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Kittens and puppies, oh my! Part IV

When we last discussed spaying and neutering feral cats, I wrote about TNR (trap-neuter-return), the process of trapping feral cats, having them fixed and ear-tipped, then releasing back to the spot where they were trapped. I wrote that “fixed” ferals are easy to spot–they have a portion of one ear missing, hence the term ‘ear tip’.

If you notice cats in an area that you frequent (or even start feeding a stray cat that shows up on your front porch), the first thing to do is identify if the cat is feral, and if so, whether or not that cat is fixed. Feral cats are shy around people and won’t readily come up to you. They will likely hold back while you fill their dish or even just walk by. (If the cat is friendly, please call animal control or contact a rescue group. Domesticated social cats deserve to be indoor pets!) A feral without a tipped ear needs to be fixed and vaccinated. And that is where trapping comes in!

Photo by Alley Cat Allies

You can buy a trap or rent one from an organization like Feral Cat Assistance Program. Folks that plan to trap frequently find that buying a trap can be quite convenient. You can find them online or at stores such as Tractor Supply. Once you’ve gotten your trap and have a plan for the cat (see info at the end of this post for places that spay and neuter feral cats), you will want to get all the supplies you need for trapping–canned food, a couple towels, and some newspaper or puppy pads. The following guidelines are from Alley Cat Allies, the nation’s top organization for all things feral cat.

How to trap a feral cat:

  • Withhold food from cats. It’s recommended that you withhold food from cats for 24 hours before trapping, but continue to provide water. This means the cats will be hungry enough to go into the traps on trapping day. Talk to other caregivers and neighbors in the area so they withhold food as well.
  • Line the bottom of the trap. When preparing a trap, line the bottom interior with one or two pages of newspaper, folded lengthwise, so that the floor is more comfortable for kitty paws. On windy days, it might be necessary to tape the newspaper down.
  • Tag the trap. Always tag the traps with the location of where it has been set up. When you trap the cat, write a brief description of the cat on the tag. This will help you in returning the right cat to her right home.
  • Bait the traps. The smellier, the better! Place approximately one tablespoon of bait (tuna in oil, sardines, or other strong-smelling food) at the very back of the trap, so that the cat will step on the trigger plate while attempting to reach the food. Lightly drizzle some bait juice along the trap floor toward the entrance. You can even place a tiny bit of food (1/4 teaspoon) just inside the entrance of the trap to encourage the cat to walk in.
  • Placing traps. For the safety of the cats, always place traps on a flat and stable ground. If you’re using multiple traps, stagger them and face them in different directions. Try to place the traps in quiet and hidden areas, so cats are more comfortable going near them.
  • Monitor and keep track of traps. Traps should never be left unattended. Check the traps frequently, but from a distance so you don’t scare cats away. Choose a location to wait where you are far enough away to give the cats a sense of safety, but close enough so that you can see them. Keep a close eye in the event a trap malfunctions and you need to spring into action to prevent a cat from being injured.
  • A cat has been trapped. The trapped cat will likely be frightened and thrashing to get out. Immediately cover the entire trap with a large towel or sheet to calm the kitty down. Carefully move the covered, trapped cat away to a quiet and safe area that’s temperature-controlled to prevent her from scaring off any remaining un-trapped cats. Remember, it’s possible for a cat to die from hypothermia or heat stroke when confined in a trap outside. A good rule to follow is if it’s too hot or cold outside for you, then it’s too hot or cold for the cats.
  • Hard-to-trap cats. Some cats are particularly shy or just too savvy to take the bait. Fortunately, there are alternate ways of safely trapping a cat who’s too smart to go into a regular box trap. For instance, a drop trap will give you more control over when a cat is trapped because you trigger the trap yourself.
  • Count your traps. Always remember to count the number of traps when you finish trapping so you know that you didn’t leave any traps behind, especially ones with cats inside.
  • Take the cats to a veterinarian or a spay/neuter clinic. If your appointments aren’t the same day as the trapping, place the trapped and covered cats in an indoor holding area that is dry, temperature-controlled, and away from dangers such as toxic fumes, other animals, or people. It’s recommended that trapping 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 too long.
  • Transport cats safely. When transporting cats in a vehicle, make sure they remain inside the covered traps and that they are placed on a flat surface. If traps must be stacked inside the vehicle, be sure to secure the traps with bungee cords or other restraints so they don’t topple over. Place puppy pads or newspaper between the stacked traps in case there’s a bathroom accident.

The following places accept feral cats for spay/neuter/vaccine services and ear tips. They are low cost, around $10 or $20 a cat. They generally have a waiting list, so contact them before you plan to trap. Once you have a feral cat in a trap, you will likely never be able to trap them again, so you must make the first time count. NEVER TRAP WITHOUT A PROPER PLACE TO HOUSE THE CAT UNTIL SPAY DAY. NEVER TRAP A CAT WITHOUT SOLID PLANS FOR SPAY/NEUTER SERVICES.

Places in the Triad that take ferals for spay/neuter/vaccine services and ear tips:

Feral Cat Assistance Program

The Humane Society of the Piedmont

Sheets Pet Clinic

Kittens and puppies, oh my! Part II

This is article #2 in a new summer series. Please read last week’s article if you haven’t already!

As you know, it’s raining kittens and puppies right now. And while these baby animals are fuzzy and cute, their sheer numbers are almost unbelievable. Approximately 70,000 kittens and puppies are born EACH DAY in the United States alone (http://www.solanoferals.org).

Compare that with almost 10,000 humans born each day. No matter how you look at that number, there will never be enough homes for these animals. As a result, nearly 9 million cats and dogs die in our shelters each year.

These numbers are both staggering and heart breaking. But there is an easy fix: spay and neuter. The general rule is “fix at 4 months”, and many shelters and rescues have worked hard to make this ‘rule’ common knowledge (https://bestfriends.org/our-work/spay-and-neuter-education)

Most shelters and local humane societies offer low-cost spay/neuter services. Additionally, low cost clinics perform these surgeries. It’s a safe procedure, and does not, as myths suggest, change your dog’s behavior or make them fat. What it will do is eliminate the chance for unwanted litters, reduce the risk of reproductive cancers, and eliminate bad habits like spraying.

But what about the nearly 70 million feral cats in this country? How do you get a “wild animal” to the vet for a spay/neuter surgery? And does it matter? It’s just a stray or shy cat that you are nice enough to feed on your back porch. Yet, feeding is not enough. You must get that cat fixed–that one cat can have 18 kittens a year. All of sudden, your desire to help a sweet homeless cat has put you in the position of feeding a herd! And intact cats (ones that haven’t been ‘fixed’) have a lower quality of life. They fight more, roam more, and are more susceptible to disease. Managed feral cats, on the other hand, have a longer, happier life due to that one simple surgery.

Next week, in part 3, we will discuss the international movement known as “T-N-R”: trap, neuter, & release. We will talk about how to properly trap a feral cat, how to tell if that cat is already ‘fixed’ (yes!–there is a way without even touching the cat!), how to take advantage of free and low-cost feral ‘spay days’, and how to care for the cat once it’s been altered and you’ve brought it back ‘home’.