For my first advice column for humans, I was trying to decide whether to go with some of the silly questions I got or with something more useful. Then I got this email:
“I have adopted four feral kittens and need to get them spayed. We have tried to get them in a cat cage carrier so we can take them with no success. Any ideas?”
I thought this was an important one to address right away because today’s feral kittens are this spring’s pregnant moms. Girlcats as young as five months can get knocked up — all they need is an early heat cycle and an eager Tom. Healthy kittens can be spayed as early as two months, as long as they weigh over two pounds, and if they are feral, the earlier the better.
I asked for more details and my reader explained that although she had “adopted” them, they are not indoor cats and they mainly eat and sleep in the garage — and there really is no way she could get them in a carrier. So what she really needs to do is trap them for their spay appointments.
(Side note here: I bet you thought I was going to explain how to easily get a cat in a carrier — nuh-uh! That is proprietary information that cats do not divulge in public; it takes a combination of tapping into Extreme Kitty Mind Meld, timing, swift action and the right attitude. To tattle about such a thing would risk getting me thrown out of the IFWU — International Feline Workers Union. But when it comes to feral cats, TNR and such, restrictions are lifted.)
Anyhow, back to this reader and her four feral girls. She needs to ask around the local rescues, shelters, vets and/or contact Alley Cat Allies about borrowing or renting traps for her kittens. And even though she has been caring for them and considers them her charges, she will have to go through all the same steps as if she were trapping ferals she did not know as well. If the weather allows, I would recommend setting up the traps outside of the garage — nearby, but not inside it. They consider the garage a safe haven, and ideally, it is better not to risk spoiling this for them.
The traps should be set out with the floor part covered with newspaper, and the whole thing covered for a sense of security and privacy. Leave a paper plate of their favorite and most smelly wet food far in the back so they have to crawl fully inside to eat. Do not set the traps to catch the kitties at first. Leave them open and unlatched for at least a few days while they get used to them. When they seem comfortable coming and going and eating out of the traps, it’s time to capture them for their spay appointments.
You really want to be prepared. Do make sure you have the appointment with the clinic set in advance because you will want to bring the kittens in very soon after you have trapped them. The best time to trap is usually dusk or a little before, when cats like to have dinner, and then take the trapped kittens into the clinic the very next morning. Don’t free feed during this process and on the big day, skip feeding them for at least a meal before you set the traps, so they will be hungry. Put the most tempting food in the traps on the day you set them. Then you wait. Never leave set traps unattended.When your kittens have been trapped, bring them in the covered traps into the garage, where they will spend the night before their appointment. They need to be safe, away from the elements and other predators while they are in the traps. Do not let them out because you will not be able to get them back in again! Ideally you would capture them all, but you may not be able to accomplish this in one night. You will just have to keep trying with the ones who you don’t trap while you are taking care of the others. It is likely you will have to go through the steps of getting the uncaptured kittens to trust the trap again. If you have trouble with this, you may need to switch out traps and get ones that look and smell different than the ones you have been using.
After spending the night in the garage, inside their traps, take the kittens, still in their traps, to the clinic. Again, do not let them out! You may want to line your car seats or floor with pee pads to keep things neat while you are in transit… because when it comes to scared, upset kittens, things can get messy.
After their spay operations, the vet will give you instructions on when the kittens are healed enough to be released again. Do not be surprised if they disappear for a few days. The whole process is likely to spook them, and there is really no way you can get around that. Heck, it is bad enough for us fully tame and domesticated kitties! Feral cats and kittens are way more wary of humans to begin with. But they will come back, especially when they realize the evil traps are gone for good.
These are only the barest of instructions. Hopefully, when my reader goes looking for traps, she will also find other humans who know how to do TNR and can show her firsthand how to do it. The following articles are very helpful and explain the process in more detail:
Good luck! And paws up for caring for these wild little beings.
See all of Summer’s merch at her Designercat Shop, available on Zazzle.