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How to Trap Feral Cats + Educate

TNR of Warren has live animal traps available to 'borrow' for capturing feral cats.  A security deposit of $25.00 is required to borrow one of our traps.  Once the trap is returned in the same condition that it was given, the deposit will be returned. If the trap isn't returned within 10 days, the deposit is forfeited, unless our business office is contacted and permits an extension on the trap.  Please fill out the TNR Trap Agreement and submit it in person along with the refundable security deposit.

Call 330-330-8166 for location.

TNR of Warren cannot, under any circumstances, set or monitor the traps for you. We are more than happy to walk you through the process and help you every step of the way to ensure a successful trapping.

NEVER attempt to pick up a feral cat, particularly to put her in a carrier or trap. No matter how sweet she seems, handling a cat who has never—or not recently—been touched will frighten and stress her. She may struggle to get away and harm you in the process. With no vaccination records, she is bound to be killed or put into quarantine. Use the correct trapping practices outlined below and ensure the safety of both you and the cat.

A key part of carrying out Trap-Neuter-Return is to establish a friendly dialogue with neighborhood residents and address any possible concerns. Familiarize yourself with the Trap-Neuter-Return process and plan your trapping day in advance. In order to ensure the safety and well-being of the cats and reduce your own stress, make sure to plan all of your trapping endeavors in advance. 




Before You Trap

  1. Read the step-by-step instructions below. Understanding the process thoroughly before you trap is essential. Being prepared helps you anticipate potential problems and plan solutions ahead of time. Keep in mind that your trapping will be most effective if you employ targeted trapping.

  2. Find and coordinate with the other caregivers who are feeding about your plans to trap. If you are the primary caregiver, this is a good opportunity to educate the community and let them know you are caring for the cats. If there are other people feeding the cats, talk to them about Trap-Neuter-Return and try to coordinate efforts, particularly when it comes to feeding, withholding food before trapping, and assessing the colony. 

  3.  Feed on a schedule. Establish a routine time and place for feeding the cats every day for at least two weeks prior to trapping. Also, get the cats used to eating in a 30-minute period. Food should not be left out all of the time. The cats will quickly adapt to the feeding time and will come at that time each day. This is essential to making sure that they all come to eat when you plan to trap. Your trapping day will be most successful if the cats are used to seeing traps. You may want to begin feeding cats out of unset traps to gain their confidence. Remember to work with others who may be caring for the cats in order to coordinate feeding efforts, especially when withholding food and assessing the colony. 

  4. Ensure that the feeding station is appropriately placed. Position the feeding station in an area that is free of human traffic and is inconspicuous. You will have greater success in manipulating their schedule, getting them to show up, and consequently trapping.

  5. Assess the cats. While feeding, start a log of each cat and kitten you see. This will help you monitor the number of cats and their health, determine their approximate age, and help you determine the numbers of appointments and traps you will need. It will also help you identify if some cats are stray—friendly to humans—and may be candidates for adoption into homes or if you will need to be prepared for trapping and fostering kittens. It is important that you get to know the colony, the number of cats, and their description to ensure that all of the cats have been trapped. This is also important for ongoing colony care so you will know if any cats are missing or if any new cats join the colony that need to be neutered.
    While you are assessing the colony, you will also have to consider their specific circumstances and safety. TNR of Warren does not recommend relocation; it should be done only under extreme circumstances when the cats’ lives are in eminent danger. The best way to protect the cats is to ensure they are spayed and neutered immediately; then consider other plans that may be necessary, such as relocation. Be fully prepared before you decide to trap and move cats. Talk to TNR of Warren.

  6. Schedule the Neuter appointments. TNR of Warren will line up clinic or veterinary appointments before you trap. You don’t want to successfully trap cats and then have nowhere to take them. Plan your trapping session so that the cats are transported to the veterinarian or clinic as soon as possible.

  7. Determine the location where you will be holding the trapped cats, both before transporting to the clinic and afterwards during their surgery recovery. The indoor location should be dry, temperature-controlled, quiet, and away from dangers such as toxic fumes, other animals, or people. It is important to remember that cats are very vulnerable when in traps!

