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How to Catch an UnCatchable Cat

September 6, 2010
black cat with green eyes

How Did That Huge Hole Get in This Cat’s Face?

Including VirtuaVet’s Advice for Catching an Uncatchable Cat

Sometimes you must catch an independent or frightened cat who does not understand why he or she needs to go to the vet.

Sparky Needed to See the Veterinarian

Sparky might not be the handsomest cat in the world, and he hates staying inside all the time. His fur is brittle and dry.  His body a little skinny and tough.   He wanders the neighborhood and refuses to stay in the house.  An unneutered male cat, he runs when anyone tries to pick him up, but otherwise, he purrs, stretches, rubs, and enjoys human companionship.

Sparky risks deadly Feline Leukemia virus (FeLV) from hissing, licking, sex, or fighting with infected cats outside.  He also risks Feline Immunodeficiency virus (FIV) from sex and fighting.  Since he is one of a group of about 20 cats that come to the back door for plates of food each day, his humans care for him and love him, but cannot offer the preventive care and testing that a pampered house cat might enjoy.  Besides, Sparky abhors the car!

So when Sparky showed up with a gigantic hole in the side of his face, his people took a large comforter blanket and quickly scooped him up and put him in a cat carrier even before Sparky knew what was happening!

Tru Tips to Catch a Cat

“Half of my cat appointments each day show up late.  At least one a day does not manage to make the appointment at all!  Why?  Because cats can be very tough to catch.  Even when they are sick and need help,” says Doc Truli.

Sometimes you just have to catch a cat for their own good.  You might feel like a terrible person for tricking them and upsetting them.  Cats often argue and resist help, even when they are very sick. Resolve to help the cat no matter how much he or she complains and resists!

Catch Your Cat for an Appointment by Shutting Extra Rooms Off the Day Before the Appointment

Most cats are not difficult to catch.  The cats are not mean and they do not hate their family.  The problem with catching the cat lies in the people’s technique and the cat’s lack of experience with being carried.  If you carry and lift your cat several times a day, maybe take walks to the food bowl, then catching your cat for a physical is no big deal.

Some cats hate to be lifted or touched, except on their terms.  A cat that only comes to you on their own terms is difficult to catch on schedule on the day of a vet appointment!

The night before the appointment, find your cat.  Shut your cat into one small room.  If that is impossible, then shut all the doors to other rooms. You will cut your cat-finding and cat-digging-out activities considerably!  Try to keep the cat out of a room with a large bed under which to hide!  (It can be difficult to get them out in the morning!)

If your cat is under the bed, try getting the vacuum out and setting it as if you are going to start vacuuming.  Turn it on for noise and most cats will run out from under the bed!

To Catch a Cat: Offer a favorite food and grab the cat

Be rotten.  Catch ‘em while they are eating!  The down-side is this: if you miss, the cat will not trust you for a while, or ever.  Do not attempt this technique unless you are sure it will work right the first time; you will not get a second chance.

Habituate the Cat to the Carrier

Be sly.  Put the food in a carrier for a week.  As your cat gets comfortable with the crate, even if you cannot actually touch your cat or lift your cat, at least Kitty will not panic so much when you finally shut the door.  Again, be decisive.  If you bungle the door-shutting, kitty is probably done with eating out of that carrier!

Advanced Cat-Catching Technique

The Pillow Case

Be quick.  Get an old pillow case.  The sturdier the fabric, the better.

Bunch up the pillow case like you do a sock before you put it on your foot.

Slip the case over the cat’s head from above (when he’s not looking, preferably with his head plastered in a food bowl.)

Slide the case over the body; get those hind legs and claws in there quickly!

The Key to the Pillow Case Technique

Then *KEY* slide the cat bundle in a case into a hard-sided cat carrier.  If kitty is still wrapped, you may carefully open the case and let the cat turn around and breathe fresh air.  At this point, some cats are already carving their way out of the pillow case with their angry stabby claws, and you need not worry about their breathing situation; they will take care of that!

Shut the carrier door before you lose the cat!

Feral Cat / Barn Cat-Catching

Dish Drainer Squish

For professional-strength cats, like a running, feral barn cat, get a plastic coated wire dish drainer. When the cat runs up a wall, quick press-smoosh the cat to the wall.  You must press firmly or you will lose the cat.  Slide the cat down the wall into a waiting container.  Preferably use a container with air holes.

Spring-Loaded Trap

For professional-strength cats with non-agile people, as a last resort, you may catch the cat in a trap.  A Have-a-Heart type trap (Brand Name: Havahart) is a wire cage with a weighted bait plate for food. (Hardware stores sell or rent them.  Many Animal Control departments loan or rent traps.)

