Trapper Tuesday Tips
A Wealth of TNR Info at Your Fingertips
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Are you putting out plenty of food for your colony but still coming back each day to empty plates and ravenous cats? Are you looking for other (well-fed!) animals around your colony site and not finding them? You've got Sneaky Eaters on your hands.
Until you know who's coming to dinner, it'll be hard t fix the problem: maybe some new ferals have moved in and you'll need to trap and s/n them. Maybe it's raccooons and a raccoon-proof feeder (raccoons can't jump vertically) is the answer. It could be birds showing up for early breakfast just after dawn. Figure it out by placing a motion activated night vision video camera on the site. Look for models that can record in 100% total darkness and can film for several hours. Spygear Gadgets offers a camera that can remain on standby for up to 10 days with one battery charge, and it's small enough to be unnoticeable once installed. Got Sneaky eaters? Get a motion-activated camera and help your ferals get their fair share at mealtime!
Urinary tract issues are common in cats but for ferals the risks associated with urinary disease are especially high. That's because conditions like urinary blockage can be fatal without quick medical attention - but since cats tend to hide when they're sick, catching them in time to provide life-saving care may not always be possible. PREVENTION IS KEY! - and, fortunately, there is an effective way to ward off many feline urinary problems! D-mannose is a natural dietary supplement that can ease and prevent symptoms, even for cats with underlying urinary tract issues. For information read Neighborhood Cats' article, Protect Your Cats with D-mannose. Information about D-mannose provided courtesy of leading homeopathic veterinarian Dr. Michael Dym, VMD, www.doctordym.com
When you're housing a feral for an extended time to provide medical care or socialization , it's important to provide a supportive environment so Kitty feels safe. But one of the things we do every day can actually make cats feel less secure. At cleaning time most of us take away the towel (or blanket or cushion) we put in the cage yesterday and replace it with a fresh one. Seems like a good idea, right? The problem is, that piece of bedding is, literally, Kitty's security blanket. It's got her scent on it and when we take it away we're leaving her in a place that's suddenly gotten less familiar all over again. The new towel may be cleaner but to the cat it's just part of the strange, scary landscape until she marks it and gets used to it. Then we take it away again! To fix the problem put 2 or 3 blankets in the cage at all times. At cleanup, take away the most soiled bedding but always leave one behind. Kitty won't mind that her linens aren't up to 5-star-hotel standards. She'll just feel safe and that will make you both a whole lot happier.
Lots of nice things happen in the spring but visits from angry neighbors, demanding you keep cats out of their freshly-planted gardens isn't one of them. If you need to convince ferals to steer clear of certain outdoor areas, here's a new deterrent that may help. U SCRAM is an all-natural animal repellant that works by creating a barrier of scent that cats (and chipmunks!) find offensive. Unlike some other deterrents on the market U Scram is completely non-toxic and can't harm animals, people or plants. Developed by a Stanford chemist, it's made from cork and organic flower oils and is 100% biodegradable. It can even be used to keep Kitty away from your favorite potted plants. Each powerful little U Scram tree is 5" tall. One set will protect 6 - 8 sq. ft. for 8 - 12 weeks. $21.99/set; a portion of proceeds from U Scram supports TNR efforts and care for rescued "friendlies". Order on Amazon or go to www.uscram.com
If you're trying to establish a Trap-Neuter-Return program in your community and to win over a group of "undecideds" - whether it's a municipal agency, homeowners' association or some other entity - don't go it alone! Organizations like The Humane Society of the United States (the nation's largest animal welfare group) have issued statements in support of TNR. Including that info in your presentation can go a long way towards establishing credibility for your proposed program. For a list of pro-TNR position statements that you can print and take with you when making your case for TNR click here.
Do you clip cat food coupons, pounce on pet food sales and buy the biggest bags of kibble you can carry? With so many mouths to feed, it pays to be a smart shopper. But here's a food source you may not have thought about. Every pet supply and grocery store has large amounts of merchandise they can't sell including dented cans, slightly torn bags and recently expired product. All that damaged packaging with perfectly good food inside typically goes in the trash - but it could be going to help your ferals instead! Try approaching a retailer in your area and ask if they'll donate their damaged goods. Often the store's only issue will be holding space, and if you're willing to arrange a regular pickup that'll get the food off their hands in a timely way they'll be happy to help. Note that if the donation is made to a 501(c)(3) charity, the store will be able to take a tax deduction for their donation, making it a win-win for all concerned. (NYC caretakers, you can contact Neighborhood Cats for this purpose; firstname.lastname@example.org).
