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Community Cat Resources

Community Cats: Trap Neuter Vaccinate Return Tips

Trapping Essentials


There are many humane box traps on the market. Whichever trap you choose, you should ensure it is sized for a cat, general rule of thumb is that if it is sized for a raccoon it will work for a cat. There are smaller traps which are best for kittens or you can modify a larger trap to ensure success and safety for trapping kittens. The Neighborhood Cat Trap is a perfect trap with a wide trip plate and a removable rear door for baiting the trap. Ensure traps are functional prior to starting your project.

Trap Forks (also known as trap dividers, separators, or isolators)

Trap forks are useful for working with a cat who is already in the trap. It allows you to move the cat to the opposite side of the trap from where you are placing food or water. It also allows you to separate two cats who have entered the same trap so that you may transfer one of the cats to another trap. 

Some cats will enter traps when they are baited with the same food they eat every day. However most cats need a bit more enticement to enter the trap. Carry a variety of bait for trapping. Choose bait that is fragrant such as canned cat food with seafood, tuna in oil, sardines, or Kentucky Fried Chicken (remove the skin). During the winter, you may need to warm the food to amplify the fragrance. Bring forks, spoons, or plastic gloves to handle the bait.    

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Lining the bottom of the trap makes entering more inviting. It also provides a safety barrier for the cat’s paws. As well, it provides a barrier for urine and feces. Absorbent pee pads are recommended for overnight holding of a trapped cat. It also provides a soft place for the cat to sleep. Sheets or towels are used to cover the outside of the trap. This creates a den-like atmosphere which is very appealing for cats. Prior to trapping the sheet or towel should cover the top, back, and sides of the trap but should not interfere with the front of the trap. Once the cat is safely in the trap, the sheet or towel can be pulled over all sides of the trap. This will make the cat feel more secure.  

Large Black Plastic Garbage Bags

Always take your garbage with you and dispose of it appropriately. As well, if the weather is rainy or snowy, you can wrap the trap in a garbage bag. Once you have trapped the cat, immediately move the trap to a dry location and remove the garbage bag. 


A pair of thick gloves can be useful when moving the traps and ensuring you do not get scratched by the trapped cat. Plus if the handles on the trap are not covered with grips, it will provide cushion for your hands when holding the traps.  

Trap Labels

Place a label on the plate on the top of the trap noting your name, cat’s name or you can also give the cat a number, description of cat (DSH, Black), and name for the location of the cat. This is especially helpful when trapping at more than one location

Plastic Sheeting or Tarp

When transporting trapped cats in your vehicle, line the area for the traps with thick plastic sheeting or a tarp to keep urine, feces, dirt, or food from soaking into the fabric of the car.  

Quick Steps for Trapping before an Appointment

Not all clinics can offer unscheduled surgery for trapped cats. If you schedule an appointment, use these steps to increase your success. 

  1. Never trap a cat prior to having an appointment. If you must let a cat out of the trap because you didn't have an appointment, that cat may be more reluctant to go into the trap the next time.

  2. Establish set feeding times and locations for the cats. They will learn the feeding times and locations and you can then expect to see most of the cats at the set time and place. This makes trapping them a lot easier.

  3. Acclimate the cats to the traps prior to the appointment. A couple of weeks prior to the appointment, even longer if you are able, place traps in the location of the feeding area. The cats will be nervous around a novel item at first, but will then begin to explore it and it will become just another part of the background. At this time, you are not setting the traps, the traps are just sitting in the feeding location. 

  4. Open the traps and allow the cats to explore them. If the traps have a rear door, you can just remove the rear door entirely and let the cats walk into and out of the traps as they choose. If your trap doesn't have a rear door, you will need to secure the trap door open so it doesn't close on the cats. This can be done by attaching zip ties to the door and the top of the trap. 

  5. With the traps open, you can begin placing food in the traps. Start at the front of the trap and over the next few days begin to move the food toward the back of the trap. Eventually the food should be placed past the trip plate. This is acclimating the cats to walking into the traps for their food. Once again, the traps aren't yet set, so there is no negative consequence for the cats walking into the traps. 

  6. Withhold food 24 to 48 hours prior to trapping. This is always one of the most difficult steps for caregivers. But this is an important step in trying to ensure success for trapping. The cats need to be hungry to go into the traps. Always provide fresh water for the cats. 

  7. You should always trap the day (or two) prior to the appointment. Trapped cats should be kept in a temperature controlled area free from harm. If holding cats for longer than an evening (or day), you can feed and provide water in the trap. Using a trap fork is very useful for working with a cat who is already in the trap. It allows you to move the cat to the opposite side of the trap from where you are placing food or water. 

  8. Setting the trap for trapping. Line the bottom of the trap with a thin pee pad, place a sheet over the trap to create a cozy den-like atmosphere, and use a high-value food such as canned cat food, tuna in oil, sardines, Kentucky Fried Chicken (remove the skin). Drip very small pieces of food and/or juice in a zigzag pattern from the front of the trap to the back where the food is. This will not only entice the cat but will have them using their nose instead of worrying about their surroundings.

  9. Once the trap is tripped and a cat is inside, completely cover the trap with the sheet and move it to a quiet area. Only move the trapped cat if you will not scare other cats away. Continue to trap the rest of the cats.

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