Tips for cat catching?
October 13, 2005 11:26 AM   Subscribe

CatchACatFilter: We have discovered 4 very cute kittens and a mother living in the bushes behind our office. We need some tips on capturing them before the winter hits.

The kittens appear to be around 6 weeks old. We started feeding the cats about 10 days ago as the mother was looking really thin. We've installed a cat carrier in the bushes so they have a dry place to sleep, but obviously this can't go on forever, especially in the Great White North. I've been able to get within about 2 feet of them while they were eating some very tasty sardines, but usually they run away as soon as we step onto the grass in front of the bush. The kittens have started to hang out in the cat carrier, but the mother won't go in.

The current plan is to get all the kittens in the cat carrier (food bribe), and then use a string contraption to close the gate. We'll get shots for the cats and then people within the office will adopt them.

Any tips on catching cute little kitties?
posted by dripdripdrop to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
When I was living in Boston I found pretty much the exact same scenario going on in the shed in my back yard. I went to the MSPCA and told them the situation and they gave me two cat traps (basically wire cages with a pressure plate that drops when the cat steps on it). I put a can of cat food in each and left them by the shed. In the morning I had me a mom cat and a bunch of kittens, which I took back to the MSPCA.
posted by spicynuts at 11:33 AM on October 13, 2005

best time is when their mom's not around. keep an eye on her schedule and catch them after she's gone good 3-4 minutes.
food might entice them, but make sure you capture them all at once - right now they may have less fear of people, but once they see that one of the kittens is *abducted by this large scary moving object*, they might hide/run away.

...then again, my cat fell from the ceiling (that's how i found her). so who knows.
posted by grafholic at 11:33 AM on October 13, 2005

Relevant AskMe with
happy ending.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 11:38 AM on October 13, 2005

We were allowed to borrow a "humane" trap from our local animal shelter when we were catching ferals to get them neutered. There are some good tips here, as well.
posted by Lynsey at 11:39 AM on October 13, 2005

Oh, and work fast. It quickly gets progressively harder to socialize feral kittens to humans after 6 weeks. That site has trapping advice, too.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 11:42 AM on October 13, 2005

If you can, catch the mom cat first (by trap or net or quick hands). Then get the kittens. The kittens aren't as smart as the mom and will be easier to snag without her or her warnings around. If you get the kittens first, the mom cat might decide not to stick around. The reverse is less likely to be true. Also, if you get mom you can put her in a cage just inside a door and let her yell. The kittens will come investigate, voila mom bait.
posted by dness2 at 11:42 AM on October 13, 2005

This is incidental (as other have already given the good catching-related advice available) but consider neutering them before giving them away - this way you avoid somebody else having same problem again in a few years.

As for catching them, we had two cats having 7 kittens in our backyard. We captured all of them by hand before they had grown enough to escape (and before their mothers could move them to unreachable places). After a professional "cat catcher came and captured both adult females and two males (who were neutered and then released again). Five little ones were adopted by friends/relatives and we kept two (since our Golden Retriever wouldn't like to give away all her "children").
posted by nkyad at 12:00 PM on October 13, 2005

Yup, get a humane cat trap. Your local humane society should have them, or tool rental places offer them too. The kittens might be too small to trip the trap, so try using a small piece of wood and some string so you can remotely control it, as it were. There's a great guide to the process of trapping here

The kittens may be tameable: there are some tips on this hereas well.

The mother will probably not be tameable if she's had a litter. But if you get her fixed, she can live happily in your garden without having kittens all the time. Talk to your local humane society/friends of animals group about feral fix programs: you might be able to get it done free. If you want her to live in your garden, you should think about building a shelter: there's a great guide here for one that is pretty weatherproof.

I've been trapping kittens for some time (for both feral fix and adoption); feel free to contact me if you need more help.
posted by baggers at 12:00 PM on October 13, 2005 [1 favorite]

Several humane live traps will do it. Humane society, as others have said, will loan it to you no problem.

You can socialize older kittens but it takes longer. My cat was feral until a couple of months, took over a year before he was comfortable with me, but now at 8 yrs old he is just as cozy with people (quiet, slow-moving people) as any other indoor housecat.
posted by luriete at 12:10 PM on October 13, 2005

dripdripdrop, I was the one who asked earlier about trapping a kitten (who later turned to be one of a litter of kittens). Here's my advice, based on my experience.

First off, the age of the kittens does have some bearing on how you go about catching them. If they are still young and uncoordinated, you may be able to trap the mom and then just scoop up the little ones. However, if the kittens are able to run away from you, you should concentrate on catching the kittens first.

Assuming the second scenario, it's probably going to take you several days--maybe even weeks--to catch all the kittens. You may only be able to catch one kitten at a time so be patient.

