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Trapping Tips

Try These and You Should Be Able to Catch That Cat Using TNR!

These suggstions have been compiled by experienced volunteers, who have spent years performing TNR (Trap, Neuter and Return).  The suggestions are presented in no particular order.  First try those things that are easiest for you and which make the most sense.  If those don’t work, proceed down the list and try something else.  Like people, all cats are different.  What works for one cat may not work for another cat. The important thing is to stick with it - be persistent and commit to trapping that cat and getting it altered.  You can do it! 

Download printable version: Trapping Tips (doc)

Always completely cover the trap with a towel or blanket as soon as the cat is trapped. 
Always keep the trap fully covered whenever transporting a cat.


  1. Withhold food for at least 36 hours.  The cats will not starve, but will become interested in the trap bait if that is the only food offered.
  2. Talk with neighbors and get their cooperation in withholding food.  Make certain that the cats aren’t finding another food source; cats are resourceful and will find any food within a wide area.
  3. It sometimes takes several weeks or months to get a cat trapped.  You must be persistent and consistent.  Don’t withhold food for 24 hours, and then cave and provide copious amounts of food to assuage your guilt.  If you do this, the cats learns to wait you out, knowing that there will be a food reward if they just stonewall your attempts.
  4. Try trap de-sensitization where you tie open the trap and place the food in front of the trap initially, and then gradually move the food farther and farther inside of the trap.  Once the cat is comfortable eating inside the trap – no harm, no foul – untie the trap and catch the cat.
  5. Try to trap both with the trap covered and uncovered.  Some cats like the safety of a covered trap while others won’t enter a trap unless they can see the outside world.
  6. Place the trap in or near bushes; cats sometimes prefer the protection of foliage and aren’t comfortable approaching a trap that is out in the open.
  7. Line the trap with newspaper, cardboard or a towel.  Also try leaving it unlined.  Again, some cats like it lined because they don’t like stepping on the wiring in the cage.  Other cats can be spooked by the sound of their feet on the newspaper.  
  8. Vary your trap bait.  Some cats only like kibble, as that is all they have ever been fed, and they don’t have an acquired taste for anything else.  Others prefer canned cat food, and few can resist canned tuna in oil (Bumble Bee is the best brand for this), KFC original recipe dark meat, smoked herring, and half-cooked bacon.  And there are those cats who can’t resist catnip, sprinkled generously throughout the trap.
  9. Make sure that your bait is fresh.  Dried wet food won’t attract anyone.  And in summer months, you may have to re-bait several times if ants are getting into the food.
  10. Make sure you trail your bait from the front of the trap to the back of the trap.  If you only place food at the rear of the trap, many cats won’t make the trip – it’s just too scary to go down that tunnel of wire for a few kibbles of food at the far end of the trap.
  11. Make a bait trail down one side of the trap and then place the jackpot in the corner on the opposite side of the trap.  If you trail food down either side of the trap, the cat can sniff the food from outside the trap, and will become interested and enter the trap.  However, if you trail food down the center, the cat may not get the scent from the outside and won’t take the plunge.  Also, if you leave food in the center of the trap at the rear, cats learn to enter the trap, gingerly reach over the trap plate, eat the food, and carefully back out of the trap, with a full tummy.
  12. Watch the cat as it approaches the trap, and observe its reaction.  If the cat is going part way in and eating and then backing out, the cat is smart; if it is looking only at the back of the trap, you need a better bait trail from the front of the trap; if the cat is showing no interest, try another type of bait.
  13. Try dangling food at the rear of the trap, rather than just placing food on the floor of the trap.  It is easy to dangle a strip of partially cooked bacon or a chicken leg at the rear of the trap; remember to put it in the corner so that the cat has to step to reach it, and will trigger the trip plate in the process.
  14. If the cat is trap savvy, you can rig a manual pull by placing an empty soda bottle to prop open the trap.  Tie a string around the bottle, and sharply pull the string when the cat is fully in the trap.  Don’t get trigger happy and pull before the cat is solidly in the trap.
  15. Use a two-door trap, leaving both ends open.  Feed from either or both ends of the trap and gradually move the food inside the trap.  Once the cat is comfortable with feeding inside the trap, set the trap and catch the cat.
  16. Use a two-door trap with a Lucite slider on one end.  (This works best with Tomahawk traps.  You can get the slider doors from Tapp Plastics on The Alameda.)  Cats sometimes are more comfortable if they can see their way out of the other end of the trap, and the Lucite panel provides that illusion.
  17. Make sure the trap is clean.  Cats will avoid traps that smell of other cats.  It is important to bleach and sanitize the trap after each time it is used.


If you have tried all of these suggestions, and are still unsuccessful in trapping the cat, it may be time to use a drop trap. However, using a conventional humane trap to catch a cat is much less stressful for the cat than using a drop trap, so it is important that you have exhausted all of the suggestions listed above. Also, keep in mind that drop traps should only be used by experienced trappers who have been trained on use of the drop trap. If you lose a cat in a drop trap, your chances of ever trapping that cat are greatly reduced.  And, a drop trap is time-consuming, as the trapper has to constantly watch the trap. We suggest that you go through this list of suggestions and see if you can’t trap the cat using a conventional humane trap. Use a drop trap only as a last resort.


For more information or questions, contact us: 

13th Street Cat Rescue

Phone: (408) 566-3637

Email: tnr@13thstcats.org