Do you want to implement a Trap-Neuter-Return program in your area but have concerns about the reception you'll get from local government? Do you need to educate neighbors and other community members about what TNR is and why it works? Then check out this new online resource from Best Friends: Action Kit: Advocating for TNR in Your Community.
The handy 3-part kit includes What to Do Before Approaching Your Local Government About TNR, Frequently Asked Questions About TNR and Community Cats and Trap/Neuter/Return: A Presentation to Local Government Officials About TNR. All materials on the Action Kit (Word and Powerpoint) can be downloaded to help move TNR forward in your community.
We've all seen them: eartips that aren't tips at all, when too much of a cat's ear has been removed. Or the ones that are so slight you're not completely sure the tip is there (maybe he had frostbite?) Eartipping is the best way to quickly identify ferals as being fixed but in order to be effective it needs to be done consistently, with a 1/4" tip ideal. If your vet is inexperienced with ferals don't just tell them about the perfect tip...show them! Bringing a photo that clearly shows what the eartip should look like can help the doctor and eliminate needless problems. The photo to the right can be printed and used as a sample.
If you can't place a covered feeding station on your site, you can still protect food on days when you expect wet weather. Take a round Tupperware container or plastic take-out dish and fill with dry food. Then take the lid of the container or dish, turn it upside-down and place on top. Even upside-down the lid will keep the rain out. When the cats come by after the rain stops, they'll smell the food in the container and push the lid off to get at it.
Opossums are gentle, almost entirely nocturnal marsupials who are great at climbing trees, sniffing out food and, yes, getting caught in feral cat traps. What they're not great at is seeing. Opossums have very poor eyesight, especially in daylight. That's imprtant to remember when releasing one because if you just open the trap and turn him loose, the opossum will be terrified as he's forced to scramble blindly for an escape route. To make the release lots easier first carry the trap to the nearest wooded area or tree so the opossum will be able to quickly climb and hide. Always cover the trap with a heavy blanket before lifting and avoid rubbing against the side of the trap as you carry it. For more info about these amazing animals (North America's only marsupial!) check out the Opossum Society of the United States.
Drop traps are invaluable for trapping hard-to-catch cats. They're also pretty low-tech: pull the string, trap the cat. That time-honored technique works well...but there are situations where a dash of technology can help! If, for example, you want to watch the drop trap from a vantage point that doesn't offer a convenient straight line (say, an upstairs window), the ability to spring the trap remotely will be a big advantage. Remote devices can give you more range, allowing you to clear the area and still drop the trap the instant you need to. There are a couple of options now available for remote-control trap-tripping. Tomahawk offers a Remote Control Trap Trigger with Drop Trap Attachment. DIYers, you can also build your own at lower cost with instructions designed by trapper Jim Mayes.
Do you take the same route to work every day? Chances are your ferals do too...well, not to work but just like little commuters, they've probably got favorite routes to their feeding areas, shelters, playtime with friends and anywhere else they need to be. Usually their paths are hard to find but when it snows all you have to do is follow the paw prints. Then when it comes time to catch cats that paw-print roadmap can show you which well-traveled spots will be the best places to set out traps. You can even photograph their snowy trails to help you better situate traps in warm weather. Put your furry commuters to work for you. Follow their trails and catch more cats!
On January's grayest days spring can seem far, far away. But Kitten Season may be closer than you think. Given an average feline gestation period of 63 days, a cat who got pregnant on 1/15, right in the middle of January, would have a due date of March 20 - the first day of spring. Don't let cold weather scare you off! Because relatively few cats conceive during winter, it's the perfect time to TNR colonies and prevent a rush of warm weather births. Just remember these essentials: 1) warm recovery/holding space 2) adequate insulated shelter that cats can easily access after release and 3) for females, shave as little fur as possible (vets with less experience with ferals may need a friendly reminder to go easy with the clippers!). Don't put your traps in cold storage...take advantage of wintertime trapping, fix ferals now!
