Dedicated to reducing the outdoor cat population through Trap-Neuter-Return since 2000
Help! I need a trapper!
You already know the best one.
There are many reasons why the best - and sometimes the only - person able to trap the cats you are feeding is.....you!
While we are very experienced cat trappers at Whiskers (to the tune of tens of thousands of cats trapped and fixed over decades), even our best efforts will not match those of a person who is controlling the food supply and environment. As the property owner, resident, or regular feeder, you have a huge advantage that makes you the first choice for TNR.
As you read on, please realize that there is a small group of people feeding cats who are physically unable to handle traps due to health, age, or injury. These people truly need hands-on assistance with trapping, and we would never want to turn them away. However, the majority of calls we get are from people who are physically able to trap but simply do not understand why someone else cannot quickly "do it all" because they have other obligations and do not wish to make any arrangements to trap and transport.
Reason #1: Control of food.
As the cats' feeder, you are the non-scary person they associate with feeding time. You are in control of the food supply and able to withhold food on trapping day. You are able to and must communicate with neighbors to find out if anyone else is feeding and make sure that food is withheld on trapping day. Even if a trapper has time to talk to your neighbors for you, they are not going to get the same level of honesty and trust that a resident in their neighborhood will. Almost as untrusting as the cats, your neighbors do not want to give details about the cats to strangers. How do they know that this new strange person is not here to hurt the cats? Or fine them for feeding? Or that they're not casing the joint? You, on the other hand, are a resident and have a reason to be here asking about cats and feeding. If you need tips on talking to neighbors, check this out.
As the cats' primary feeder, you can acclimate them to eating at a regular time like clockwork so that on trapping day, they are sure to show up and go in the traps. You know their habits and personalities, and the cats associate you with food, not traps. You even can train the cats to eat out of wired-open traps every time you feed!
In contrast, a "trapper" that you call in simply does not have this advantage and will spend many more hours, often trapping no cats, because they are not the regular feeder and are asking cats to trust a new, strange tube-shaped cage placed by a stranger. Often the rest of the cats will stay away for hours even seeing a new car or at the sight of traps. The trapper you called simply runs out of time and like us, they normally have full-time jobs and cannot get another shot for a long time, during which cats will breed.
Reason #2: Familiarity.
Cats are extreme creatures of habit. We constantly hear, "But the cat is used to me sitting there while they eat!" or "The Boy Scout picnic next door won't bother them--they're used to noise" or "I don't know why the cats aren't here--I had contractors here two days ago but that shouldn't matter." In all cases, at least some of the cats stayed away once the traps were set and required additional trapping days.
When trapping, all bets are off. Even if you've been trap training the cats to eat out of traps, it's still nowhere near as comfortable as simply eating from the dishes you used to put out sans trap. Think about it: would you rather eat your lunch at a table in your kitchen, or crawl into a strange vessel with strangers watching who may or may not want to harm you?
Add to that equation a complete stranger--different smells, looks, noises, maybe a car parked in the driveway. For every variable you add, there are going to be hours or days of acclimation required. Trappers do not have the home field advantage and are going to prolong and even thwart trapping efforts, regardless of their skill levels.
Reason #3: Vet shortage.
We are not the only rescue affected by the crisis-level veterinary shortage that exists in New Jersey. For the vast majority of the state, TNR for feral cats only takes place at high volume spay/neuter clinics specifically designated for TNR, such as PFA, where our 50 Feral Fix vouchers pay for walk-in surgery.
Given the shortage, many clinics like PFA are booked months out for appointments but offer walk-ins and limit them to one cat per person per day, which is what most people use to fix their colonies. Read here about how they work.
This is not all bad news: walk-ins offer a lower pressure solution, where you don't miss an appointment due to weather or cats not showing up due to a noisy neighbor doing surprise construction or someone who put food out despite your instructions.
On the other hand, the walk-in clinic model virtually eliminates mass trapping. Gone are the days where a volunteer can spend all weekend in your yard watching traps, or transporting your whole colony to the vet. Most trappers have full-time jobs and cannot dedicate their work week to trapping, holding, transporting, and returning cats one at a time. There are simply not enough hours to avoid being outbred by unfixed cats.
Above all, we strongly believe that the precious hours that volunteers have should be dedicated to the elderly and disabled who physically cannot handle traps, not to people who simply do not wish to learn or be inconvenienced.
We know this isn't the answer many people want to hear. Wouldn't it be great if it could be as easy as calling a "service" to come and control the population of cats you feed for you? Why don't more companies do this?
For starters, the costs would be extremely prohibitive. Not to toot our own horns, but we are very skilled trappers with the latest technology and equipment. When we were doing mass trapping and had a private vet, even at locations where the feeder had more or less followed directions, we averaged multiple hours per cat and days over 18 hours. Add in hours spent talking to other feeders that the resident did not contact--now you are looking at thousands of dollars to cover the cost of a trapper to do it all, not even including surgery, transport, or holding.
The other problem is maintenance of the colony. If you are depending on other people to do your trapping, what are you going to do when an injured cat shows up? Or when a newcomer arrives, ready to mate with an unfixed cat that you haven't even met (since males will travel several miles to mate)? Doing your own trapping and learning to be a true caretaker means that you are in control and do not have to feel helpless in these potentially stressful situations. We are here to guide you every step of the way, and show you all of the tricks and plans you need to do this without calling a "pro trapper" and instead becoming one.
You got this. Becoming a true caretaker is empowering and you will feel like you are truly doing good, not just feeding. Let us help you get there.
Knowing how to use traps and getting everyone fixed yourself is a great feeling of accomplishment.