There are a variety of reasons why caring people may use humane traps to capture cats. This article, Reasons for Trapping Stray or Feral Cats, explains the need for trapping cats.
Being trapped is naturally stressful for any cat. It is important to use animal traps correctly and avoid unnecessary additional stress and suffering for the cat.
My suggestions for trapping can be applied in a situation of TNR (Trap, Neuter, Release). With the TNR program, you are trapping cats to get them spayed and neutered. While at the vet, they are given shots and treated for sickness or injury. Sometimes ears are tipped for identification so if the same cat gets in a trap at a later time, you can release it because it has already been spayed or neutered. In TNR, cats are returned to the same area. A person called a caretaker feeds them every day and makes sure the cats have fresh water and shelter. They also observe this colony of cats so new cats that show up can also be spayed or neutered.
Before trapping at a new location, find out the cat situation. Approximately how many cats are there? Are other people’s cats in the neighborhood that you do not want to catch in a trap? Where are the cats fed? What time do they show up? You may even want to notify people in the area that you will be trapping a certain time, so they can keep their own cats inside during those times. You also want them to know why you are hanging around. Years ago, I learned this the hard way when neighbors called the sheriff’s office to investigate my presence!
Make arrangements with the vet’s office before trapping, so they are expecting you and can accommodate the number of cats you are hoping to bring to them.
Some people claim that you cannot feed cats the day before you intend to trap. Supposedly, if you feed them, the day before, the cats will not be hungry enough to go after the bait in the traps the following day. I have always continued to put food out every day. I don’t agree that you have to withold their food one day so they will be hungry the next day. Cats are creatures of habit. They will show up to eat! And they will be hungry every day, too.
Stay with the traps when they are set. Park your car at a strategic spot that is far enough away from the traps that you do not cause suspicion among the cats. Yet, you need to be close enough to observe what is going on with the traps. You don’t want a trapped cat to be bothered by other animals or people. You also want to immediately remove a trap when a cat gets in it, so the other cats do not catch on to what a trap is all about!
There may be times or situations in which you cannot stay with the traps when they are set. In that case, be sure to hide the traps in bushes or behind something. You don’t want your traps stolen. And you don’t want a well-meaning person to release a cat that is in a trap. You will still need to trap that cat at another time. However, usually a cat that has already been in a trap is so much harder–if not impossible–to lure into a trap again.
Do not trap in extreme weather. If you must trap during very hot weather, put the trap in a shady spot and be prepared to remove the trap immediately after the cat is caught. Don’t let the cat sit in a trap unprotected from the sun. Don’t trap in rain, sleet, snow, or hail. Don’t ever trap cats in very cold weather. Females get their bellies shaved when spayed. They cannot stay warm without their fur in cold weather. And they should never have to walk in snow with their bare bellies touching the snow.
When you set the trap, make sure it is setting flat. A cat may not be willing to enter a wobbly trap. Use a strong-smelling food for bait. I prefer mackerel, but tuna or another smelly fish will work, too. Put a small amount of bait in the closed end of the trap. Then make a little trail of bait beginning outside the trap that leads to the closed end. This is where the trap trigger is located. Read more about how traps work in the article, Reasons For Trapping Stray or Feral Cats.
When the trap snaps shut, a cat will often whirl around in panic and confusion. When picking up the trap, draping a towel over the top and sides of the trap (leaving the ends open for air) enables the cat to settle down quickly. This makes trapping less stressful for the cat–and you!
Follow the directions the vet’s office gives you when you pick up the cats after being spayed or neutered. Some vets require animals spend the night before you can pick them up. Depending on your experience, other vets may allow you to pick up the cats the same day as the surgery. If so, keep the cats in the traps overnight and wait until the next morning to release them. If they are not completely out of the anesthesia and totally alert when released, the cats may become easy prey for dogs, foxes, or other dangers.
Protect your vehicle! Sometimes a cat will urinate or poop while in the traps riding in your car. Not to worry, it’s just part of the job! Be sure to first put down plastic with newspapers on top. Set the traps on the newspapers. They will absorb anything, if it happens. Later you can easily just fold up the newspaper within the plastic and discard.
Caution: These cat-trapping suggestions are geared to TNR, a program in which cats are returned (after their visit to the vet) to the place where they had been living. If, sadly, there is no choice but to euthanize the cats, other precautions must be taken. For instance, if you trap a mother cat, immediately get her kittens, too. If you get the kittens first, be sure to also trap the mother cat. Do not take one without the other. You can identify a mother cat by holding the trap up high so you can look at her belly. If she is nursing, the fur around her nipples will be matted down from the kittens sucking.
Hopefully you will never have to trap cats that must be euthanized. What a very sad and tragic solution. Nobody even wants to think about it. But sometimes there is no other choice. And euthanasia is still less horrible than allowing a cat to continue to breed and reproduce, suffer from injury or disease, starve, or die a slow, painful death.
No, Never: Never trap cats for the purpose of dumping them just to get rid of them. If they must be relocated because they absolutely cannot remain where they are, then they must first be spayed or neutered. There also must be someone who will feed the cats and provide clean water and shelter at the new, well-chosen location. Find out from a reputable humane society the proper way to acclimate cats to a new location. Otherwise, the cats may be disoriented, not hang around and, therefore, not be taken care of.
Remember that the trapping of stray and feral cats is necessary in preventing suffering, mistreatment, and overpopulation of cats. When done correctly, stress to the cat is kept at a minimum.
Another article by iSnyder: Reasons For Trapping Stray or Feral Cats