Humane Trapping Guidelines

Before trapping for the first time, please read the information below on effective, safe, and humane trap-neuter-return procedures. It is very important that trapping be done in a responsible manner to protect the person trapping, the veterinary staff, and the cats.



  • Before you trap, you must make appointments with one of our participating veterinary clinics.
  • Give as much notice as possible if you can’t keep your appointments. The veterinary clinics that work with us provide services at a highly reduced rate. Please respect them and their staffs’ schedules by letting them know as soon as possible if you can’t keep an appointment or failed to trap your cats for any reason.
  • Cat must be brought to the clinic in a humane trap (not a carrier or other type of container).


  • Several days before you plan to trap, start feeding the cats at the same time every day so they start showing up regularly at that time.
  • During this time, you may put some food inside a trap with the back and front doors tied open with wire or bungee cords. This will help the cats lose their fear of the trap.
  • The day before trapping, reduce the amount of food so cats will be extra hungry when you trap.
  • Do not feed the cats within 12 hours of trapping.
  • Notify any neighbors who may also be feeding the cats that you will be trapping and ask them not to feed cats the day before or the day of trapping.


    • You should trap the cats the day before scheduled surgery and keep them in a secure, climate-controlled space overnight.
    • Bait traps with food and set during the usual feeding time. Use a smelly tempting food such as tuna or canned cat food.
    • Set as many traps as you have appointments for, plus one extra. Do not trap in high winds or rain due to limited success.
    • Set traps on a level surface in the area where the cats are used to being fed. If trapping in a more public area, try placing the traps where passersby will not notice them. Bushes are places where cats often hide and provide good camouflage for the traps.
    • Make sure the latch to the back door of the trap is down before you set the trap.
    • Monitor traps from a distance. Never leave the traps unattended.
    • Once a cat is trapped, cover the trap with a sheet to calm the cat, especially if trapped cat is scaring the others by thrashing or vocalizing. Otherwise, try to wait until all cats are trapped to cover the traps so your movements don’t scare off the cats. If a cat is already ear-tipped, indicating he has already been sterilized, release the cat and re-bait and reset the trap.
    • Take the traps to a secure, temperature-controlled spare room (heated garage or basement OK) until surgery. Place newspaper or a tarp beneath trap to absorb liquids.
    • The cats may have water and food but remove all food by 11:00 PM the night prior to surgery. (See Safety Notes below.)
    • Never let any cat out of the trap prior to surgery! You may never be able trap the cat again.
    • For video guidance, consult Alley Cat Allies website “How to Trap an Entire Colony” or call their National Community Cat Helpline at 240-482-1980 ext. 330.
    • Need help setting your Tru-Catch trap? Watch this YouTube video or check out this slideshow.

    NOTE: All cats will be ear-tipped to indicate spay/neuter. Pregnant cats can be spayed.


    • Keep the traps covered. Do not attempt to touch the cat through the trap. The cat will not be comforted and you risk being scratched or bitten.
    • When placing food and water in the trap:
      • Carefully lift the back door one or two inches only and quickly slide the dishes just inside.
      • Be careful not to stick your hand in any further than necessary.
      • Don’t keep the door open for any longer than necessary to slide in or remove dishes.
      • Close the trap quickly and make sure it is latched.
    • Do not let children or pets near the cats.
    • Do not release the cats from traps until after surgery and the prescribed recovery period.
    • Wildlife: If you catch a raccoon, skunk, or possum, release the animal as follows:
      • Move slowly and quietly and cover the trap with a sheet.
      • Pull the sheet back from the releasing end–the animal will retreat under the towel.
      • Open the trap back door and stand away from the trap.
      • Pull the sheet off and the animal should run out of the trap away from you.


    • Cats are very susceptible to heat and cold while recovering from anesthesia. Keep the cats in their covered traps in a warm (at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit), quiet, safe area, such as a spare room, bathroom, or temperature-controlled basement or garage. Keep traps covered and place newspapers and a tarp or plastic sheet beneath the traps to absorb any liquids.
    • Covering the trap with towels or blankets (being careful to leave an air passage) will help keep cats warm. If the trap is on a cold floor, place a towel or blanket underneath it.
    • If necessary, provide a heat source (heat lamps, space heater, etc.), being careful not to allow the cat to become overheated.
    • In warm weather, make sure there is enough ventilation so the cat does not overheat.
    • Monitor the cats frequently but discreetly. If you see any of the following symptoms or have concerns, please call the vet clinic. DO NOT RELEASE THE CAT:
      • Depression or lack of alertness
      • Vomiting or diarrhea
      • Any abnormalities of the incision such as excess bleeding, excess swelling, an open incision, or worsening redness (a little redness is normal)
      • Labored breathing
    • Feed each cat a light meal the night after surgery with a shallow dish of water available at all times (see Safety Notes above). Canned cat food is best since it has moisture that helps hydrate the cat. Please note it is normal for their appetites to be mildly suppressed for a day or two.
    • Release males after 24 hours; females after 48 hours if all seems well. Return each cat to her/his original location. Make sure each cat is fully alert before releasing from the trap. Point the open end of the trap away from any roads since most cats will run quickly out of the trap. Tilt up the back of the trap if needed or tap on the top of the trap to encourage the cat to leave. Never put your hand into the trap.


    • We have a limited number of traps, so please return yours as soon as possible so we can loan them to another caretaker.
    • Please wash the traps with a nontoxic disinfectant and rinse. Do not use bleach.
    • Wash any borrowed trap covers with laundry detergent and bleach.