After you trap your cat, and get it neutered you will need to keep the cats for a minimum of 24 hours fro males, and 3 days for females in order for the cat to properly recover from surgery before being returned top their outdoor home. If the cat is lactating, and you don not have the kittens, she should be spayed as soon as possible, and released when she is alert and has eaten- late that night, or very early in the morning. In addition to the information in our Trapping & Care Guide, here are some tips on alternate methods to make that recovery time easier for both you and the cat.

Please resist the temptation to release the cat in a room, even a very small room, or garage for it’s recovery period. A feral cat will literally “climb the walls”, doing everything it can to find a way out, and in the process can rip open it’s sutures (this is primarily a problem for females, or males that needed invasive surgery for crypt orchid -testicles that have not properly “dropped”). If this happens, the cat will need to be taken to the emergency room to have it’s surgery site re-sterilized and sutured.

Here are three methods for recovering a cat in the trap. These methods can also be use for both recovering the cat after surgery or while waiting until it can have surgery.

It is critical that the cat be returned to it’s home territory after it’s surgery and recovery period. Always make sure to keep the trap in an enclosed space, where if the cat manages to get out of the trap during cleaning it cannot escape.

If your trap has a sliding door at one end, use this end as much as possible when changing food and newspaper. It is much less likely for the cat to be able to escape through that door.

Method #1 – Newspaper outside trap:

  • Place trap in a confined, quiet area.
  • Line floor with a garbage bag(or other plastic- shower curtains can work well also).
  • Cover the garbage bag with newspaper.
  • Pull out any newspaper that may be inside the trap.
  • With bricks, prop up the trap on both ends.
  • Carefully insert two small containers holding food and water. Deli containers work, or cleaned out cat food cans. You can refill the water container through the trap grates, and also the food container if you are using dry food.
  • Always keep the trap covered.
  • Replace newspaper as the cat urinates on it. If necessary, push feces through the trap grates with a stick or something.

Method #2 – Newspaper inside trap:

  • Place trap in a confined, quiet area.
  • Line floor with plastic and newspaper.
  • Pull out any soiled newspaper that may be inside the trap, and food/water containers.
  • Next – careful, now! – slowly turn the trap over so that the side of the trap is now on the floor. The cat will move to stand on the side of the trap that is on the floor.
  • Insert fresh newspaper along the true bottom of the trap, which is now on the side. Since the cat is sitting on the side of the trap now, you can insert the newspaper without the cat getting in the way.
  • Carefully turn the trap back right side up. The cat, although grouchy now, will be sitting on the fresh newspaper.
  • If you have a small rag or old cloth, put it in the cage away from the food- the cat will sit on the rag, and when it has to poop or pee will often wad the yucky stuff up in the rag, so it is easily removed with the old paper and thrown away.
  • Reinsert food/water containers.
  • Always keep the trap covered.

Method #3Use a Recovery Cage:

A recovery cage is an extra cage that is used to extend the that extend the trap- you can make one from a rabbit hutch, or even connect 2 traps that have back transfer doors together to make a larger recovery area. See our special equipment page on recovery cages for more information.

For this method you will need a larger floor space, or table for the cage and trap, and your trap must have a rear transfer door.

  • Cover the floor with a layer of plastic, followed by a layer of newspaper
  • Place the recovery cage in such a way as you have access to it’s extra door, and still have room to place the trap at the trap opening
  • Set up the recovery cage by
    • lining it with newspaper,
    • add a small make shift litter box with litter (a plastic shoe box works well for most recovery cages), you may want to wire this to the side of the cage so the cat does not tip it over
    • and if there is room, put a towel or blanket inside for the cat to sleep on
  • Cover the entire recovery cage with a large sheet or blanket
  • Place the trap with the cat in it so that the trap transfer door is positioned up against the recovery cage trap opening.
  • Unlatch the trap and before removing the door secure the recovery cage and the trap together with cable ties.
  • Once the trap is securely attached to the cage, remove the back door so the cat has access to both trap and cage
  • Put food and water inside the trap from the trap door end of the trap so their food is not right next to the litter box.
  • Make sure the trap door end is securely closed after each time you replace the food and water

When it is time to clean the trap you simply have to cover the part you want the cat to go into whether it be the trap end or the recovery cage end, and un-cover the part you want to work on. So when cleaning the litter, make sure the trap is covered, and uncover the recovery cage. The cat will usually go where it is dark and protected. When you want to return the cat, simply:

  • Remove the food and water from the trap and make sure the door is locked
  • Make sure the trap part is covered
  • Uncover the recovery cage, and if necessary coax the cat into the trap end (if they are stubborn, leaving the room for a few minutes will often allow the cat the time it needs to feel safe going into the trap
  • Replace the traps transfer door
  • Cut the cable ties to release the trap and recovery cage from each other
  • Lock the transfer door securely to the trap

Links to other resources:

Neighborhood Cats the feral cat experts

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