If you are trapping feral cats for Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), you may find that some cats can be particularly difficult to trap. They may be suspicious of the trap, making them leery of entering, or they know how to get the bait without triggering the trap door.  It can take some time and definitely patience, and here are some suggestions to help with those suspicious felines.

Use a larger trap

A larger trap with a taller opening and wider sides can be less intimidating to a cat that is wary of an enclosed space.

Get the cats comfortable with the trap

Feed outside of unset traps, in their normal feeding locations, for a week or two before trapping or attempting to trap again. Place the food near the entrance of the trap, and each day gradually move it closer to the back of the trap.

Offer a more enticing food to get the cat’s interest.

  • Bits of jarred baby food
  • Catnip (smear fresh catnip on trap plate)
  • Try sardines, anchovies, “human tuna”, mackerel, canned cat food or cooked chicken.

Disguise human scent

Cats have an extraordinary sense of smell. Traps often smell like humans or cleaning products. Try wiping the trap with fresh catnip or sardine oil.

Leave trap covers outdoors to lose the human scent.

Change the location of the trap

Move it to a more protected area so the cat feels safer going into it.

Camouflage the trap

Disguise the trap so that it blends in with its surroundings. Hide the trap under a bush, under a leaning piece of wood, or in a box so the cat feels like he is entering a dark hole. Cover the sides with branches, leaves, camouflage material, burlap or other natural materials. Do not cover the rear as the cat needs to see all the way through or the trap floor.

Sometimes simply covering the trap with dark cloth or a towel can do the trick, just make sure that the coverings you use do not interfere with the trap door closing.

Withhold food

Consider withholding food for up to two days, but no longer than that.   Never withhold water.

Try a drop trap

If the standard box trap isn’t working, try using a drop trap.  The large mesh box is propped up and triggered manually. Once you have the cat, you can transfer it to a regular trap.  Drop traps allow you to catch a cat without having to force him into a confined space. The drop trap falls down over a cat (when triggered by you with a rope) eliminating the need for the cat to step into a narrow opening. Using a drop trap is often a last resort, because it either requires you to build or purchase your own or find one to borrow. Using a drop trap normally requires the help of another trapper.

Take a break.

Unless the cat is in need of immediate medical attention, give yourself and the cat a rest, and then try again.

If the cat is in need of immediate medical attention, please reach out to a feral cat rescue for help and suggestions.  If you don’t know of one in your area, you can find feral cat rescue and resources by doing a Google Search for your area.   Alley Cat Allies has a listing of contact resources.  Please visit their website at alleycat.org

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