  8. Be prepared for specific scenarios that may occur during your trapping. If you trap a severely injured or sick cat, be prepared to get her to a veterinary clinic as soon as possible. If you trap a nursing female—you can trap her without her kittens and get her back to them as soon as possible or you can trap her with her kittens and return the whole troop together.

  9. Although it is not necessary, you may want to consider securing help for the day-of, either through recruiting volunteers or asking a friend. Trapping by yourself, especially for your first time, can be overwhelming and exhausting. Having a companion is also a good safety precaution if you are trapping at night or in an unfamiliar area.

  10. Gather all of the appropriate equipment. When trapping a colony, it is best to have at least one trap per cat. TNR of Warren suggests having more traps than cats, because you never know which locations will be most attractive to the cats or if a trap will malfunction.

  11. Practice setting traps ahead of time. If you have never set a trap, doing it near the trap site on the day-of is not the best place to learn. Be as comfortable as possible with your equipment, for your own peace of mind and the cats’ safety.

  12. Label the traps. Never leave your traps unattended. It is still a good idea to create a sign stating “Spay and Neuter Program in Progress (Do Not Remove)” or “Humane Trapping in Progress” and attach a copy to each trap. Waterproof the sign by enclosing it in a plastic covering or bag.

  13. Make a written plan for the day-of. Make sure your written plan includes every tool you need and step you must complete throughout the Trap-Neuter-Return process. Remember that many tasks must be completed before trapping can start. You must procure traps and arrange for veterinary services, transportation, and a safe, indoor recovery space. 

  14. Pay attention to the weather. Never trap in extreme temperatures, hot or cold. They are dangerous conditions for cats to be without food and exposed to the elements.

  15. Withhold food. You must withhold all food from the cats you intend to trap 24 hours before trapping, to ensure the cats are hungry enough to enter the traps. This includes treats! Also, surgery will be safer for the cats if they have not eaten for at least 12 hours. Remember, you are doing what is best for the cats. Always continue to provide the cats with clean, fresh drinking water.



  1. Prepare the traps. Prepare the traps away from the trap site to prevent unfamiliar noises and commotion that could frighten the cats away. Always test the trap to be sure it is working correctly.

       - Line the bottom of the trap and tag the trap. Place newspaper, folded lengthwise, inside the bottom of the trap to protect the cats’ paws. If it is windy, secure the newspaper to the trap with tape - this is done so the wind will not move the newspaper and frighten the cats. If your trap does not have a rear door, you can secure the front door open with a twist tie while you work and then remove it for trapping. You may need to have several different areas to set traps when trapping an entire colony; in this case, tag the traps with a description of the location so that you can return the cats exactly where you trapped them.

        - Bait the traps. Place approximately one tablespoon of bait (tuna, sardines, or other strong smelling food - usually the ones in oil work best) at the very back of the trap, so that the cat will step on the trigger plate while attempting to reach the food. You may choose to put the food in a lid or container for this, but make sure that it does not have sharp edges that could harm the cat once trapped. Drizzle some juice from the bait in a zigzag pattern along the trap floor toward the entrance. You should also place a tiny bit of food (½ teaspoon) just inside the entrance of the trap to encourage the cat to walk in. Do not use too much food at the entrance of the trap for two reasons: 1) the cat may be satisfied before making it to the trip plate, and 2) cats should have a relatively empty stomach for at least 12 hours before surgery.

        - Set the traps. Place a trap on the ground and make certain it is stable and will not rock or tip. Do not place the trap on a hillside or incline. Set the traps within your eye line so you can keep track of them without having to re-enter the area every time you want to check it. If you are using multiple traps, stagger them and have them face different directions. Try to place the traps where they will attract a cat and be camouflaged, for example, near a bush. Move quietly and slowly so your movements will not frighten cats away. Set the traps and leave the area quietly. The cats are unlikely to enter the traps if you are standing nearby. You should not go back and check on the traps until about 30 minutes has passed from when you set them.

  2. Keep track of the traps at all times. Traps should never be left unattended. Check the traps frequently from a distance. Choose a location to park your car and wait where you are far enough away to give the cats a sense of safety, but close enough so that you can see them.

