Our Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) Team has been hard at work all winter trying to beat the heat and get as many community cats as possible fixed before kitten season arrives. So far this year, we’ve helped community members fix, microchip, & vaccinate over 50 colony cats. We want to give you a peak behind the scenes and break down TNR for those who may not be familiar with the process.

TRAP – The first step in TNR is trapping.

Community cats, especially feral cats, are typically too fearful to enter a carrier or be safely handled, so we use a humane trap. There are a variety of traps on the market, and each trapper has their preferred equipment. At Karma Cat + Zen Dog Rescue Society we prefer Tomahawk brand, and we use their standard spring box trap, their new gravity box trap, and their drop trap.

Most humane traps are fundamentally the same—a trap door is lifted and set in place on a spring-loaded hook. This hook is tripped when the cat walks to the back of the trap

for the tasty bait (we like to use smelly sardines mixed with canned cat food) and steps on a trip plate. The trap door is dropped, and the cat is trapped. The new gravity trap works in a similar fashion, only rather than a spring-loaded hook, the door gently rests on a hook and gravity pulls the door down when it’s tripped. The gravity traps are quieter and less startling for the cats, and we are excited to have added a few to our trapping arsenal. Both variations of the box trap are used for single cats, or cats who tend to not congregate and eat in the same location at the same time.

The drop trap is just like in the cartoons: a wire mesh cage is propped up on one side by a leg with a very long rope securely attached with the bait placed in the far back. The trapper uncoils the rope and waits as far away as possible. When cats enter to partake in the wet meatz, the rope is firmly yanked, pulling the leg out and safely dropping the trap over the cats. The drop trap is often used when there are multiple cats who eat in the same location—we can often trap 4-5 cats in one pull of the rope this way. Cats are then transferred into box traps one at a time through a little door on the side.

When a cat is successfully trapped, regardless of the style of trap, the trapper quickly covers the trap with a sheet or blanket. This calms most cats very quickly, reducing their stress level. Feral cats like the cave-like feeling of a covered trap and will most often just curl up at one end and be calm for the duration of their stay in the trap.

Trapping isn’t for everyone. When they are first trapped, scared cats can thrash around in the traps. While it looks scary and brutal, most cats aren’t hurt, but occasionally we have a feisty cat scrape up their nose a bit. Any injury heals quickly, and rarely bothers the cat. The box traps are long enough that no tails can get caught in the trap door.

When we first receive a request for TNR assistance, one of our team members goes out for a site visit to determine how and when the cats eat. This information is how

we develop our plan of action for trapping. When our plan is ready, we ask the colony caretaker to stop feeding the cats for a day—this makes for hungry cats, and hungry cats go in traps. Once the cat is trapped (usually the day before scheduled surgery), it is labeled, covered and transported to our temperature controlled “Waiting Room” where it will remain until surgery the next day.

Surgery puts the “N” in TNR and will be the topic of our next installment of TNR by the Letters!

Interested in joining our TNR team to help us improve the lives of community cats all around our area? Fill out our volunteer application here

If you’re interested in learning how to trap yourself, check out these websites for detailed instructions, or take one of the many online webinar classes in TNR.


If you’d like to donate to help us increase our trap inventory and miscellaneous equipment, here’s our wish list:

The traditional spring box trap: https://www.livetrap.com/index.php?dispatch=products.view&product_id=30179

The new gravity box trap: https://www.livetrap.com/index.php?dispatch=products.view&product_id=33358

Trap mats for the traditional box trap: https://www.livetrap.com/index.php?dispatch=products.view&product_id=33235

Trap mats for the gravity box trap: https://www.livetrap.com/index.php?dispatch=products.view&product_id=33360

Cage mounted dishes: https://www.livetrap.com/index.php?dispatch=products.view&product_id=30158

Remote trap trigger: https://www.livetrap.com/index.php?dispatch=products.view&product_id=31128

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