We advise reading one of these excellent websites to learn more about TNR.
Alley Cat Allies (a national organization)
Please attend a workshop on TNR/Helping Community Cats.
TNR/Helping Community Cats Workshop Calendar
Where should I get a humane trap?
You can borrow humane traps from Tree House or PAWS Chicago.
How do I safely and humanely trap a feral cat?
You should familiarize yourself with the trap before attempting to use it. It is important to NEVER leave a set trap unattended for more than a few minutes at a time.
Plan to trap the night before or early the morning of your appointment (no appointment necessary for ferals at ACS).
Trapping early in the morning or at dusk are the best times but it is most important to trap during the times when you normally see the cat or feed the cat. You may want to withhold food for a day or two before trapping to improve your chances of luring the cat into the trap with food.
If you trap opossums, raccoons, skunks or other wildlife release them immediately.
After you have the cat in a trap, keep him/her indoors where he will be safe from predators and the elements. Safe places include garages & sheds, inside a spare room in the home,possibly in a van (crack the windows for ventilation, and only use vehicles if the temperature outside are not too hot or cold). If you don’t have much space consider keeping the trap in the bathtub. Set up the area by lining the ground with a plastic sheet or tarp with newspapers on top. Make sure that all entrances to the room are closed.
Do not give food to the cat the night prior to surgery. Cats should have an empty stomach to prevent nausea caused by the anesthesia. Water should be provided while the cat is not in transport. You can insert a small bowl of water into the end of the trap by slowly opening the back door and sliding it in. Feral cats will be afraid and will likely cower and hiss at the back of the trap. You can also use a bunch of wooden spoons -- insert them in the cage to form a bit of a barrier so the cat can't dart out. Quickly close the door when finished.
Before transporting the cat to his appointment, remove the water bowl just as quickly and carefully as you placed it inside or you can use a wire hangar to spill the water out onto the newspaper if you don’t want to open the door again. You can also use an unbent wire hangar to slowly upright overturned bowls. Use a water bottle to fill the water bowl and slide in filled food bowls or drop the food in through the holes in the trap. A funnel may also come in handy.
The cat will not die of dehydration overnight, so if in doubt, leave it out.
How do I fit a litter box in the trap?
With an adult cat in the trap, adding a litter box does not leave much space for food or for the cat to lie down. Those with small kittens may fit a small 9"x9" aluminum baking pan or a similar small container filled with litter through the rear of the trap (the side with the flat back panel). Feral cats/kittens may or may not use the litter box.
It's easier & more convenient to let the cats eliminate onto the newspaper beneath the trap. They will usually use the back of the trap, since their food is at the front. When it is time to clean up, place fresh newspaper next to the trap, pick it up and place it on the fresh newspaper. Roll up the soiled paper and toss it in the garbage.
After the cat has been released, the traps will have to be disinfected. Hose & bleach them down outside your home, or you can bring them to a carwash.
Can I trap during winter?
Yes. Winter is a good time to trap because there is a lull in breeding, especially in colder climates like here in Chicago. If you can get a colony finished before February or March it will be well worth it. Peak breeding season starts in February. Keep your shaved females inside at least three days post-surgery.
How should I care for the cats after surgery?
The cats must be kept warm and dry since they will not be able to regulate their body temperatures after surgery. Ideally, they would be kept at room temperature. If that's not possible, they can be kept in a garage or shed with blankets wrapped around the traps, leaving an opening for air circulation. You can also stuff a towel or small blanket in the trap as an extra comfort. You may want to use portable heaters and heat lamps in cold weather conditions but be sure to keep them away from flammable objects.
It is also a good idea to elevate the traps off the ground a few inches by placing the trap on 2x4s or on a wide & sturdy bench or table, or put several layers of carpet remnants, cardboard or something similar on the ground and cover with plastic sheets, topped off with newspaper to provide insulation.
Remember to keep newspaper on the floor of the trap and under the trap to absorb waste. It is also extremely important to make sure that the cats get plenty of water to prevent dehydration and they should be eating well and eliminating before release.
How long should I wait before releasing the cats back to their territory?
If all goes well, we recommend keeping males for one day during warm weather and 2 days during winter. Females usually need at least one day more than males. Keep cats in their traps for the recovery period. Generally, if the cats are eating, drinking and eliminating regularly they should be ready for release.
Please understand that it is detrimental to the cat’s mental and physical health to keep them inside for any longer than necessary. Confining a feral cat for longer periods can be detrimental to the cat's mental, and therefore physical, well-being. As long as the sutures are still in place and there is no excess bleeding they should be ready to go in a day or two. If you have any doubts, call the facility where the surgery was performed. Be sure that the cats eat and drink plenty before releasing them since they may stay away for a few days after being released.
Should I trap a pregnant cat?
Yes, we recommend trapping and spaying pregnant cats. Remember, Animal Care and Control euthanizes more feral kittens than any other animals and shelters are flooded with kitten admission requests throughout the year. Female kittens may start to mate as young as four months of age, and the queens may start to mate again about 8-10 weeks after delivery. It is important to understand that the cat is not emotionally connected to her unborn kittens. She reproduces out of instinct. If anything, birthing kittens brings more stress to her life as she needs to work hard enough just to survive on her own.