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Trapping

For information on different types of trap, see TNR: Getting started

Mass trapping over a short period of time will be more effective than trapping a few cats at a time over several weeks or months. This means you will need to plan for the bulk of your resources (people, veterinarians, money etc) to be available upfront. However, you will need fewer resources overall by doing this. Make sure everything is in place before starting.

Useful resource:

A recent study, using a simulation model to estimate the impact of seven different population management scenarios (including taking no action) on kitten and cat mortality over a ten-year period, found that the lowest deaths were associated with high-impact TNR (estimated at 31 deaths over the ten years from an initial number of 50 cats). This was a 32-fold difference from the least impactful scenario (taking no action) which was associated with an estimated 1,000 preventable deaths.

(Boone JD, Miller P et al. “A Long-Term Lens: Cumulative Impacts of Free-Roaming Cat Management Strategy and Intensity on Preventable Cat Mortalities” Frontiers in Veterinary Science July 2019)

This ‘Story Map’ outlines the results of the study and the benefit of high-impact TNR to drastically reduce the number of preventable deaths.

The timing of your trapping may be influenced by:

  • The weather – avoid extreme events such as storms/heatwaves. There is no reason to stop trapping in winter in colder climates – often it is easier as there are fewer nursing mothers and pregnant cats
  • Busy times where there are crowds around, such as rush hour in a city, or public holidays or peak tourist season should be avoided
Using and maintaining traps

  • Each trap should be labelled with a number and your contact details. Keep a log of all your traps and who has them
  • Pre-weigh each trap/carrier and attach a waterproof label with this information on it so that you can quickly and easily establish the weight of each cat. This is important information that the veterinarian needs to work out anaesthetic or medication dosages
  • Utilising carriers and transfer cages will enable you to reuse the traps more quickly. There are also hospital cages that can be used for short periods of confinement. These have a central divider that can be used to keep the cats at one end while feeding and cleaning take place at the other

Hospitalisation cage (source MDC)

 

  • All traps and carriers need to be thoroughly cleaned with cat-friendly products to minimise infection risk and remove the odour of cats previously trapped
  • Any trap or carrier with sliding doors will need to have them secured once the cat is inside before moving it

Once you have your plan in place and have done all the preparatory work you are ready to start.

  • If possible, arrange for as many cats as possible to be trapped in one go. Catching those that are left will be easier when most of the cats are off-site. You should normally allow 2-3 days minimum for trapping
  • Do as much of your preparation as possible away from the sight of the cats to minimise noise and disruption. Check the mechanism of any automatic traps before you start
  • It is helpful to acclimatise the cats to the traps for a few days so that they become a familiar part of their routine and they can enter, eat the food and leave the unset trap without incident. Wary cats may be reassured by observing this
  • Do not feed the cats for 24 hours to ensure they are hungry enough to be attracted to the food in the traps. Water should not be withheld
  • Maintain a calm, quiet atmosphere and avoid direct eye contact with the cats (sometimes dark glasses can be useful in the daytime). Observe the cats without staring at them
  • Do not place too much food in the trap – once they are trapped, cats are unlikely to continue eating and remaining food is often disturbed and makes a mess. You may want to place very small amounts just inside the trap to encourage the cats in
  • Do not place the traps in an open space. Instead, put them on a flat surface, in the area where cats normally eat, next to a wall, fence, the front bumper of a car, a bush, so that trap will appear to be part of the environment and will seem less threatening to the cats. Keep the traps a few meters away from each other, so when you trigger one of the traps, you won’t scare the cats entering the others
  • Anything with a cat in (trap, carrier) should always be covered – it is best to leave a cover with each trap ready to go. It can also be helpful to cover part of the rear of the trap where the food is
  • If you are using manual traps, you may want to allow the bold and confident cats that approach first to enter and leave, to encourage the more wary cats. The bolder cats can be trapped later
  • Check each trapped cat to ensure it is not a pet – arrange for vet to scan for a microchip if in doubt. Pet cats may be identified by a collar, microchip, ear tattoo or tag
  • Once cats are trapped move the trap away from the main trapping area to avoid other cats being deterred, unless this may disturb other cats about to be trapped
  • If transferring to a carrier it helps to use a solid object to push against (eg. a wall). Cats should be encouraged gently (blowing or lightly tapping the trap) to move from the trap to the transfer cage. Covering the cage and uncovering the trap may encourage the cat as cats usually prefer darker spaces when feeling anxious or threatened
  • Traps and carriers should ideally be moved with one hand on the handle and one underneath – this reduces the likelihood of doors opening slightly under the weight
  • If there are extreme weather conditions then cats may need to be moved quickly to the shelter of a vehicle (make sure in the heat that it is in shade and ventilated)
  • Cats may thrash about following trapping – this is perfectly normal and can be minimised by covering the trap. You may need to reassure carers and onlookers that this is okay and that the cat is not coming to any harm
  • Sometimes a particularly panicked cat can be transported with the trap at a slight angle, causing the cat to focus on balance rather than trying to escape
  • Once you have trapped the initial batch of cats it may help to leave the site for a while and then return later when things have calmed down
  • You may need to leave an automatic trap overnight for wary cats or those that are irregular visitors. Only do this if you are confident that the area is safe for the trapped cat and people know what you have done and what to do once the cat is in the trap
  • Wary cats can sometimes be encouraged to enter by camouflaging the trap with foliage
  • If you trap/catch young kittens, using a towel with their scent on can sometimes work as bait for the mother. Alternatively putting the kittens in a small cage behind the back of the trap can be used as bait
  • Sometimes you may be able to use the mother as bait for her kittens by placing her in a carrier/trap behind another trap set for the kittens

 

Safe transfer, labelling and transport:

 

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