They may be small in size but both opossums and skunks have HUGE appetites. If you're tired of finding well-fed wildlife, an empty plate and no cats in your traps, try this. In the traps' general vicinity set out a few servings of foods they like best. For skunks offer nuts, seeds, eggs, fruits and berries. Opossums adore fruits, tomatoes, acorns, persimmons, nuts and seeds. Given the chance to chow down on their faves, your nocturnal visitors will often forget what's in the traps, leaving the cat food for the cats! Reminder: one nut or a couple of berries won't get the job done...be sure to leave ample food or your furry dinner guests will finish the hors d'oeuvres you've thoughtfully provided, then eat the cat food too.
To you, it's a beautiful new winter shelter. To the cats it's an unknown object, one that looks - and smells - strange. It may be cold outside but many ferals won't set a paw in those strange, scary spaces until they're sure it's safe. To reassure kitties try "leading" them inside with trails of treats like Pounce, or with enticing dried catnip or catnip spray applied around the entrance. Send the message "This place is OK" by placing objects with familiar scents, like favorite toys, inside the shelter. Door flaps or any other types of windbreaks may initially be frightening so wait to add those until cats are comfortable coming and going. And remember, patience is key. Keep offering reassurance and before long, your cats will lilely decide they like their new digs and will move right in!
What's the best type of insulation to use in outdoor shelters? Follow a few simple Do's and Don'ts to keep cats toasty through the winter months: DO use straw for bedding, DON'T use hay. The two look alike but hay has a higher moisture content so it's quicker to harbor mold and bacteria which can be harmful to cats. DO use generous amounts of straw. When kitties can burrow into bedding rather than sit on top of it the nest they create will trap body heat and warm the shelter's interior more efficiently. For that reason, DON'T put blankets or towels, which will draw away body heat, into your shelter. If straw isn't readily available shredded newspaper is a good temporary fix. There are two exceptions to the "Don't use bedding that cats can't burrow into" rule. Mylar blankets and Purr Pads (above) are both efficient heat reflectors. Mylar blankets can even be firmly attached to shelter walls and ceilings for added warmth. Find Purr Pads on Amazon or at Drs. Foster & Smith.
Are you a good Do-It-Yourselfer? Or are three of your favorite words "No assembly required"? Either way, it's easy to provide affordable, durable shelter to keep your ferals warm through the cold months ahead. To find detailed instructions for building the Neighborhood Cats Winter Shelter and other DIY projects plus info on recommended ready-made winter homes click here.
Once you start feeding ferals it doesn't take long to notice: cats aren't the only ones who like cat food. If pigeons are among your ininvited mealtime guests, here's a trick that may help. Cut strips into a piece of clear plastic sheeting (available at any hardware store) leaving about 2" at the top. Duct tape the plastic strips over the entrance to your feeding station. Birds will be unwilling to push past the dangling strips but kitties won't mind; they'll quickly learn to navigate the new doorway to their private dining room.
You're TNRing a colony and you've caught every cat...except one! That cat never misses a meal but today, there's no sign of him. During a mass trapping kitties sometimes go AWOL because they're just too spooked by the hustle and bustle of trapping, the sudden absence of their friends and change in overall routine to stick around. If you're down to your last cat or two and find yourself staring at a bunch of empty traps, try this instead: Go ahead with your project - fix, recover and return the cats you've already trapped. Then let colony life return to normal for a week or two. When everyone is once again calm, happy and back in their usual flow, use a drop trap to catch your holdout(s). The drop trap will let you cherry-pick the kitties you're after and - bonus! - you won't even have to withold food from cats you've already fixed.
Everyone knows kittens are born with their eyes closed but did you kow the ear canals are also sealed at birth? When you find babies and need to determine age, look for developmental markers like opening of ears (5 - 8 days) and eyes (1 week - 10 days) and the arrival of those tiny teeth (3 weeks); these milestones are a far better guide than size and weight which can vary greatly from one kitten to the next.
