You’re amazing for wanting to help feral cats, so to get things off to a smooth start I have put together this list of equipment and supplies you’re going to need.
This list would have helped me!
On the one hand, I can research something until there’s nothing new to learn (okay slight exaggeration!). On the other hand, I often find myself diving into something without thinking it through, reading instructions, or figuring out the best approach.
In my previous article, “How to Keep Feral Cats Warm in the Winter” I spoke a bit about my first experience with TNR. That was a classic example of jumping into something without properly researching. I tend to do that when I’m either so excited about something, or feel an animal’s life is in danger and I must help them NOW!
Had I taken the time to watch one or two trapping videos, I might have felt more confident setting one up for the first time…or maybe not. All I know is, I was anxious about doing it by myself, so somehow managed to convince a reluctant woman from a cat rescue group to come and help me. I did learn as I went along, but things would have been smoother, and I would have been calmer if I knew what I was doing/what to expect and had everything close to hand.
Anyway, don’t worry because I’ve got you covered with this detailed list, which is not in any particular order.
*There are affiliate links in this post, which means if you buy something I may receive a commission. This has no effect on the price you pay, but will help fund my spay/neuter campaign, details of which can be found at the end of this post.*
Use a big enough car
Apologies if this is obvious but…
- You may not realise how much room a trap takes up
- Someone who was supposed to use their car as well either can’t make it, or their car broke down
- There’s not enough room for the supplies you’re bringing and traps
- You may not think you’re going to trap all the cats so your smaller car will do. Think positive and have enough room to transport everyone!
Don’t even try to catch a cat with your hands, then attempt to wrestle him into a standard pet carrier. Unless he’s a small kitten, and they can be very feisty as well, it’s not going to happen. What will happen is you will get very scratched up, you’ll terrify the cat and that will complicate/end your TNR efforts for that day/evening. You must use proper cat traps.
If you’ll only be trapping a few you see in your neighbourhood, rather than spending money to buy your own traps, you’ll be better off borrowing some from local cat rescue groups and/or the humane society.
Be clear on how long you are able to keep it/them, and return it/them promptly. If you need more time please call and ask. They are kind enough to lend them, there is usually a line of people waiting, so please respect their terms. Some groups have stopped lending because they weren’t getting them back, or they were constantly chasing the borrowers. They may ask for a deposit or a small fee as a donation. If you’re getting one from a shelter, make sure they don’t expect you to bring them the trapped cats…unless they offer low cost spay/neuter surgeries.
If you can’t borrow any or enough, type “where to rent a cat trap” into your search engine. I rented a couple when I couldn’t find a place to borrow, and wasn’t ready to invest in my own.
In an ideal world you’ll want to trap the entire colony at once (that is what a group of cats living in an area are called), so bring enough traps for each cat. If possible, bring a couple spare in case one malfunctions or you see a new cat hanging around.
The divider looks like the bottom part of a pitchfork, and is inserted into the top of the trap to force the cat into a small area. This is done when at the vet in order to administer the anesthesia.
Find them in recycle bins (yes I’m afraid we’ve had to do that!!) and ask everyone you know to save their newspapers for you. They are perfect for lining the bottom of the trap, and in between stacked traps to protect cats from each other if they manage to get their paws through.
Large towels like a beach towel for example, spare blankets or old sheets are all perfect. Once the cats are trapped, a cover is placed over to help calm them down. Some trappers leave a cover on top of each trap, others have it with them when they get the trap and cover it then. It doesn’t matter.
Food for enticing the cats
You need something smelly like tuna, sardines or mackerel. Cans with flip top lids are easier than fiddling about with a can opener.
All your cans may be flip top but if you’re trapping with others and their cans are not, or the pull tab breaks off you can still open them. Always best to be prepared.
If you don’t want to be dealing with tuna and sardine juice dripping all over your hands while setting up the traps, open the food at home, empty it into containers and bring them with you. it’s less messy and less garbage to deal with.
Heavy duty disposable forks and spoons
If you’re using plastic for scooping out the food, make sure it’s heavy duty. Cheap plastic breaks easily and you’ll be wasting a lot, not to mention spending time digging out broken pieces of plastic from the food.
