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Many of us have needed advice on how to trap cats and kittens. I noticed there is no one concise thread with that information, so I am simply going to paste relevant parts of other threads to compile the information into one place. As a rescuer, Hissy, one of the moderators of this Forum, is one of the site's resident experts on ferals. She is the primary source of this information.

I feel it also important to note that some people do not have traps and do not have access to traps. There are alternatives. But remember! Feral cats are afraid of us! And usually with good reason (prior to you, the first person who has probably done anything other than kick or throw a rock at this kitty). Using something other than a trap takes time, patience on our part, and understanding of the feral fear.


As Hissy wrote: "To socialize a feral takes a lot of time and a lot of patience. It requires you to understand their terms and accept them instead of asking them to be an instant lap kitty, purr bug companion. But, once you gain their trust it is an awesome feeling. You can force this socialization along quicker by using confinement in a cage, but I personally don't subscribe to that method. To take a feral and trap it humanely and release the cat into a closed room is one thing, but to put it immediately into a small cage would traumatize it even further and work to a disadvantage. I have done this method, but only in cases of really ill ferals that needed vet care yesterday."

As Hissy and our Vet says, if it is a feral family, it is best for the health and welfare of the kittens to wait at least until they are done nursing before trying to trap them. If they are going to get Vet care and be released back into the wild, is best to wait until they are 12 weeks old before trying to trap them. They are learning many things from mom. And whether being released or socialized, it is still best for the kittens to be at least 12 weeks old before being seperated from mom. As Hissy wrote:

"She may or may not be nursing them now, but she is teaching them the ropes. The longer they stay with her, the better because she will teach them to bury their waste, to hunt, to climb trees to get away from predators and other essential skills they will need....Just by looking you can't always tell how old kittens are. If you know around when they were born you can guess and go from there."


Many cats are wary of the trap. Wash it well and let it dry in the air for at least a day. Cats are primarily smell driven. If it is new, you are getting rid of machine smell. If it is borrowed, you are getting rid of the smell of other cats and the smell of fear. You can also try to trap kittens straight into a crate. Again, it should be clean.

Many cats do notlike the feel of wire on their paws. Newspaper on the bottom should take care of this problem but will also allow the spring mechanism to still work. Make sure you only use one small layer- anything thicker will not allow the mechanism to work.

Camouflage will make the job easier. It depends upon where you are. Sticks, leaves, branches, shrubs etc. should help.

Try feeding the cats in the trap without setting it. Get them used to eating in there. Likewise with a crate.

When you want to set the trap (or bait a crate for capture), use VERY smelly food. Tuna. Hang some herring or fish heads. According to Hissy, "use only a little bit of absorbable cotton thread to secure them." We never had to hang anything, we simply used paper bowls with food to attract them into the cage.

NOTE: For particularly difficult cats, please see Hissy's addition to these suggestions at the bottom of the page!


IMPORTANT: IF YOU HAVE SET A TRAP, PLEASE CHECK ON IT FREQUENTLY. Cats dehydrate very quickly, and a cat under stress even more so. Traps should not be left unattended for any length of time.


If kittens trust you enough not to run away while eating when you are near, feed in a crate. Just shut the door. It will take some time before they trust you enough to get near enough to shut the door - they're quick! Make sure not to hurt them as they slip out if you tried too soon.

Hissy's Suggestions for trapping a whole family:

"The best way to trap the whole family is to find a large cardboard box the trap will fit in easily. Put the box sideways, insert the trap and secure the tripper so it doesn't capture right away and just feed the family in there. Once they get used to this big old cardboard box that magically brings food, bait the trap, set it, and then see who gets captured in it."

The camouflage may work just fine, too.

Have a Kitten that's too small to trip the trap?

"We've got one little kitten we can't seem to trap. We have taken the have-a-heart trap, covered it in sticks, leaves and branches, and now put food in there each night without setting it. The kittens are getting used to eating in there. The problem is the little kitten we need isn't big enough to trip the trap once it is set. Hubby is going to set up a stick to hold the trap door open, and attached a long string to it. He's already set the chair out yards away, so they're used to that too. He's getting them used to eating in the trap with him sitting in the chair. He will sit, wait, and pull. It worked for a different kitten. It's a long process - don't know if you have that kind of time." - LDG. PS - It worked for us.

Don't Have a Trap - then you MUST have Time!

You have to earn their trust enough to get close enough to "grab" them. This is done with patience and food. As Hissy says, "Don't stop giving them food. Try to keep to a schedule and routine so they "expect" you to show up. This helps with the trust factor. The ones that come close to take food out of your hand, you can try and grab, but you have to be quick and you have to have protection because once the scruff of the neck is grabbed, that kitten will turn into a hellion with claws. But it can be done."

The "Hissy Grab" (famous on The Cat Site!):

To quote Hissy: "I can share with you how I capture feral kitties that come out to eat. I call it the hissy grab and it takes patience and strong arms. But basically once they accept me as being close, I begin to lay down on the ground on my belly next to their dish. This decreases the threat I pose to them by making me on their level. Once they get used to this, I raise my arm up in front of me so it hangs over the dish. Once that is accepted, and the kitten is eating, I swing down quickly grab the scuff, roll over on my back, and get to my feet and put kitty in a carrier nearby. I have caught a lot of babies this way, but the best way to trap them would be if you can get them to go in a carrier and just shut the door- it is less stressful for you. Mom is going to be difficult and probably have to be trapped. Your local animal shelter should have cat traps for rental. You can buy them, but they are spendy."

We borrowed the trap from our Vet. As Hissy mentioned, local Shelters will usually make one available, too. Some may ask for a deposit until returned.

Alley Cat Allies (, arguably the premier national feral cat resource, has created this document on trapping:

Good Luck!

If I've forgotten anything, please feel free to post.