Working with my neighbor, I was able to catch some of the litter by hand and the remaining ones using a Havaheart trap, which I rented from a local pest control company. It took me three weeks to get all the kittens and--two months later--I'm still trying to catch the mom.

The first kittens were pretty easy to catch. My neighbor put out some food and grabbed them as soon as they bent over to eat. He then dropped them into a waiting carrier.

We weren't able to catch any more at that point because the rest of the litter ran off in terror and the mother became very agitated. (She is a shy cat by nature so she didn't attack, but if your momma cat is more assertive, you need to be careful not get bitten or scratched.)

It was more difficult to catch the remaining kittens at this point since the mother was more distrustful of us. Days would go by before we'd have a chance to try to catch another kitten. In the end, I turned to the Havaheart trap.

If you use the trap, make sure that you cover the outside, either with fabric or cardboard. Also, cats don't like sitting on wire mesh, so inserting a small cardboard pad into the trap for them to rest on is a good idea. If you can avoid it, don't put the trap out overnight. Usually the cheapest, stinkiest cat food makes the best bait.

Do you have a plan for what happens once you catch the kittens? These kittens will need a lot of handling before they feel comfortable around people. They will also need veterinary care. (I spent upwards of $1,000 on the litter I took in.)

I'm not sure what your chances are in getting the mom adjusted to living indoors with people. I guess it depends on her history and temperament.

The mother cat in my case was abandoned outside after her insane owner--a cat hoarder--died. I'm cautiously optimistic that if we can catch her, she will re-adapt to living indoors.

If you can catch the mom but she's unable to be tamed, you may want to consider a spay-and-release program and constructing her a shelter like this.

Please feel free to e-mail me--it's in my profile--for more information. If you do catch the kittens, I can provide some info on how my husband and I socialized ours.

Sorry for the Ask Me novella.
posted by Sully6 at 12:45 PM on October 13, 2005 [1 favorite]

This has been asked before; this was my answer.

I strongly recommend NOT using your hands to attempt to catch a wild cat, because you may succeed.

Unless you're one of those people with an inherent hatred for your own body parts, the ones who get unneeded amputations.

Cat trap or animal carrier converted into a trap, that's the ticket.

And do think about what you're going to do with them. They're WILD. Like a tiger, only smaller. They do not like you, and will not start liking you (certainly the mother, and probably the kittens unless they're very very young).
posted by jellicle at 1:01 PM on October 13, 2005

Thanks for all the detailed responses (and please keep them coming). We didn't expect the amount of work there would be to tame them, so that's good to know.

Sully6, we do plan on collecting donations at the office to get them the vet services they need and we have thought about installing a house for the mom to survive the winter.

I guess it's back to the drawing board for us. I'll keep you posted on how things go
posted by dripdripdrop at 1:06 PM on October 13, 2005

We didn't expect the amount of work there would be to tame them, so that's good to know.

Yeah, but it's great fun. Really. Immediately after trapping a kitten, I would sequester it in a room with food, water, litter box and boxes to hide in. Aside from cleaning the litterbox and changing the food and water twice a day, I left the cat alone.

After a few days, I tried approaching the kitten. Usually there was hissing and swatting involved, so I would use a towel to gently pick the cat up and hold it for a few minutes. After a few days, all the of the kittens adjusted to being handled and I really didn't need the towel anymore.

It took a couple weeks before the kittens (all united at this point) became playful and generally unafraid of people. By the time we adopted them out, they were rumbly tumbly little purrbots with only a hint of skittishness.

If you do catch them mom with the kittens, you may need to separate her from the litter (if they're old enough) so that you can socialize them, incidentally.

As for vet bills, look into the services offered by your area shelters. I did not qualify income-wise for the reduced-fee clinics and the low-cost clinics had huge waiting lists. So I bit the bullet and paid for the care at my vet's office. (I told my husband it was my birthday and Christmas presents.)

I had no luck getting traps from shelter or animal welfare, so I rented from a pest control company.

Good luck.
posted by Sully6 at 1:26 PM on October 13, 2005 [1 favorite]

There's excellent advice here already; the only thing I would add is that canned tuna fish is positively irrestiable to most cats. In my experience, more than sardines. Tuna is cat-catching gold, isn't necessarily expensive, and will make excellent Havaheart bait. Good luck.
posted by Medieval Maven at 3:26 PM on October 13, 2005

MedeivalMaiden: it may be cat-catching gold, but don't give them too much, as it can lead to all sorts of problems such as urinary tract infections. And that's best avoided (he says, ahving just finished cleaning up from a cat with that problem that peed on my bed). we find friskies salmon wet food to be very effective: good and smelly, which is what they like...
posted by baggers at 12:54 PM on October 14, 2005

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