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Advice on Catching Feral Cat

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Hello feline lovers alike. I am new to the forum and I must say that I feel like I have joined an elite society of kind, well-informed animal lovers. I have read the story of Lucky (truly inspiring) and I wanted to consult with all of you cat experts regarding my current feral cat dilemma. I've been feeding a stray cat that magically appeared in my backyard last summer, and as a result, I along with my husband have grown extremely attached to him (we're pretty sure it's a male). We keep dry food out for him most of the day as well as feed him wet food whenever he comes around. Initially he was very consistent with his feeding schedule, but lately he doesn't show up until the end of the day, as opposed to the early morning schedule he used to have. I think it may have to do with the onset of the warm weather which may cause him to hunt versus eat canned food (who knows?). Well, here's the dilemma: I can't tell you how many times my poor husband who has stayed up til 3am trying to catch him, and I have attempted to catch this adorable guy. We tried everything under the sun, including traps, crates, as well as trying to feed him in our house while my husband hid behind the door waiting until he was completely in before shutting the door. None of the suggestions made on the feral cat websites have worked with this very seasoned guy, and as a result, we had to suffer through the harsh winter, worrying and crying our eyes out all the while. Even though we bought him a $500 kitty condo as well as a igloo that he never uses, we felt so much better knowing he had shelter if he needed it. My husband also built two shelters for him and camouflaged them in discreet areas behind the garage, and although we've seen him use it a few times, he rarely uses it these days. Now, here's when it gets really distressing: last week we noticed that he had a horrible wound on one side of his neck, which may have been a result of cat fight or worse, a confrontation with a racoon. I noticed it and became immediately hysterical. It was as if I had eyewitnessed my child being badly hurt and not being able to do anything to help him. I can't tell you the frustration and overwhelming guilt that I felt knowing that I should have tried harder or been more persistent in catching him. I called my vet's office and asked them for help, but understandably, they couldn't offer any other advice that I hadn't been given in the past. The next day, I put out a new crate trap out for him. This one was larger and my husband actually drilled two holes in the basement door: one to pull some string through that was attached to the crate door, and another hole for him to look through. Our very seasoned cat didn't even go near the crate, although there were an assortment of treats and goodies waiting there for him. I think at this point, he is too wise to fall for our old tricks again. After I realized there was no point in me using these methods, I got some antibiotics from the vet's office and put them in his food once a day. I must report that the antibiotics have helped a lot now that his wound which was very red and deep is now turning a darker shade of red. Plus, the large chunk of skin that was hanging off the side of his head has completely fallen off, giving room for new skin to grow in.

I apologize for the long-winded explanation, but I wanted you guys and gals to know the history of this wonderful cat. I want nothing more than to trap him, neuter him and slowly socialize him so that he can join his six other feline friends (four are my own, and two are being fostered by me). I can't tell you how much this guy has caused havoc in my personal life as I spend a great deal of time just worrying about him. I am constantly filled with anxiety and concern whenever I don't see him for a few days, when it rains outside, or when I see him walking around our backyard late at night when all I could think about is how much I want to protect him and love him. If anyone on this forum can provide some insight on how to catch a feral cat that knows the ins and outs of a standard trap (yes, he's actually gone in, ate his food and walked out without setting off the trigger as he walks right over it), I would be forever grateful. Plus, you'll cure me of my constant stomachaches and heartaches.

Susan (aka Jesse's Mom)
post #2 of 13
Sorry to hear about the challenges you face...but of course, challenges are made to be overcome.

There's always the drop-trap method:


And then there's lining the bottom of the trap with newspaper. If he WILL go in the trap, then he might not notice the trip plate if it's covered in paper.


What are you using for bait?

Have you tried a little catnip to "loosen him up" with the regular bait?

Here are some additional tips on the "hard to catch" cat:

The other thing to do is to put the trap in an area where the cat might not understand it's in a trap. For example: if there's an area next to your house that the cat travels frequently, lean a piece of plywood against the wall. Put the trap underneath the plywood. The cat might not recognize the trap because of the wood.

Good luck!
post #3 of 13
Hi Susan- sounds like you have an old soul of a feral cat who knows what happens when traps are around. Probably has seen a lot of his buddies get trapped and carried away. The first thing to do is to make sure the trigger is set right. Depending on the type of trap you use, sometimes you just have to tweak that hook to make it a hair trigger so the cat will actually activate it. For the older, hard to trap males I use catnip to lure them in. I also put either kitty litter up to the actual trigger itself, or a thin layer of newspaper so they can't feel the steel under their paws. You have to remember that they can smell you from a great distance, so prior to using any trap, I wash it well with hot water and vinegar, then let it air dry at least 24 hours. I then spray it lightly with Feliway spray and then set it outside. I also never put bowls of food in the trap, instead I use large jar lids. It makes the cat a bit more eager to get to the food, because it can be seen easily and of course they can smell it.

