Tips On Recovering Feral Cats In Traps RECOVERING FERAL CATS IN TRAPS

If you live in Cumberland County and are interested in getting a feral cat spayed/neutered, we may be able to assist with the costs. To inquire, email us at and put “Cumberland County feral cats” in the subject line 

Tips for trapping a feral cat 

  1.  Plan when/how to trap the cat, setting a trap no more than 2-3 days prior to the day of surgery.  Being in a trap is stressful for a cat; never have more than one cat in a trap. Use a high value food such as canned cat food, canned tuna or chicken or sardines to entice the cat into the trap.  
  2. Always remember, once you have a cat in a humane trap, do not let it out prior to surgery.  Once released from a trap, it is unlikely you will be able to trap that cat again!  Take this opportunity to provide all the basics at the time of surgery (vaccinations, testing, parasite treatment or prevention, etc.) 
  3. Cover the trapped cat.  Covering the trap with a sheet or towel will help keep the cat calm. 
  4. Always be careful handling the trap.  A trapped cat will be frightened and may lash out with claw and/or teeth if you make your fingers accessible.  Know how the trap works BEFORE YOU START TO TRAP so you do not accidentally release the cat from the trap. 
  5. Safely transport the cat to the veterinary clinic.  DO NOT transport a trapped cat in the trunk of a car, the open bed of a pickup truck! 

Feral cat post-op care 

  1. Set up a SAFE recovery area.  The area should not be too hot/too cold; it should be dry and free of other animals (family pets, predators, snakes, etc).   The trapped cat has no way to defend itself.  Consider using enclosed garages, bathrooms, laundry rooms, basements. 
  2. Temperature control is critical!  The ideal temperature is about 70 degrees.  After surgery, having had anesthesia, cats cannot control their own body temperature.   
  3. Ensure the trap is stable. It should be on an even surface and insulated from the ground.  If placing the trap on the concrete floor of an enclosed garage, you may want to set it a few inches off the ground by using something like 2X4s or a wooden pallet.  Placing the trap on a table will allow you ease of access to provide care.  Wherever the trap is placed, prepare the area by placing a tarp/shower curtain/trash bag on the surface and cover with layers of newspapers.   
  4. Monitor the cat REGULARLY.  You must monitor the cat for signs of bleeding,  lethargy, vomiting, difficulty breathing and loss of appetite.  The incision should be monitored for discharge, inflammation or signs of possible infection.  Do not open the trap to check the cat, when you see an issue call your veterinarian for advice about further care. 
  5. Feeding the cat and keeping the trap clean is important.  The cat should always be provided with water and should be fed twice a day.  The cat will urinate and defecate through the trap onto the newspapers/liner you have placed beneath the cage.  These materials must be changed several times a day.   
    1. If you can devise a “trap divider” using towels, you can more easily keep the cat fed and the environment clean.  The dividers keep the cat at one end of the trap while you clean the other end and place food and water in the trap. 
    2. If a trap divider is not available, you may:  
      1. Very carefully slide food into the trap.  This must be done so you do not release the cat or place your fingers in the trap.  The door to the trap is raised just enough to slide through food (placed on a plastic plate or plastic lid).  It is useful to have a piece of dowel or a stick to aid in pushing the food and water containers through the gap without risking injury.   
      2. If you think risk of the cat escaping is too great, you may try the “paper plate” method.  Using canned food (as it has more moisture), turn the food onto a flattened paper plate.  Place this directly beneath the trap so the food oozes up through the trap floor.   This, of course, is not ideal but it may be necessary.
  6. Releasing the cat.  Return the feral cat to the area where it was trapped; this is the area it is familiar with.    A male cat typically requires 24 hours of care in a trap; a female may require 48-72 hours or even longer.  If you believe the cat may require care longer than 72 hours for recovery, you want to consider using a recovery crate for post-op care.   

Other resources to help you plan for your feral cat’s care and post-op care are below.  There is information available on TNR (trap, neuter and release), feral colony care, making feeding stations and cat shelters.   


Alley Cat Allies ( – Step-By-Step Guide to Trap-Neuter-Return 

Alley Cat Rescue 

Cumberland County (NC) Community Cats 

Neighborhood Cats ( – has a great step-by-step plan for feeding the cat and cleaning the trap with a cat in the trap ( 

Setting/Baiting a Trap – Seeing a trap in action