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What to do with a stray or feral cat?
What do you do with the cat you see lurking around the bushes in your backyard? You don't recognize it as any cat owned by your neighbors, what if it is a stray cat or a feral cat?
First, you need to successfully trap the stray cat humanely. There are several traps on the market today where you can accomplish this, but a call to a local feed store, pet store, or animal shelter may help you find a trap you can rent. Ask for a Hav-A-Hart trap or a Trap Man Humane Cat Trap. Many places will allow you rent the trap for a deposit.
How do you use a trap?
Before you set the trap outside with bait in it, wash it down with hot water and a mild liquid detergent. Once it has been air dried, take some plain clay cat litter and pad the inside of the cage, away from the trigger so when the stray cat goes into the cage, he doesn’t feel the wire under his pads. Spray the litter with Feliway Spray. Do NOT use clumping litter, plain clay litter works well. If you have your own cat, use your cat’s soiled litter for a “topping.” I have yet to meet a cat that will not enter a trap where another cat’s scent lurks so he can cover it with his own.
A typical humane cat trap is set up with a door, a trigger and a catch. There are several different types of humane traps on the market. If you buy a new trap, just follow the directions. If you borrow a trap ask how to properly use it.
Set the trap by opening the door and placing the bait in the back of the cage. Use smelly bait to draw the cat in, mackerel, herring, or sardines are good bait food.
If you are trapping an adult cat, you can sprinkle a tiny bit of catnip into the bait as well.
Use a large jar lid to hold the food, not a bowl or a saucer. You want the bait to be visible so the cat can go directly to the back of the cage and spring the door.
Put the trap in a location that is out of the way, sheltered from the elements, but still visible to you from a distance.
You do not want to leave this trap unattended for long periods of time. If possible keep it under close scrutiny. People will often times terrorize a cat that is trapped, or even steal the trap itself with the cat in it.
Once the cat has gone into the trap, take a heavy dark blanket and cover the cage completely. If you are working under hot or warm climate conditions, place the trap someplace where it is cool. If you are working with cold or rainy conditions, put the cat someplace warm and safe while you wait for the vet appointment.
When a cat becomes trapped, several disturbing things can happen. A feral cat will hurl himself against the wire seeking escape. He may even become bloody in his attempt to free himself. You will have a cat that is aggressive, scared. He could be growling, biting, and clawing. He is just trying to protect himself. Handle the cage with heavy gloves, and wear long sleeves. Do NOT remove him from the trap.
Get him to the vet as quickly as possible. Keep the trap covered at all times until you get him into the examining room. Then the vet will take it from there. Be sure and ask your vet to scan for a microchip. If the cat is owned, you should make every effort to contact the owner. After all, if this was your lost cat, wouldn’t you want to know where he is?
Mary Anne Miller is a freelance writer, website content provider and member of The Cat Writers’ Association. Her expertise lies in feral cat socialization, bottle babies and animal abuse issues.