You also might want to consider a drop trap. Those work really well for catching the wiley ones. I hope you do trap him soon before he abscesses even more. He is staying away longer because it is kitten season and he is following nature's call. The wound was more than likely cause by another tom in a fight over a fertile female.

Good luck!
post #4 of 13
Susan...first...thank GOODNESS for people like yourself. Sounds like you have provided this feral every possible amenity. I would try all the advice that Hissy has provided to you...I realize this must be a frustrating experience...but please keep at it. As Scott has astutely noted...challanges are to be overcome. Please post your progress and let us know when you finally trap this boy.


P.S. Pictures are always welcome!!!
post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thank you all for your sage advice. I've never heard of the drop trap before today. Plus, the idea of feeding him for a few weeks in front of the trap sounds like a great plan. It took a lot of coaxing and time before he felt comfortable enough to eat at the top of the backsteps of my yard. Although there are just inches separating us behind closed doors, he doesn't start eating until the door is closed and locked. At this point, my husband and I are content with him allowing us to watch him through the window pane as he eats. I've tried the assortment of food that is listed on the website, but I must admit that I never tried catnip before. I think this may truly work and for once, I am hopeful and excited! I will certainly keep you posted of my progress.

On another note, I have a very feral cat that I am fostering who came from a cemetary environment before she was trapped and spayed (tested and vaccinated too). She's been with me for less than two weeks now. I must admit that I was a bit disillusioned as a result of the tremendous and quick progress made with my other feral who was an alley cat (literally). It only took two weeks for this gem of a cat to respond positively to me, and now he's just a big love bug, who craves attention and love all the time. He's playful, a bit skittish still, but overall a great cat. She on the other hand is extremely feral in the sense that she hisses, hides, and growls whenever I go near her. At times she lets me near her so I can pet her very gently and for a very short period of time. The other night she tried to lunge at my husband when he tried to pet her, but I now realize that this may be normal based on the information I gathered from Lucky's story. I respect the idea that she needs space and that she will come around when she's ready to do so. One thing that I would like to know is if the lunging and swatting with her claws is normal and whether or not that poses any real danger. I don't want myself or my husband to be attacked by a female version of Edward Scissorhands. I can't say it would be pretty...

post #6 of 13
It has been my experience that the females are harder to bond with than the males. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that they have kittens to protect in the wild, and so everything is a real threat to them even after the kittens are no longer an issue? Just a theory and I may be all wrong about it anyway.

Also a good way to trap a feral is use kitty litter in the trap. Just be sure it doesn't interfere with the trigger in any way.
post #7 of 13
I may get a bit battered for this one, but in my experience, as short as it has been (5 kitties up till now, including the one I caught this evening), 3/5 of them have not turned over. Some cats I believe are not ment to be domesticated. But I could be wrong. Mind you many take months to crack with slow bribing and gentle patience.

Although these are for kittens, many of these tips should help.


Now Hissy is a wise one. It took me quite a while to catch a manx kitty who has been outside. I tried home made traps and even a really nice bought trap. I've manned them and let the self trigger trap work.

Cats just won't trust some things.

Following Hissy's advice I partially buried my trap in kitty litter. Covered the bottom and made just not to put any under the trigger. Make sure the trap does not wobble, they hate that and get scared.

Kippered Herring worked good for me, a bit cheaper than tuna (and foul smelling). I'd listen to Hissy's other suggestions.

Also, stop feeding him for a bit. Put food around the trap. You need to make him a bit desperate.

You also said up above his schedual changed. Remember - The Feral is a Nocturnal Animal and he is in mating season. If he is a Tom, he surely is busy in the evenings with the ladies. They live for those late nights during this season, whining and being heard well.

Takes a while. Takes a lot of patience.

Manx is with me now. Went from a kitty who slightly trusted me and welcomed me outside to feed her to this evening laying on my lap and purring after I groomed her.

May want to break branches and put them over the trap to. Maybe leaves on the top.

Make it look rustic.

Not sure if you ever caught a Racoon. Those aren't fun. May want to move trap if you sometimes encounter them near where you feed. Feed him near the trap for about a week, stop feeding and arm the trap and leave it.

In time, I believe you can crack him since he is dependant on you by now.

I must now go. My kitty Caesar is clawing at my feet while I sit here. Mean ol' Caesar.
post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 
I will try the litter in the trap method too. Heck, at this point, I'd line the trap with gold if that would guarantee success. During our first attempt of trapping this cat, we acidentally caught a racoon who was not very happy about the situation. Although I was very concerned for my husband at the time, I can't help but laugh about it now. If you can imagine the sight of a 6'2, muscular, he-man type scared out his wits, wrestling with a racoon trying desperately to shake himself out the cage. My husband went on strike for a short while after that incident. Thank goodness he's gotten his courage back...