Are your traps' moving parts moving as well as they need to? Nothing is more frustrating than watching a cat go into the trap...then out again because the door didn't close fast enough. If a little lubrication is in order but you're worried about substances that could be hazardous to cats, look no further than the bakery aisle! Non-stick vegetable oil spray is an excellent lubricant and is 100% safe for Kitty ((choose a butter-flavored oil and some cats might even be attracted by its scent!). Apply to the trigger, trip plate hinges or any other sticky parts.
Cat traps are sort of like NYC studio apartments...small, snug, big enough to live in for awhile but definitely no-frills. Since ferals prefer tighter, darker spaces to open cages while they're being TNR'd, most do very well in their traps. But everyone appreciates a nice bathroom, so if you need to hold a cat for a few extra days, or just decide to make Kitty more comfortable by adding a litter box to your holding space setup, here's a safe way to do it. Place a litter box inside a transfer cage. Line up the cage opening with the back door of your trap, then SECURELY attach the trap to the transfer cage using spring clips or a bungee cord. Make sure there are no openings or gaps, then remove the back door of the trap so Kitty can access her comfort station, and cover with a sheet as usual. Note: Tomahawk transfer cages are designed specifically for use with their series of feral cat traps. If using equipment from another source, make sure you can line up cage and trap with no openings that could allow a cat to slip through.
Remember playing Color Wars at summer camp? You were on the Blue Team or the Yellow Team or the Red or the Green. You dressed in blue or yellow or red or green and everyone could tell at a glance what team everyone else was on. That same color coding system can help avoid confusion when you're trapping in multiple sites at the same time (where did THAT cat come from?!?). Fortunately, the cats don't need to wear little uniforms!... just assign a color to each of your colonies and use corresponding labels to ID the traps of each kitty from that group. Stick a matching colored label onto each colony's TNR Log to make identification even easier.
Traps: check. Holding space: check. Low-cost vet for spay/neuter care: still looking! If you need to find a low-cost spay/neuter program in your area for ferals, adoptables or owned pets try this handy clinic locator, courtesy of North Shore Animal League America's Spay USA Program.
Trappers give much thought to what kind of bait to use for catching feral cats, with every experienced trapper having their own personal favorites. But how often do we think about what to put the bait ON? It's a small detail but it can be an important one which saves your new ward from needless injury. Because a cat may become panicked and move quickly and violently when first trapped, bait should only be placed on items which are not hard, sharp-edged or breakable. A simple piece of newspaper, or a paper plate will keep kitty safe. Avoid cat food cans, ceramic saucers or similar surfaces. And remember! - never use food cans as water bowls - those top edges are sharp and cats can cut their tongues on them.
Big storage containers like Rubbermaid bins make great feeding stations - but, let's face it, keeping them tidy can be a chore. Spilled food, crunchy crumbs and dirt have a way of getting packed into all those ridges and corners on the bottom and it's time consuming to scrub them clean. Fortunately, there's an easier way! Line the bottoms of your bins with industrial runner mats and when things get messay just lift them out and wash. Smooth rubber or vinyl runners work well and can be cut to any length. Available in most floor covering stores or online at www.totalmats.com.
It's late. It's dark. It seems like every cat you're after is solid black. When you're trapping at night even simple things (where's the can opener?) can be tricky...so why not make it all a little easier by putting down the flashlight and putting on a headlamp instead? A headlamp means you get to use both hands to dish out bait, cover traps and do everything else you need to do. There's a reason campers love 'em! With lots of models available you can choose the variables (brightness, beam distance, batterly life, weight) that best suit your needs. Available in bigger sporting goods stores like Paragon or on Amazon.
Job interviews. First dates. Meeting the in-laws. All really good times to be making eye contact. While you're trapping? Not so much. If a feral you're trying to catch looks directly at you it's important to remember NOT to return the stare. Kitty will interpret your gaze as highly threatening and, if he happens to be near the trap, may take it as a warning not to enter. Of course, you still need to monitor what's going on...but that's what squinting, sunglasses and car mirrors are for!
