t move around much to generate warmth, so be sure to keep trapped cats covered and secured in a temperature-controlled vehicle or holding area while you trap. Use your judgment when deciding if it’s too cold to trap.


Source: Neigborhood Cats TNR Handbook (2013). Retrieved from


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