Let me get this guy used to eating around his trap first, that's my first step.

post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 
By the way Trapper Charles, you have a Caesar and I have a Napolean living with me. It's a good thing those two power-hungry minds aren't in the same quarters.
post #10 of 13
I have a feral in my colony named Hannible as well. Plan the next boy I meet that fits it to be Sparticus.

Caesar is a devious one. ;( Sometimes I wonder who runs things around here.

But back to topic!

It is not a question I think of you getting him or not, you need to start thinking about where to put him when you do.

First, some advice for trapping though.

Racoons are a threat. I remember my first one. I was scared out of my mind because I tried to shake it out of cage. There is a better method.

I'll assume worst case scenerio is you have a trap with one end like I do, no back door to it. Well take it from me, you need to remember that Racoon is terrified more of you than it. In fact, I have never has one lash at me doing this.

I always have a towel ready when going out. Usually this is for the kitty, but we'll speak about that in a moment. Sometimes when other things find their way in you want to cover the trap in all but the door out.

Racoon, Skunk, Wood Chuck, and the rare rabbit who I think comes in for the litter. There are some fun things I have met.

Same thing with all, cover trap, carefully open front, pull up door standing beside trap.

If animal takes more than 10 seconds to leave, tap back of trap with foot. Don't kick, tap. They get going on that hint.

I've never been swatted at or bothered. Skunk scared me in that I didn't want sptrayed, but towel always works for me.

Now, back to catching.

Towel is useful for the kitty to.

When the cat spots you as it is trapped it goes ballistic. He will hiss, scream, and ram doros and walls. Enough to hrut himself.

Put towel on trap and speak softly so he calms down and carry him in.

Need to have a game plan from here. Where will you keep him? I recommend bathrooms away from other kitties. As soon as vet checks him out and gives him a neuter you won't want him in any contact with other kitties.

Remember - For now he is a wild animal. Some takes a long time to roll over and calm down, some never do. Manx which is my happy story calmed down within hours of being trapped because of our relationship of me feeding her and her trusting me for so long.

Gentle touching is nice if he will let you touch him.

May want to try with the smallest yet strongest glove you have first.

If he does not mind it, even if he sits there shocked, do it. Show him this affection.

Remember this about where you keep him - He will want to hide and climb. Under a bed or climbing your shower curtains (which sadly happens very commonly) he will do either. May want to wrap curtain around shower bar.

Keep a litter box in it and just set him there once. He'll have the idea after that. Litter box training comes natural.

If he is an uneutered boy he may spray a bit till than. "Mark" his territory and himself as top cat in the room.

But mostly expect him to be loud and catterwall a lot. If you don't know what that sounds like, you'll know soon enough. He'll cry plenty being a boy in spring.

If he is calm and collective I'd invest in a cat grooming comb. They are pleasureable. Some kitties love those before they love being petted. Plus the grooming is nice.

Furthermore, if he likes you, may want to take a pair of scissors and cute barbs and twigs from his hair. Give him a good brushing on his upper back, neck, and head. At least do this before applying Advantage or any flea drops you may put on.

Remember - At first he may hate the trap. STOP feeding him and let him go for it. May take a few nights, change litter in trap and food if it rains.

But most of all, have your game plan when you get him inside.

Rabies is ultra rare in kitties, so don't be worried about that. But don't try to do anything that will get you bitten or scratched. While in the trap he will be vicious. After his first night he will start to adjust. Till than he won't eat or drink, but leave dry food for him.
post #11 of 13
Thread Starter 
Trapper Charles, I read your post and I will heed your advice, although I am praying that it won't happen to my husband again (I don't think he would ever forgive me). Well, the good news is that although my guy comes sporadically, he's around enough throughout the day that I feel pretty confident that I could use my other, less conventional trap which consists of a large crate with a string attached to the door. I think this may be the best way to approach it in the sense that we can avoid catching racoons, rabbits, skunks or hungry neighbors. I think he would be more inclined to enter a large, camouflaged area full of catnip scents and a plethora of other goodies that he will have a hard time passing up. If you happened to read the post regarding "Buddy" the feral cat who suffered a similiar injury as my friend, then you will understand why I am so anxious to get this done. I worry about his wound getting worse and him getting into another fight over a dumb female cat who probably has too many suitors at this time to give him an ounce of attention. Well, at least there's one female of another species that's vying for his attention.
post #12 of 13
Oh, and I forgot some other advice!

When taking him in remember this - the boys when terrified will urinate. Usually when picked up. And when you pick him up, do it with a nice thick towel. Ferals are not quite cuddley. :P
post #13 of 13
Thread Starter 
This is my belief as well. It also explains why I have four males and only one female. Although, my female (my cat, not the foster one that wants to attack me viciously) is extremely affectionate and loving, but then again she's been with me since she was a kitten. Every night she literally plops her entire body on me and purrs to her heart's content as I pet her and give her gentle kisses on her face. Another thing she loves to do is jump on me and start kneading me with her paws (I call this her "treamill" time).
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