Yes, they're expensive but a caretaker can dream, right? When your ship comes in (it won't even need to be a very big ship) here are some handsome, hand-crafted shelters to think about for the ferals in your life. From cozy peak-roofed sanctuaries with tiny, matching windbreak fences to converted tree stumps heated with infrared bulbs, these are the shelters for the Feral Who Has Everything. http://store.stabobspthouses.net/fecatsa.html
Some cats are hard to catch because they absolutely, positively won't go into any space unless they can see clear through it. If you encounter a cat who insists on a room with a view, try this. Remove the trap's back door and replace it with a piece of plexiglass that's been cut to the same size. You'll need to drill four holes in the plexi so it can be firmly secured to the trap at each corner with cable ties (go for the heavy duty ones). When Kitty peers in there won't be any back door (that she can see). Bonus tip - keep some glass cleaner handy while trapping so smudges and streaks don't give you away!
Does your colony like your neighbor's property a little too much? If the lawn and garden next door are their litter boxes of choice, here's something that'll keep them closer to home. Most cats adore digging in peat moss so if you've got the space, choose a quiet corner and give them their very own pile of peat (4' sq x 8" deep is ideal). Just scoop as needed and replace once a month or so. Peat moss is cheap, environmentally friendly, easy to handle and dispose of and it keeps the smell down. Happy cats, happy neighbors, happy you...everybody wins!
They're little, they're cute...and they're spitting mad. So what's the best way to turn tiny ferals into contented, ADOPTABLE kittens? Let this step-by-step guide from San Diego-based Feral Cat Coalition show you the way.
Mom cats make it look easy but anyone who's ever raised orphan kittens knows, it's a LOT of work. Newborn kittens are completely helpless and warming bottles 'round-the-clock is just the beginning. The job can seem daunting but friendly advice from a well-written guide - like LA-based Kitten Rescue's "Kitten Care Handbook" - can help. The online Handbook covers all the basics, includes emergency kitten formulas to make at home and even has links for follow-up guides to keep older kittens healthy once they've "graduated" from the nursery.
Ever set out to catch kittens but end up trapping only big cats instead? Here's a brand-new solution for that! The Neighborhood Cats Kitten Screen is designed with a 3" x 3" opening that lets little ones pass through while blocking bait-snatching adults. Manufactured by Tomahawk, the 14 gauge steel screen is sturdy, lightweight, installs easily and fits any traps that are 10"w x 12"h. Comes complete with screen, spring clip and two L-rods plus instructions. For ordering and information click here.
If your cats could talk, one question they might ask is "Could you PLEASE do something about the flies in our food?" In warm weather flies are a constant - annoying for the cats and any neighbors who might see them swarming. One solution: the Automatic Opening Hygienic Pet Food Bowl, a cleverly designed dish with a flip-up lid and five sensors that detect when a cat is approaching form any direction. The bowl keeps flies firmly locked out and - added bonus - on hot days keeps moisture in wet food locked in longer. 10 seconds after Kitty's exit the lid closes automatically. After their initial surprise most cats quickly get used to the pop-up lid. Sturdy construction and easy to clean. Available at Carting Sales.
For more tips to keep your colony's feeding station a no-fly zone see The Neighborhood Cats TNR Handbook; to download a pdf click here.
They may be slow-moving but slugs are really good at sniffing out food and sooner or later you'll probably find them at your cats' feeding stations. If you're tired of slugging it out with slugs, try this. Get some powdered chalk and pour a ring around the bowls of food. Chalk is composed of diatoms (fossilized microorganisms) and to a slug the edges of the diatoms are painfully sharp. They won't be harmed but won't cross the chalk either so kitties can enjoy their dinners without mollusks wandering through! Chalk powder is used by gymnasts and in other sports and is available online (just make sure the stuff is real chalk and contains diatoms), or use soft Crayola sidewalk chalk and cruch it up yourself.
Along with flowers, Easter eggs and, of course, kittens, springtime brings fleas. Lots of 'em. One lesser-known solution for fleas in outdoor settings is Beneficial Nematodes; microscopic worms which eat the larvae of fleas and other common insects. Nematodes, as their name suggests, are extremely beneficial in a number of ways. Because they're all-natural their use introduces no chemicals into the environment. They reproduce rapidly and have voracious appetites so within days they can drastically reduce the resident flea population. Nematodes are sensitive to light and temperature so should be applied using a lawn spray to moist, shady areas at either dusk or early a.m.; neither fleas nor nematodes will survive in the hot sun. They mostly die off in cold weather so may need to be reapplied each spring. There are a variety of Nematodes available and each works best in a different soil type. BNs are available at many home garden centers or online at Arbico Organics, www.arbico-organics.com. NOTE: Beneficial Nematodes are NOT parasitic and will not harm the cats!
