Today was trapping day, and it was a big success! We started about 10:15 and ended just about an hour later when the last kitten went into the last trap. They are frightened, but taking it well, no histrionics. Some of them had even eaten their food after we trapped them when I checked them later. That doesn’t mean they were waiting to be petted, but they weren’t as frightened as other feral kittens their age I’ve seen. They’ve tolerated the presence of neighbors, and especially their caretakers when they showed up in this yard, so they’ve received important socialization to trusting a human isn’t going to chase and grab them.
I want to say up front that in this case the caretakers listened to my plan and the feline behavior behind conditioning them to traps and through the week followed through with everything we talked about. That’s a huge part of the success of this trapping escapade, and I am very grateful to both of them for their concern, attention to details, respect for all my lectures, and following through.
Last preparations for traps and trapping
The caretakers, a retired couple, mentioned the kittens weren’t hungry early in the morning, They stayed in their lair under the shed until about 10:00, then sat on the wall to let their caretaker know that breakfast would be served. That led me to think their mother might be stopping by overnight to nurse them. We’re using that guess to trap her overnight; more on that later.
We set up the traps on Monday, tied open, feeding their meals farther into the traps each day so the kittens would condition to them and also get their scent all over them. They were comfortable eating in them by Tuesday evening, then played on them too. Prior to the traps they had also stayed in the upper yard, never coming down in the grass. The husband was working on a block wall through the week and the kittens played all around him, not close enough to touch, but running across the grass and all the way down to the sunroom.
Rain had been forecast overnight, this morning, afternoon and that will often foil trapping, but I mentioned to the caretakers the possibility of putting some sort of tent over the traps as they were lined up and tied open. He laid a piece of cardboard over them and then a folded tarp. Kittens went in and ate, no problem, so unless it was storming we planned to trap.
The caretakers had not fed the kittens the evening before to be sure they’d be hungry, notwithstanding mom possibly nursing at night.
Setting up the traps
I had picked up two extra traps earlier that morning just in case one had an issue and one for their mother. When we removed all the ties that held the traps open all week, one of the traps would not stay open. I had checked them all at home and again when we set them up in the yard and all were fine. We moved it around to see if the grass was tilting it and rebalancing the weight, but it turned out that the cardboard with the little dollop of food on the end of it was heavy enough to trip the trip plate. We set up one of the new traps in its place.
Each trap had a piece of cardboard lining the bottom so they didn’t have to walk on the wire bottom, and the husband had wrapped a pee pad around it in preparation for their overnight stay in the trap.
As he set the traps, the kittens were ready. You can see a short-haired gray kitten on the wall behind him. His wife settled into a chair by the house to record the events with her phone.
One by one into the traps!
That gray kitten on the wall went into one of the larger traps about two minutes later, followed by one of the black kittens in one of the kitten traps, then the second short-haired gray kitten went into another larger trap, each about five minutes apart. That wasn’t too surprising, but I was waiting for the holdouts to take all day, hoping for their sake and ours they would not.
As the kittens went into the traps I ran up with a cover, covered the trap, waited a few seconds until the kitten quieted down—that was all the time they needed—then picked up the trap in both hands and carried it down to the sunroom where they’d stay overnight, setting them next to each other.
Adjusting the traps and positioning when necessary
About 20 minutes went by as the big long-haired gray kitten and the other black kitten hovered on the wall and above the traps and behind the shed. The caretaker recording moved into the house and we kept our conversations quiet to keep from frightening the kittens or inhibiting them from coming closer.
After a time, since the kittens were not coming down to the traps, I suggested we move the other two traps up onto the wall which in that spot is wide enough to safely hold two traps with level space around them. Within minutes the two kittens were down to the traps and hovering around the kitten trap closest to the shed. The big long-haired gray kitten went in and the little black kitten took off for the shed at the top of the hill.
Another 15 minutes went by as the kitten hovered around, hid, walked up to the other trap but would not go any farther. That’s not surprising since the kitten had just seen four traps eat his siblings and they disappeared, and the caretakers had also mentioned that there were always four kittens at the food bowl first, one of the black kittens came down a little later, possibly a little more timid than its siblings, and that was probably typical behavior for that kitten.
I suggested we move the trap closer down the wall toward the lower shed he was hiding behind so he didn’t have so much open space to walk through, feeling vulnerable.
The importance of conditioning to traps, and their own scent on them
I also knew that last trap was one of the new traps we’d set up to replace the one that wouldn’t stay open—and none of them had even approached that trap, one of the proofs for me that conditioning to traps and the importance of their own scent is vital when possible.
We set up the original trap, trimming the cardboard inside and putting the food behind the trip plate. This time I also put two small dots of food on the cardboard/pee pad to help lead the kitten all the way in. It seems all those adjustments worked together to convince the kitten it was safe to go in and get the food after about 10 minutes of indecision. I carried the trap down to the sunroom, and trapping was over.
