Planning is everything! Make sure that you have enough equipment, assistance, a plan for transport and recovery. Set up a holding and recovery area for the cats in advance. Notify your neighbors or additional feeders so that everyone is on board.
Set a feeding schedule.
If you not already feeding cats on a schedule, you should begin doing this a week or two before you plan to trap. Use this schedule when you are ready to begin trapping. Withhold food 12-24hours before you set the traps.
Make veterinary appointments in advance.
You may need to schedule your appointment several weeks ahead of time. Make reservations with a veterinarian or clinic that has experience working with feral cats.
Prepare and set the traps.
Traps are expensive to purchase but many organizations will let you borrow them. Plan to pick up the traps several days before the scheduled trapping. This will give you time to familiarize yourself with their function. The organization volunteer will demonstrate how to set the traps. It is a good idea to place the traps in the feeding area as soon as you get them. This will allow the cats to adjust to their presence. Disable the traps or remove the back door to allow cats to enter without being trapped. Place food bowls inside so that cats are unafraid to enter when the time comes.
On the day of trapping, prepare the traps away from the site or well ahead of the scheduled feeding time. Place a small amount of bait (tuna, sardines, mackerel) at the back of the trap, past the trip plate. Place a tiny amount at the entrance of the trap to attract them. The traps should be placed on a level surface (to prevent accidental tripping) and then set. Stay out of sight, watching from a distance to prevent alerting the cats. Never leave the traps unattended.
Remove the traps and prepare to transport.
Once the trap is sprung, cover the entire trap with a towel or trap cover. This calms the cat after it is trapped and prevents other cats from seeing inside. Leave the trap in place until you can safely remove it without alerting the other cats. Cats should be held in the traps in a safe, quiet location until you are ready to transport. Make sure that they have water and you may feed them, depending on the timing of their surgery. Food is typically withheld after midnight the day before surgery. Transport the cats in their traps to their appointment.
Care for the cats post-surgery.
The cats should remain in their traps after their surgery in a temperature-controlled, safe location while they recover from anesthesia. Provide a small meal and water after they are awake. They can return to their normal feeding schedule the day following surgery. Monitor the cats to make sure they are recovering properly. If you suspect any complications or observe any vomiting, bleeding, or difficulty breathing, contact the emergency number on the post-op instructions from the clinic immediately. Cats can be returned 24 hours following surgery. Lactating females need to be returned once they are alert if the location of their kittens is unknown.
Return the cats.
Return the cats to the location where they were trapped. Uncover the traps to allow the cats to get their bearing before carefully opening the door to release them. It may take them a moment to realize that they can leave. It is not unusual for them to stay away from the feeding area for a few days. They will return eventually.
Thank you for helping to improve the lives of community cats!