Why Do I Need to Use a Trap?

People seem to have a visceral reaction to the word “trap,” and for some, the idea turns them off from TNR entirely. But the absolute kindest thing you can do for your cats is to get them spayed and neutered, and humane box traps are actually the least stressful way to capture your cats for this purpose.

Feral cats are naturally afraid of people. Although some of them do get friendly and allow themselves to be petted, and even picked up, they tend to be very skittish and unpredictable. Although it's possible to catch feral cats using other methods, a humane box trap is the easiest and safest way, for both the handler and the cat. Trapping is not very difficult, and we’re happy to teach you how to do it. You can attend our TNR workshop for a hands-on demonstration, and we’re happy to coach you and answer any questions you might have.

Box traps are wire cages with a "trip plate" that the cat activates by stepping on it, and causing the trap door to securely snap shut. The traps don't hurt the cats, although they may get frightened by the action of the trap being set off and the sound of the door snapping closed. But if you quickly and quietly cover the trap with a towel, they will usually calm right down.

Cats should stay in the trap for the duration of their time with you. Never EVER let a cat out of the trap, because you likely won't be able to get him back in it! The traps that CCMD lends out are very roomy and cats can be kept in them for several days. We suggest that caretakers line the traps with newspaper for bedding, and you can give the cat food and water right in the trap.

Most feral cat spay/neuter clinics require that cats be brought in traps, for several reasons. First, it's the safest way for people to handle the cats -- they can be given the sedative injection right through the spaces in the wire mesh of the trap, so the cat does not have to be handled at all until it is already asleep. Second, feral cats are very crafty and can squeeze through amazingly small spaces -- humane traps are designed to be secure and prevent escape, when used properly. And third, most feral cat clinics are high-volume, often altering 50 or more cats at each clinic. The traps are uniform in size and shape and can be lined up in an orderly way.

We have traps available for loan at no charge for use at any of the local spay/neuter clinics. The Maryland SPCA also has traps available for loan, but they can only be loaned out for use at an SPCA clinic. E-mail feralhelp@mdspca.org or call 410-235-8826 (ext. 105) to borrow traps from the SPCA.

If you want to purchase your own traps, they are available for sale at many garden/farm supply and hardware stores. Links to some recommended vendors are listed on our Resources page. The raccoon-sized traps work well with feral cats, and if possible, you want a trap that opens on both ends.

For those who aren’t comfortable or capable of trapping on their own, we do sometimes have volunteers available to trap your cats and bring them to our clinics. However, because of limited availability, you will likely have to wait several months before someone can help you. You’ll be able to get your cats into our clinics more quickly if you can try to trap them yourself.