It's kitten season again, the time of year when you're most likely to come across new moms and orphaned litters. If you find yourself filling in as momcat-for-a-day (or longer) it's important to know that newborns can easily develop aspiration pneumonia - that is, pneumonia caused by formula that's been inhaled instead of swallowed. The problem is serious but, happily, preventable. First, consider that queens don't hold their kittens vertically to nurse them and neither should you. At mealtimes place Junior on his tummy and let him nurse as though he were lying next to his mother. Always use a bottle designed for neonates - never an eyedropper! That way the baby has control over the flow of liquid. Remember, cats are very, very good at raising kittens...and if you think like a cat, you will be too!
"Out of sight, out of mind" isn't always a good thing - but it is when you're making final preparations for trapping. All that last-minute hustle-and-bustle (baiting the traps, tucking sheets in the handles, attaching labels, etc.) is best done out of sight and hearing of the colony. The less change to the cats' environment and less unusual activity they observe, the less likely they are to sense "something is up" and become wary and more cautious about entering the traps. Keep it hidden, keep it quiet and you'll keep catching cats!
At standard rates, spay/neuter can be costly and TNRing multiple cats can add up f-a-s-t! That's why, wherever you live, it's important to know what resources are available in your community. PetSmart Charities and the ASPCA have developed a spay/neuter locator tool to help find those low-cost options. Follow the link, then enter your zip code, decide how far you're willing to travel (choose a radius between 5 - 50 miles), click and - presto! - get a list of low-cost clinics and agencies providing s/n assistance. If your low-cost clinic is not listed you can also submit your info for consideration, to keep the database growing.
Once you start TNRing cats people from all over tend to find you, to ask for help. So if you live in NYC and someone from, say, Miami or Oshkosh emails wanting to know what to do about the cat in the alley on Main Street who keeps having kittens, where can you turn? Simple! The Humane Society of the United States maintains an online national directory of feral cat organizations. With about 1,500 state-by-state entries, and more added all the time chances are that far-away mom cat will soon get the help she needs! To view the directory please click here.
If you don't want to go the DIY route for your cats' shelters, here's a great alternative. FeralVilla builds ready-to-assemble outdoor shelters that are snug, sturdy and affordable ($69.95 for one; $64.95 for two or more, plus s/h). The Original FeralVilla features an insulated "bedroom", size 20" w x 20" d. Large and small feeding stations and catnip-spiced bedding for the shelters is also available.
A motion activated sprinkler is a useful tool when you need to keep cats out of certain areas, like the flower garden next door. The sprinklers harmlessly train the kitties to be better neighbors, avoiding places they're not welcome. Their big drawback? Until now the devices needed to be near a water source and hooked up to a garden hose. Not anymore! The new Havahart Spray Away Elite is cleverly designed with its own reservoir so no hose required. Place it anywhere you want to train cats to stay away. The unit is solar powered and can protect mpre than 1,000 sq. ft. of space. Click here for more info (and take a minute to view the funny demo video!)
The cats are fixed, they're rested and raring to go so the next thing to do is return them to their colonies...right? If you said "yes" you're half right. The males can be released without worry but for the safety of the females, whose surgery was more invasive, it's a good idea to do one last thing before you open that trap door. Remove the newspaper from the trap so you can get a good look at kitty's shaved belly from below and carefully check her spay incision. A little redness is normal but if you see any oozing, bleeding, excessive redness or anything else that looks worrisome hold onto the cat and call the vet. Most of the time everything will be fine but the final belly-check takes just a minute and if you do spot a problem it can save her life. Time well spent!
No one else can get near him but when you show up he'll come right over, rub against your leg, maybe even let you pick him up. So when he needs to go to the vet should you skip the trap and treat him to a comfortable ride in a carrier? That's a definite NO! Ferals grow to know and trust their caretakers but that shouldn't fool you into thinking you can treat him like a domesticated cat. Grabbing and attempting to force a feral into a closed space is extemely dangerous. Faster than you can react the cat can become terrified, twist and deliver a serious bite or scratch. Err on the side of safety and go through the trapping process with every feral. Don't worry. He'll forgive you and you'll still be his favorite person!
