Trap Feral Cats

Instructions For Trapping Cats


Get the cats used to being fed at the location and time of day you will be trapping. Either early morning or late afternoon/dusk will be best. The cats have already picked their location, but you can select the trapping/feeding area in that location. A secluded location as far away from traffic, noise and people as you can get will be best. It’s best if the trapping/feeding area is not readily visible to the passerby but it should be in a location where you can observe the trap(s) from a distance. After doing this for at least a week, you should be ready to trap.


Find a trap. You will want to use a raccoon size trap. These can be purchased at the local home improvement store such as Lowe’s and Home Depot in the pest control section for about $40. You may be able to borrow or rent one from your county animal control, a local rescue group (humane society), veterinarian or even an equipment rental store. If you are trying to catch small kittens and exclude the adult cats, try a squirrel size trap. If you are going to be doing this a lot, you may want to invest in the ones available at the following web site: (These are easier to bait and easier to release the animals from.)


Use Jack Mackerel as bait. Known to get stuck cats out of trees, this is the smelliest stuff around and is almost irresistible to cats. This can be found in the grocery store in the same section as the canned tuna and salmon. Do not feed the day before you trap and make sure any leftover food is removed. If there are neighbors that leave food out, you must get them to pick it up also. Other bait foods to use (in case you have the rare cat that doesn’t go after mackerel) include cooked chicken, tuna, sardines, salmon and cooked hamburger patties.


Find a veterinarian that is willing to spay/neuter feral (wild) cats. Not all vets will since it can be hazardous and carries some risks to the veterinary personnel. You will want to find out how many cats they can do the day after you are planning on trapping and limit yourself to trapping only that number. It’s best to do a small number (1 or 2) each day because if it rains on trapping night or you don’t catch anything and the veterinarian was counting on doing a large number, it will leave a big hole in their schedule and they will not be pleased. Also, make sure the vet will tip or notch the ear of the feral cat so you can quickly know that one has already been sterilized if it should be trapped again later. If you are trapping in the early morning, make sure the vet can do the cats the following day.


Plan the day you will be trapping. Watch the weather forecast and make sure it doesn’t call for rain. Don’t bother trapping in the rain. Cats don’t like to get wet and will not come out. Remove all food and do not feed for 24 hours prior to trapping. Make sure your veterinarian will be able to fit the cat(s) in for surgery.


Place the trap near where the cats are have been eating. It’s preferable to set it where you can watch from a distance from either a house or a car. It’s best not to leave the area while trapping and to watch the trap if possible from a distance, so that you take care of the trapped cat before he injures himself. Also, unattended traps are likely to get stolen. If you can’t exactly see the trap, you will probably be close enough to hear the trap when it closes.

Set the trap. Starting outside the open trap door, place about 1/2 teaspoon of mackerel every 5 or 6 inches all the way into the end of the trap. Do this by dropping the mackerel through the top of the trap. You can also dribble the juice out of the can. Make sure to get some mackerel on the trip plate and put some in the back corners of the trap.

Once the cat is in and the trap is sprung, cover the trap with an old blanket, sheet, large towel or even a large plastic lawn and leaf bag. This will calm the cat down and prevent it from injuring itself. If you have already spayed/neutered any of the cats in the colony, check the ear to see if it has been “tipped”. If it has, this indicates the cat has already been sterilized. In that case, open the trap, release the cat and then re-bait and reset the trap.


Keep the trap covered. If you cannot take the cat to the vet right away, the best storage place is on level ground (dirt or grass or pinestraw) near your house. If it’s daytime make sure the cage is in (and will remain in) the shade. It it’s raining or cold, store in your garage. Place plastic sheeting or trash bags on the ground, layer with newspaper for absorbency and set the covered trap on top. The cat will not be able to get out of the trap unless you open it…so don’t! Don’t worry about food, water or litter. It will be fine without food and water until you can get it to the vet (it shouldn’t have food prior to surgery anyway). If it has to urinate it will go right through the cage wire either onto the ground outside or onto the newspapers. If you don’t have a truck, transport the cat in your car the same way you would have stored it in the garage. That will protect your car from the possibility of cat urine.


If you take a sturdy secure cat carrier, the vet will put the cat in there after surgery. It’s less bulky to carry and can easily be opened to release the cat. Remind the vet to use dissolvable spay stitches. Ask the vet to spay all pregnant females. Ask the vet to use their own judgment and euthanize any severely ill or injured animals. That way they don’t have to reach you by phone while they’re in the middle of surgery. Also, ask the vet to notch or tip an ear (usually the right ear), so that you can recognize that this cat has already been sterilized if you get it in a trap again in the future. This also helps other people who may trap the cat in the future. If you get a cat in the trap, inspect the ears (use a flashlight if after dark). If one is “tipped” or “notched”, release the animal from the trap and reset it. The cat that was trapped is usually too scared to go back into the trap the same day.


Many times you will get the feral cat back the same day it had surgery – it may still even be asleep. The cat will not be fully out of anesthesia until the morning after surgery. Even if they are awake and look OK, they will be unsteady and may injure themselves if let out that evening. Keep the cat overnight in the trap or cat carrier. Cover with a towel or sheet to keep the animal calm. DO NOT attempt to give the cat food, water or litter. It can live without those things for one more night.

The ferals need to be re-released after surgery. Living outside as a feral is what they are used to and they will be much happier there living out their life – even though we know it’s not the ideal life for a cat. Do not try to tame them. They are better off wild with a healthy dose of fear regarding people. That fear of people will keep them alive longer. If you can catch wild kittens between 6-12 weeks old they can usually be tamed. The older they are the harder it is and adult cats are really almost impossible to tame and will probably never be really outgoing and friendly (in other words, “adoptable”) animals. Most rescue groups are always over capacity and cats that are skittish are extremely hard to find a home for, eat up shelter space and prevent other tame cats from being saved.

Georgia SPOT Society
P. O. Box 81606
Atlanta, GA 30366