If you’re trying to reduce waste, buy a few forks and spoons from the dollar store, and have a little container to throw used utensils into to wash later.
Paper or plastic plates/bowls
Some people put the food on plates in the trap, others just put it straight onto the newspaper, the choice is up to you.
If you use plastic plates, again to reduce waste, use something light because when the cat is thrashing around in the trap you don’t want him to get hurt by a heavy bowl.
Paper towels/wet wipes/antibacterial wipes
Necessary for clean up.
Heavy duty tape
Tape is always useful to have on hand. It’s good for keeping the ends of the paper trap liners from blowing in the wind.
Plastic storage bins
These are fabulous for keeping all your supplies organised both at home and in the car. You’ll likely need a variety of sizes for storing different items.
- Food and water
- Clean up – paper towels/wet wipes/small bags
- Labels, paper, pens, tie wraps…
You can use bags if you prefer, personally I find bins keep me better organised. Clear ones make it easy to see what’s inside, but I label them anyway!
Dry cat food and water
I’m putting out positive vibes you’ll be able to trap all the cats at once, but if you can’t you’ll want to leave food and water for those still left.
Don’t rely on the newspaper at the bottom of the traps to keep your trunk clean! Line it with –
- Heavy duty garbage bags
- Drop cloths
- Plastic sheeting
- Pee pads
Tie wraps, pipe cleaners, carabiners
Even though traps are secure, nothing wrong with being extra cautious and using one of these to secure the door. I’m sure you will find other uses as well.
Heavy duty gloves
A trapped cat is extremely stressed, so heavy duty gloves will protect you from getting scratched if the cat manages to take a swipe while you’re moving the trap.
It’s always good to document your TNR efforts, so be sure to have your camera with you. Sharing pictures of all the good you’re doing in the community is a great way to encourage others to get involved. They can also help with fundraising and getting media attention.
If you have good camera skills that’s great. If you could use some tips it’s worth finding a camera course, or hiring a teacher for even one hour of private tuition.
Most of us rely on our phones to double as a flashlight, I know I do, but not in this situation. You don’t want to lose it or break it, and it’s easier when both hands are free. A head lamp is a great alternative.
First aid kit
A first aid kit is something we should all have in our cars anyway, but especially in this case. Scratches made by branches or angry cats should be treated right away.
Bungee cords are one of those things you should always have with you no matter where you go. We keep them in our cycle bags and my husband has used them for so many purposes you wouldn’t believe.
In this case they can be used to secure the traps inside your car so they don’t move over rough roads, or due to sudden stops.
ID labels for your equipment
Whether you’re lending out a trap or leaving the cat at the vet, you want to make sure you get your traps and carriers back. A tag similar to a luggage tag or labels stuck on will help. Include your name, rescue’s name if you’re part of a group and phone number. Spray painting an identifying mark can also help.
Carrier card label
This is an easy way to provide your vet with all the information he or she needs, and it serves as a way for you to keep track of your TNR efforts. This link is for a downloadable sample you can use I found on the Animal Advocacy Ireland website.
Some labels and information can only be written on the spot, not to mention there is always a need for these supplies wherever you go.
Taking care of yourself
Trapping takes time, so be sure to have plenty of hot drinks and snacks because you may be waiting awhile.
- Dress warmly
- Bring blankets for extra layers in the car
- What about hand and sock warmers?
Bring a friend
Please do your best to bring someone along with you. Not only is it nice to have the company and moral support, if you’re trapping at night you need to be concerned with your personal safety as well.
I hope you found this list helpful. I know it sounds like a lot and I guess it is, but you will only have to organise yourself once. After that’s done it’s just a matter of topping up as needed.
If this is your first time trapping, I want to tell you what a star you are for helping. Please let me know how it goes, send in any pictures and I’ll be happy to share them. If you’ve done this before, are there any items you’ve found helpful that you learned about as you gained experience? Sharing helps others so please leave your comments below.
Please help support my spay/neuter campaign by donating and sharing. You can find all the details on my GoFundMe page.