All winter shelters are not created equal. Some are better at blocking wind, rain and sleet but if yours isn't one of them, here's an easy way to offer added protection. If the roof of your shelter is even with its sides get a piece of plywood that's one foot longer than the shelter and of equal or slightly greater width. Position the extra 12" to overhang the entrance and secure the plywood with something heavy (a rock or a brick wil do). The longer roof will help shield the doorway from wind and snow and also creates a protected "dining area" that the cats can use in wet weather. For maximum benefit position two shelters with doorways facing one another and use one long plywood sheet to cover both roofs.
Is it OK to spay ferals in winter? Lots of caretakers worry that shaved tummies mean kitties will be too cold but actually winter is a great time to TNR! As long as you've provided insulated shelter the cats should be fine and - big bonus - spaying before the arrival of warm weather means you're far less likely to trap females who are already pregnant or have helpless newborns stashed somewhere. To help cats stay warm post-surgery take special care to keep shelters well stocked with fresh straw for burrowing, and keep feeding stations close by to avoid prolonged exposure to cold.
Are too-small trip plates making your life too hard? If the cats are reaching the bait by leaning or stepping OVER the trip plate, here's a remedy. Tape a piece of cardboard approximately 9 1/2" wide x 7" long to the middle of the trip plate, effectively extending it. The next time a kitty enters the trap she'll have to step ON the plate. (Not: to avoid this problem the Neighborhood Cats trap by Tomahawk was designed with a larger trip plate; extenders not required.)
You've planned and planned and finally it's time. Tomorrow you're doing a mass trapping. The next day the cats go to the vet to be spayed and neutered. What's wrong with this picture? If it rains - if someone unknowingly leaves out a bowl of food - if there's construction next door - if some of the cats decide to be cats and just won't cooperate - all your hard work can be wasted. Don't let that happen! By allowing a minimum of two days (three is better) to trap you can protect yourself from the unforeseeable and get your cats trapped, neutered and returned right on schedule.
When the temperature dips below freezing how can you be sure your cats have access to fresh drinking water? You probably don't want to bundle up and run outside to change water bowls every hour or so but fortunately you don't have to - there are a number of clever products designed to prevent water from freezing. One of the best is the Solar Sipper, a durable outdoor drinker that can keep water ice-free to 20 degrees F. The Solar Sipper has no wires to chew and - added bonus - its insulated design will also keep water cooler in summer. Available from Happy Bird Corp. Click here for info and ordering.
When the snow flies it's tempting to stock feral shelters with blankets to keep kitties warm but actually blankets, towels and newspaper will do the reverse, draining away body heat and chilling the cats. For effective insulation choose materials that reflect body heat which in turn will warm the shelter's interior. Mylar blankets (the kind you see draped over runners at the end of a marathon) work well. So do Fleximat Purr Pads and - bonus - cats love 'em! Follow the link for Purr Pad ordering info. Find mylar blankets at www.amazon.com. (Note: the best way to install mylar blankets is to glue them, using carpenters glue, to the walls, floor and even ceiling of the shelter. Gluing them creates a smooth surface and avoids "crinkliness" that cats might object to. Remember to use entra care around corners and edges to avoid any loose ends.)
Here's an easy way to help cats stay toasty, even in the coldest weather. Loosely fill a cotton pillow case with styrofoam peanuts, the kind used to pack fragile items during shipping. Tie the pillow case closed and put it inside the shelter. The pillow case will conform to the cat's body (sort of like a tiny Sleep Number bed!) and wrap her in warmth-capturing peanuts. (Note: as packing peanuts are now often made from starch, which dissolves in water, it's helpful to place the peanuts in a plastic bag before putting them in the pillow case.) (This idea comes from the book Maverick Cats: Encounters with Feral Cats by Ellen Perry Berkeley.)
If you have a secure place to store food, keeping a supply at your colon
Spay/Neuter & Veterinary
- Trapping: The Basics
- How to Build & Use Your Own Drop Trap
- Mass Trapping
- Hard to Catch Cats
- Recommended Traps & Equipment
- Caring for Cats Held in Traps
Food & Shelter
Other Feral Cat Topics