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  • Elizabeth Mattfield

There are no trap kings or queens.

Updated: Dec 28, 2022


Trapping does not take anything but commitment and following directions, once you have decided that you are going to be truly responsible for your colony.


We are here to help you start out with some basic dos and don'ts!



DO

Have a plan. Do not set that trap or even think about setting it until you have made sure the clinic is able to take you as a walk-in or that you have an appointment! Find out their rules and make sure you are able to get there at the time they require. Also make sure that you have an area to hold them before surgery in their traps. After surgery, you will need a climate controlled area or arrange to have the clinic hold the cat overnight to recover indoors.


DO

Have a proper holding area. The area in which you hold the cat in a covered trap must be indoors and protected from humans, the elements, and predators. Garages, enclosed porches, basements, bathrooms, or spare bedrooms are all acceptable. NEVER on decks, patios, car seats, car ports or gazebos. If you are unsure of the suitability of your holding location, please contact us to ask.


DO

Get your trapping equipment. We have a lot of opinions on traps, and you can read our reviews and links to them here. You'll also need sheets or towels large enough to completely cover the traps. For transporting, you'll need a tarp to cover your car's back seat or back of SUV. You may NOT transport cats in the trunk. We recommend investing in some zip ties for extra security keeping the traps closed. We also cannot live without these trap dividers for taking care of cats in the trap.


DO

Check the weather. Check the day before your appointment (when you will be trapping), and 24-48 hours after the surgery appointment or time. You do not want to trap a cat in 50 degree weather and return in below freezing temps, rain or a snowstorm.


DO

Practice setting your trap. Watch the many videos on how to trigger your trap and practice before you go "live!" Check that it will trip by tapping the trip plate with a stick from above. Make sure that you know how and remember to clip the back door.


DO

Use the right bait and LOTS. Mackerel and sardines are traditional. But some cats don't go for fish, and we have found that dark meat fried chicken from fast food joints entices them. We also use canned chicken and the smellier varieties of Fancy Feast. Include dry food and treats in your collection. The rule for trapping with sardines and mackerel is ONE CAN PER TRAP. Being stingy with bait will only cost you cats and hours in the long run. In cold weather, fish in oil takes longer to freeze. We also keep insulated bags and coolers in the car for heated bait in cold weather and switch it out often.


DO

Trap train. Wire the door of the trap open (or bungee it open) and feed the cats out of the trap by moving the bowl closer and further in each day. On trap day, they will have no problem going in to eat.


DO

Protect your vehicle. Line the backseat or SUV cargo area with a tarp. Place puppy pads on the tarp, and then place the covered traps on top of those. If needed, bungee the traps down or pack them in next to empty traps or cargo to make sure they don't tip over.




DO

Dress properly! Trapping takes hours, not minutes. You need to dress warmer than you think if you're on site somewhere or unable to watch the trap from indoors. My favorite is construction site attire, with my preferred outfit being Carhardtt bibs with a hooded sweatshirt and jacket over it. I wear snow boots with insulated linings and gloves. In hot weather, just remember never to leave a trapped cat in any car that is too hot for you.


DO

Pick a protected holding area. We hope that you will never have a cat escape from a trap. But if you are holding the trapped cat in a bathroom, garage, or basement with controlled entry points, you will not have to lose all hope if the cat manages to get out. You simply re-bait and reset the trap and make sure that the cat is unable to leave that area. It may take days but the cat will go back in and retrap himself.


DON'T

Leave the trap unattended. Ever. Cats are not safe and can die in a very short time unattended in a trap outdoors. The moment the cat is trapped, you must cover the trap with a sheet or towel immediately, and then move the cat into the holding area asap. You will not remove the cover completely at any time, only lifting one side to check the cat or feed/clean the trap.


DON'T

Let the cat out of the trap until it's time to release. Chances are that you are trapping the day or night before surgery day. There is absolutely no need or reason to release the cat from the trap. Not into a bathroom. Not into a bedroom. Not into a crate. Not into a carrier. The cat stays in the trap the entire time you are holding, before and after surgery.


DON'T

Use newspaper while trapping. It will blow around and scare the cats. We strongly recommend (and have had great success) using a towel in each trap, which provides a good surface for the cat to walk and makes cleanup very simple. The dumped bait soaks in and holds the smell, and does not pose the danger that cardboard does of tripping the trap before the cat is in far enough. Just make sure that the towel is not interfering with the trip plate by practicing before setting. You want to make sure that the towel is just sitting over the trip plate, not blocking it from lowering when the cat (or your "test stick") steps on it. After trapping, you can use newspaper and puppy pads (preferred) if you have a divider and are cleaning traps, but they are not great while trapping.


DON'T

Release a trapped cat if it is not eartipped. Even if you are 99% sure the cat is fixed, do not risk releasing an unfixed cat. Let the clinic examine the cat, update shots, and verify it's been fixed. You will have great difficulties and likely never trap the cat again once you release from the trap, unleashing an unfixed cat to go produce litters and fight to mate. If a cat is panicking in the trap, simply put a darker cover on and let the cat calm down. Zip tie the doors for extra security.


DON'T

Release if you catch more than one cat in the same trap. One of the great reasons to have a trap divider and buy an extra trap. Place the divider between the cats in the trap and COVER until you can sort this out and get help to do a transfer of one into the other trap. The cats will be ok covered. On the other hand, if you release one or both, you will never catch them before many other litters are born. We would rather get a text or call from you and help you sort it out than to hear that you released them. Re-trapping is near impossible within a reasonable amount of time.


DON'T

Release a cat immediately after surgery. Cats are unable to regulate their body temperatures for 24 hours after surgery. They must remain in traps in a temperature controlled area before returning to the trapped location. If you cannot do this, ask the clinic or vet if the cat may stay overnight at the clinic or office.


DON'T

Reach in the trap or open the door without a divider in place. Even if the divider is in place, the cat can push through it with enough force. Work quickly--yank the dirty pads or towel out or place food and quickly shut the door. Only remove the cover in the front half of the trap where you are working so the cat has a dark covered place to hide at all times. Never leave the trap door open with just a divider in. If you do not own a divider, do not open the door at all. Wet pate-style food can be squeezed through the trap mesh for the cat, or pushed under the front door in a can lid.


DON'T

Assume you are the only feeder if you do not feed every day. Cats do not and cannot go without food every day. If you are feeding cats but not seeing them every day, or not feeding them every single day at the same time, they have at least one other food source. Find that food source before you start trapping so that you can have them withhold food before you trap. Otherwise, your bait will sit in those traps while the cats enjoy Meow Mix on someone's stoop. We have some hints for talking to neighbors and a note you can use here. (see item #3)


DON'T

Store or leave your trap anywhere in the "set" position. At a bare minimum, if you are leaving your trap outside, make sure it is closed with no way of opening it. Even if storing indoors, either remove the back door (if removable) or shut the trap door. If you set multiple traps, make sure you count them and pick them all up when you're done or leaving the area.

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