Trapping Feral or Community Cats for TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return)
If you live in the King William or Lavaca neighborhoods, please contact The Cannoli Fund or call 210-380-5745 to arrange to borrow one or more easy-to-use humane traps. A feral cat (or any cat) weighing at least two pounds can be spayed or neutered. Cats can reproduce when they are as young as five months old.
Small kittens can be trapped or caught by throwing a towel over them and then scooping them up. A mother will bring them to her food source when they’re about four or five weeks old, which allows a few weeks to get them off the streets and into a loving home before they become fully feral.
Set traps in the evening (5 pm or later) to keep the cat’s time in the trap as short as possible. Instructions for setting our brown humane traps are here.
1. Don’t feed the cats within 8-10 hours of when you plan to set a trap. Tuna, preferably in oil, makes an especially tempting bait. Many cats can also be trapped using wet cat food, the cheaper and smellier, the better.
2. Line the inside bottom of the humane trap with newspaper or a single-ply piece of corrugated cardboard.
3. Use a short-sided Tupperware-type container (like deli meat comes in) and a quarter can of tuna or cheap wet cat food. It is important to use a container with sides, because the feral cat will have to move forward and trip the trap to get to the food. Smart cats will just reach through the sides to reach the food and trigger the trap if the bait is on something without edges.
4. Cover the trap with a towel (fully covering the back of the trap) that is big enough to stay on top of the trap even if there’s wind or if the cat inside tries to pull it off. This also makes the cat much more comfortable both going in the trap and after it is caught.
5. Set the trap.
6. Leave the area once you set the trap and come back in an hour or so and check to see if you’ve caught a feral cat or if the trap’s tripped. You may return to find a possum or raccoon in the trap! If that happens, use a broom stick to gently turn the trap over which will open the trap so the animal can flee without you getting close.
7. It’s best not to leave the trap out all night. If you don’t catch a feral cat by 11 pm, try again the next evening.
8. Once you catch a cat, move it to a protected area on a porch or similar site. Open up one end of the trap just a little bit, and slide in a short-sided container containing a small amount of water (unless the cat is very agitated; then it’s best to just leave it alone). Keep the trap covered until the next morning. Some cats (particularly “tough” males) will thrash around in the cage; just keep the trap covered to minimize the cat’s anxiety. If you have trapped cats from the same colony, place the cages next to each other to make them more comfortable.
9. No food or water after 10 pm if at all possible. It’s okay if there is leftover food with the cat and most of the time they end up spilling the water.
10. Line your backseat with cardboard, newspaper, a shower curtain, and/or thick towels. San Antonio’s low cost spay/neuter clinics aren’t open every day so make sure to check the website first or call. There is no appointment or special form needed as long as you deliver the cats in traps to most clinics, though some do require appointments. The cats will be ear-tipped on their left ear as a sign that they have been spayed or neutered.
11. The clinic will tell you when to pick up the cat (depending on how many animals they have that day), typically mid- to late afternoon. It’s often best to let male community cats out by 10 pm or so if they become agitated the night they come home. Female cats should be held overnight to recover. You may trap a nursing mother and in that case you’ll need to let her out as soon as she seems to be “on her paws” so she can get back to her kittens. The clinic will give you the best instructions for your situation.