Most of the cats on our property were easy to trap. We’d put the trap in the yard, bait it with wet food, and in short order we’d be trotting out to collect our candidate. We didn’t have to worry about previously trapped cats being trapped again—no cat who had been trapped and neutered was interested in another trip to the vet and a few days in ICU.
Finally, we were down to the difficult cases. They were trap shy and hesitant about going far enough into the trap to trigger the door release. We tied the trap door open for them, giving them the chance to adapt to eating in the trap.
The easiest to catch trap-shy cats learned that food would be in the traps in the late afternoon. They would wait near the traps and quickly go in to eat. After a training period of putting the food deeper and deeper into the trap we would remove the string holding the door open and make a successful catch. As we became more experienced trappers and new kittens came out of the woods we introduced the kittens to eating in the traps. They were easily caught when they grew old enough for neutering.
The most difficult trap-shy cats were willing to go in a little distance to have a snack, but they were afraid to go in far enough to trip the door release. For those cats, we tied the trap door to a length of monofilament fishing line, ran the line through a metal eyelet screwed into a tree branch above the trap, and ran the other end of the line to a bedroom window. We stayed out of sight in the house as we waited for cats to enter the trap. When they finally got up the courage to go in far enough that the door could close behind them, we let go of the line and the door gently dropped, sometimes tapping them in the butt ever so slightly.
A check of our records shows we trapped and neutered 45 cats over a 5-year span, although most of the trapping was in the initial 6 months of our trap, neuter, and release (TNR) program. We went from an out of control feral problem to a managed colony to our current status of only 1 remaining colony member, 12-year-old MiniMo.
All in all, our TNR program has been a successful and humane system of population control that worked for us and for the cats. And most important for all of us, the cats lived out their natural lives in much better conditions than they would have found on their own in the wild.
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