    Leaving a cat uncovered in a trap for too long will increase the cat’s stress and could lead to injury since they thrash against the cage. (You may want to place a sheet over just the back part of the trap – not the front – before you place it for trapping so you can easily cover the entire trap after the cat is caught. This could also encourage the cat to go inside the trap since it appears to be a covered safe place.) Also, traps may be stolen, damaged, or sprung, or someone who does not understand your intentions may release a trapped cat so it is important to monitor the traps at all times and have an exact count of how many traps you start and end with.

    In larger colonies there may be multiple trapping locations. It is important not to leave any traps unsupervised, so consider bringing multiple trappers to help. If you are trapping alone don’t put out more traps than you can keep an eye on – two or three at most.

  3. Be prepared for the fact that you may trap cats that are already eartipped. Cats with the tip of one ear cut off have already been spayed or neutered. If you do, it is sometimes best to hold that cat in the trap covered until the cats you are aiming for have been trapped.

    Trapping a feral cat may take some time, be patient. It may take the cat a few minutes to go into the trap so make sure the trap is sprung, and the cat securely trapped, before you approach the trap.

  4. After the cat has been trapped, cover the entire trap with a large towel, blanket or sheet before moving it. Covering the traps will help to keep the cats calm. Move trapped cats away to a quiet, safe area to avoid scaring any remaining, un-trapped cats.

    It is normal for cats to thrash around inside the trap. You may be tempted to release a thrashing cat because you fear that they will hurt themselves, but cats calm down once the trap is covered. Remember, you are doing this for their benefit. If they are released, they will continue to breed, and you may not be able to trap them again. Also, most injuries from traps are very minor, such as a bruised or bloody nose or a scratched paw pad.

    You should never open the trap or try to touch a conscious or semi-conscious feral cat. Behave appropriately around trapped cats by being calm, quiet, and not touching them, even if they appear friendly under normal circumstances.

    When an entire colony is being trapped from the same area, it does not make sense to take each cat from the location directly after the trap is sprung. This could disturb the area and scare the other cats away. Instead, when you are setting the traps out, you can partially cover them to help calm the cats once they are trapped. Since they will at least have a part of the trap that is covered, they can feel safe and you can keep the trap where it is. This helps reduce stress to the trapped cat and reduce the odds of other cats being frightened away.

    During a quiet moment when no other cats are investigating the set traps, or if the trapped cats are making noise and deterring other cats from approaching the traps, remove the full traps and put them in the holding vehicle. Re-bait any traps that have had the bait eaten but have not sprung.

  5. You may be faced with particularly hard-to-trap cats. Cats can become trap-shy—frightened to go near or enter a trap, or trap-savvy—mastered the art of removing food without triggering the trap. Don’t be discouraged. There are several unique but straightforward techniques to humanely trap hard-to-trap-cats.

  6. Take the cats to a veterinarian or a spay/neuter clinic. You will already have appointments for sterilization and vaccination before beginning to trap. If you catch the cats in the evening and must wait until the next day, keep the cats in a garage or on a porch and keep the traps covered. Keep them away from dangers such as toxic fumes, other animals, or people. Your trapping should coincide with the clinic’s ability to neuter right away – or the very next morning, so the cats don’t remain in their traps for long. (IMPORTANT: It is possible for a cat to die from hypothermia or heat stroke when confined in a trap outside. A simple guideline—if it is too hot or cold outside for you, then it is too hot or cold for the cats.)

  7. Never move trapped cats in the trunk of a car or the open bed of a pickup truck—this is unsafe and it terrifies the cats. If traps must be stacked inside the vehicle, be sure to secure the traps with bungee cords or other restraints and place puppy pads or newspaper between the stacked traps. If an unsecured trap tips sideways or upside down, it can open and release the cat. If it seems precarious, it won’t work. Don’t take the risk.

  8. After picking the cats up from the clinic and if the weather conditions are good bring the males back to where you trapped them.

    1. Males: watch all males to make sure they are over the effects of the anesthetic, that they are alert and their eyes are bright (3-4) hours. The males can then be released in the area where they were trapped.

    2. Females: If at all possible, the females should be kept in a garage, cage or enclosed porch with a cat box and food for 3-5 days. They need time for the incision to heal. They may then be released.

Once they are ready to return to their outdoor homes, you can continue with your regular colony care.


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