How do I… handle a cat from a trap?


Once you’ve caught the cat in question, you’ll need to be able to move and contain it for various procedures – either for veterinary treatment and neutering, or to transfer it into another holding area for temporary housing. There are two options available:

1. Maintain the cat in the trap during its time in TNR and transport

This is the method used by many organisations and in some cases it is the only approach available because the trap being used is not designed with a door for transferring cats into other cages or containers.

International Cat Care recommends that all new equipment bought for TNR has a transfer door which slides up and down at one end so that cats can be freely moved between traps and cages, as the doors match. This protects the handlers from injury or disease, and reduces the need for direct handling of cats, which is always terrifying for them.

Maintaining the cat in the trap is a viable option if there is enough space in the surgery for traps, and any vehicles are large enough for multiple traps. Care should be taken to ensure these traps are washed and disinfected thoroughly as cats will no doubt soil them, and mechanisms can become jammed with any debris.

There is no urgent need to split up several cats in a trap which have entered it together – they will tolerate each other fine, and indeed siblings and family units may find the presence of cohorts reassuring.

The cat can be anaesthetised in the trap using a restraining fork as shown below left (the trap has been turned on its end to reduce the space for the cat to move). These are available from MDC Exports in the UK, and Tru-Catch, Heart of the Earth, ACES and other companies in the USA. They can also be made easily from wood dowelling or welded if made from metal. The photo on the right shows another use for the fork – a cat being contained in the trap while the door is opened to allow a water bowl to placed inside.

2. Using a Trap Transfer Restrainer – TTR

A TTR or transfer cage is a combined unit that allows the cat to be transferred into it without needing to be handled; the cat is then able to be pulled to one side of the cage using a moveable panel which allows the vet to inject its anaesthetic agents through the wire. They are available from a number of different companies specialising in animal handling equipment around the world and go by different names.

The most important aspect of this type of cage is that it has the transfer door at the end. Traditional ‘crush’ cages with the internal panel but no transfer door are of little use as the cat still has to be handled into the cage.

Transferring a cat into a TTR

  • Move the trap and transfer cage away from the trapping spot, so other cats do not watch the transfer process
  • Line up the door of the cage with that of the trap
  • Cover the cage, leaving the end panel uncovered
  • Make sure the cage or trap is propped against a solid object – wall, kerb, car wheel etc, to keep it steady and stop both coming apart during transfer
  • Slowly open both doors and see if the cat moves across naturally
  • If the cat doesn’t move across, blow on it. Do not shout at, throw water at, prod or poke the cat, as it will be unlikely to move across
  • Once the cat has moved over, lower both doors
  • If you have multiple cats in the trap, you can use this process in sequence to split off each cat. Remember to drop the doors after each cat moves!
  • Always secure the end doors closed with a plastic tie or piece of string, especially as traps and cages get older and damaged

Cage labels

Once you’ve transferred a few cats it is easy to forget which cat is in which cage or trap, especially if you have been trapping on several sites, often the case when ‘mopping-up’ the last few.

It’s always a good idea to have a strict system of labeling traps and cages with cats’ details from the moment of capture, as a cat getting returned to the wrong site will undergo harm from the mistake.

Other versions of the equipment

A number of other versions of the main methods and devices used and the relevant equipment shown above can be seen in the photos below, kindly provided by Tomahawk ( in the USA. In the device below left, the moveable squeeze panel is fitted into a trap, and a temporary bracket used in the surgery to move the panel over.

Washing and maintaining and securing traps and cages

It’s essential to keep traps and cages maintained and clean. Doors should be kept ‘straight’ (misshapen doors could fail and cause escape). Doors can easily be hammered into shape with flat wood.

Cable-ties or string should be used to tie doors (left), to prevent them falling open when traps are accidentally turned upside down or the locking-rod falls out. There is also a risk that strong large male cats may be forceful enough to push a door open. Traps and cages should be covered when a cat is inside, as this will reduce the cat’s likelihood of trying to force an escape

A standard disinfectant intended for pets should be used, with the required contact time before rinsing. Both disinfectant (or bleach if used), must be rinsed off thoroughly. Cages and carriers offer a high risk of disease transmission between cats, so this aspect must not be forgotten.

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