List 4: Prepare for trapping

  1. Familiarise yourself with how the trap works – read the instructions!
  2. Don’t just know how to trap, but also how to release animals from the trap, in a safe way – read the instructions!
  3. Set the trap on a level surface so the trap is stable and does not wiggle
  4. Do not put it out like an isolated object, rather lean against an existing structure so it looks as if it is part of the environment that the cats are used to
  5. Line the bottom of trap to cover metal mesh. Why? No animal likes to have their paws on the metal grate of the trap
    • light layer of newspaper for absorption of waste
      • or:
    • anti slip cloth; not too thick, so that it does not interfere with the trip plate mechanism – fasten it to the trap sides with zipties so that upon manipulation of the trap with animal in it, it does not move.
    • Traps with a tray make cleaning easier in case the animal has to spend a longer time in the trap and the anti slip cloth will let all fluids through. But you cannot completely refresh it as easily as a newspaper. The choice is yours
  6. Place a fairly heavy small bowl of food in the back of the trap: light materials might move and make a mess; some people put the food in without a bowl. Again, that makes a big mess both during transport with the animal inside. Plus: when the trapping is unsuccessful you have to clean up
  7. If you want: leave a trace of treats in the entryway of the trap to lure the animal in
  8. Close the back door when setup is complete
  9. Secure the back door (zip ties top and botom – have a cutting plyer with you for quick release; or: tight clamps). Cats are smart and can often escape through a small hole
  10. Cover half of the trap with half of a towel/blanket/cloth, so that it is easier to completely cover the trap when the cat is in; it calms them and they will not get distracted by things around them. Some say that before trapping it is good to not cover the back end with the towel and make the trap look more like a tunnel than a trap with no escape; go by your own judgement
  11. Place dowel through mesh to keep the trap from snapping on your hands as you trigger and activate it
  12. Trigger the trap and test the trigger plate with the dowel in place: you will know if it works without making a lot of noise or risking injury to yourself
  13. Place a small piece of wood (branch, mulch) inside the trap, on the bottom, where the door will come down. This protects tails and does not cause a space big enough to escape; some traps have a small open space on both sides of the trap door that has the same purpose
  14. Don’t feed the day before – Be strong, don’t give in when the cat is begging. If you are at home, waiting for the trap to snap, close the curtains and be silent – pretend not to be home.
  15. Don’t ever leave the area as long as the trap is set; having a webcam in place might be helpful. You can watch without revealing yourself, but don’t leave
  16. Immediately cover the trap when the animal is caught and take a few minutes to let it calm down; you will probably need to take a few breaths yourself as well. It is daunting to realise that your project has now really started.
  17. Right after trapping: check what you caught – be careful, wear bite gloves and just lift a part of the blanket, don’t uncover the entire trap. Be prepared to be hissed and growled at and expect to be attacked. Don’t take it personally: the trapped animal is in a panic and adrenaline is coursing through its veins!
  18. Check and immediately release the animal if:
    • their ears are tipped: they have already been through TNR and are neutered
    • it wears a collar and must be presumed to have an owner
    • it is not the species you wanted to trap!

The items in the above list may seem exaggerated to those of you who are trapping veterans. Just keep in mind that there was once a day when this was all new to you too. I bet you had quite a bit of stress as well at the time, especially if you were operating on your own, without a mentor. I believe that the stress goes up the more you have gotten attached to an animal. When you are trapping multiples, this will probably become more of a routine operation with much less emotions and that is fine too.

Trapping multiples:

I have no experiences yet with multiples, but this seemed like a useful suggestion I picked up online:

  • Have a list of the traps you are using (it is easy to leave the area and forget one)
    • Leave a label on each trap with a serial #, your telephone number, email and name and include notes about the cat. Your animals may go to different vets and they like to have as much information as possible. This can be about behaviour specifics or medical details. Vets like to have a contact, when important decisions need to be made for the trapped animal.