Settling them in after trapping
I let them rest for about a half hour before I peeked into each trap to get a visual check that there were no injuries, the kitten’s posture was normal and not in any distress. We had heard a little scratching and some meows. Because they were all siblings and still in that physically close time in their lives I had also decided to remove all the separate covers so they could actually see each other and cover all the traps with one cover. Then just let them sit.
The first gray kitten stayed in the back of the trap and kept turning away, but I finally got a photo.
All the other traps had solid trip plates in the front so I didn’t get as clear a shot of any of the others.
The second kitten was one of the black ones, and to my surprise he was in the center of his trap and looking right at me. He had tried to dig out through the bottom and rolled up his pee pad.
The third kitten was the other short-haired gray kitten, also standing up and looking at me, right at the side of the trap.
The next kitten was the big gray long-haired kitten in one of the kitten traps, also looking up at me.
The last kitten was the second black kitten who was busy trying to dig out the back of the trap. The kitten did turn around but I didn’t get a photo of that.
They did quiet down, and after an hour or so we lifted each trap and put a pee pad underneath, then I used my trap separator to hold the kitten in the back of the trap while I opened the front and put some food and water in for them. Some had eaten the food from trapping, some had sat in it, some hadn’t touched it, but they could have food until midnight on the day before surgery and they’d be pretty hungry at some point soon.
Their behavior this time around had them all sitting up and looking at me, making extended direct eye contact. I talked to them as I worked as did the caretakers. I see behavior like that very promising for their socialization.
The caretaker worked up some unique combination food and water trays; the little cups are the bottom of yogurt containers that he glued onto the cardboard.
Setting traps for their mother
We set two traps for the mother cat by the upper shed. The caretakers can refresh the food until they turn in for the night, and bring the traps inside, then if they want to give it a try they can also put the traps out in the early morning. They’ll be leaving for the clinic early so we’ll see.
Then we set up their crate and talked about socialization. That will be chapters two and three!
I hope the details help you or you enjoy reading about trapping
I like to give details of how we trapped for anyone who is learning or needs ideas or just likes to read about trapping. I do hope that if anyone can take ideas from what’s here and be successful in trapping they’ll share it forward.
I mentioned keeping my trapping “fear free” because it can be such a frightening thing, and I’ve integrated several ways to do that mentioned here. Please read my article on fear-free trapping on the Fear Free Pets website: https://fearfreepets.com/can-trapping-cats-be-fear-free/
Help with goods for socialization
Five growing kittens are going to eat a lot of food and use a lot of litter. I’ve already collected donated goods from Hollywood Feed, which has always helped me with donations for my fosters, and purchased a few scratchers and wand toys that are beneficial for socialization. If you’d like to help with food or litter or anything else, please let me know. I can give you the caretakers’ address for delivery or make arrangements for any other donations.
A note about my cat rescue activities
I’ve been at this one way or another since about 1980, and I’ve just accepted that rescuing cats is a permanent part of my life. I try to be very careful with my time to be sure I meet all my deadlines and have the time to create the artwork and gift items I sell, but rescuing cuts into both my income and my time. However, if I have the skills to help a cats and people who need it, and no one else is available, I am happy I can do that for them.
The caretakers have just laid out quite a sum for vetting for five kittens, even at low-cost rates, and I’d like to help them with any donations of goods you’d like to give, especially food and litter. I’ve been gathering some donations and purchased toys and scratchers as well.
I also have some pretty high veterinary costs right now after losing Mewsette, and still treating Jelly Bean, Mr. Sunshine and Giuseppe. Morty still needs prescription foods until I can get him back to the veterinarian for some blood tests so we can find out more about his particular condition, and all of them need to eat.
- Consider a Custom Pet Memorial Votive for yourself or a family member or friend. Remember that they don’t actually have to be memorials—a votive with someone’s pet on it while they are very much alive is also a nice custom gift!
- Visit www.PortraitsOfAnimals.net. I am currently preparing my basement studio for handmade goods but it will be a couple weeks before I start stocking things, but look around in my Handmade Gifts Gallery.
- I have four Stained Glass Cats small votives which I now offer with string lights in addition to an LED votive for your choice of lighting.
- I still have plenty of feline garden flags, though I’m currently out of a few designs.
- I have one of each of the Tortie Girls block prints and one of Awakening, all are matted and framed.
- And consider even a small portrait of one or more of your fine felines!
If you have any questions, please let me know! And thanks for any help.
Gifts featuring cats you know! Visit Portraits of Animals
Feline Gifts from Portraits of Animals!
“22 Cats” votive lamp featuring all the portraits in my “Great Rescues Day Book”. Read more.
All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission, although links to your site are more than welcome and are shared. Please ask if you are interested in using and image or story in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of an image or a product including it, check my animal and nature website Portraits of Animals to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.
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Weekly schedule of features:
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Thursday: New Merchandise
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!