When the cat goes inside and eats, a latch trips and the door behind the cat closes suddenly.  You can imagine the terror and shock a feral (wild) cat feels when the door closes.  Because the cat could hurt itself, or have a heart attack from fear and panic, do not ever leave a trap unattended for more than a few minutes. It is best if you watch from a house window.

Be careful with a cat trap. To prevent injury to the cat, do not use these traps in excessively hot or inclement weather or the cat could easily die from stress and exertion.” says Doc Truli.

Sparky’s Cat Bite Abscess

Sparky has a 2 cm by 2 cm red spot on the side of his face where there is no skin!

That red spot is a hole with no skin over it!

Sparky came to Doc Truli in a hard-sided carrier.  Even though he lived outside all the time, he came for a bowl of canned cat food each morning.  When his people saw the wound, they got the carrier right away.  While Sparky was still eating, they quietly and calmly picked him up, and put him directly into the carrier they had waiting right by the food dish.  He was not happy, but he was safe for transport to the animal hospital.

A huge patch of skin was missing from the side of his right cheek.

“Is it a tooth root abscess?” asked his dad.

“No, this is an infected, old bite wound,” said Doc Truli.

“Do you think an opossum bit him?  Or maybe he got in  a fight with a rat,” asked dad.

“No, cats care about other cats.  An infected bite is almost always from a cat fight,” said the Doc.

Cat Bite Abscess Treatment

Believe it or not, Sparky let Doc Truli clean the wound with dilute iodine antiseptic solution.  Some bits of necrotic, grey, dead connective tissue peeked out from the edges of the pink, healing wound.  Sparky allowed Doc to trim the grey dead stuff with sterile surgery scissors.  Most cats require anesthesia for this cleaning because their fear and pain drives them to struggle to escape.  Sparky just sat on the examination table and purred.

A dirty, infected wound of this type cannot be surgically sealed closed without trapping infection inside the body.  Plus, the skin can heal amazingly large holes (up to 2 cm across) through biological processes called contraction (pulling the edges in to the center), and re-epithelialization (re- epi – theel – ee – al – i – zay – shun).  In re-epithelialization, the body sends new, thin, pink skin cells over the defect.  This is not a whole new thick skin with hair follicles and all the skin structures, but the thin pink “scar” serves the purpose of closing the wound without a skin graft surgery.

When Sparky comes for his 2-week recheck, Doc Truli will post the pictures.  Sparky’s giant hole in his face might heal without any surgery!

Update October 2010: Sparky’s parents did not bring him back for a recheck.  But when they brought the dog in for a check-up, they let Doc Truli know that the hole healed over 100% and they felt Sparky did not need the stress of the car ride to confirm what they could see with their own eyes!

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55 Comments leave one →
  1. September 22, 2014 2:06 am

    I need help! This Friday my cat has been on the loose for two months. Weve located the area were he is and hes been seen by several neighbors. Ive tryd traps and all I get is all the neighborhood cats and lots of possums. Ive put out alot of cat nip and again all the neighborhood cats. I bought a wild life camara and hes there! We have alot of woods and sticker bushes around the neighborhood. I dont want to give up because I know hes there. My family is lost and empty with out our kitty. Do they forget who we are and why doesnt he come out when I call him? The neighbors are thinking I should walk away, but I cant. Please someone help me!!!!

  2. Bonnie permalink
    August 24, 2014 7:29 am

    Here is a bit of a Tip-Twist, that makes the Pillow Case a LOT EASIER & Less traumatic:

    1) Put the pillow case on your lap, open & covering your lap, sort of like a little snug nest.
    2) Let your cat come to you and Either: pick your cat up & place in your lap to get some loving (or) Allow the kitty to wander up onto your lap (with encouragement or a treat or two) to get loving.
    3) Pet your kitty, relaxation is a good thing.
    4) Once kitty is pretty much on your lap in what would be the bottom/center of the pillow case.
    5) Reach down on both sides, take the edges of the pillow case firmly in both of your hands on either side & LIFT, BRING THEM TOGETHER & Twist!
    6) The point is to “sack” the cat, with kitty at the bottom of the pillow case, your hands at the top, and if you lift and twist fast enough. Kitty’s weight will have him/her at the bottom of the pillow case, your hands safely on the outside, the pillow case top twisted, so no way kitty can climb out, and the pillow case hugs around their body (sacked) so it is supposed to be more comforting.
    Then you can easily transport kitty by placing him/her inside a carrier (while in the case, just don’t secure the pillow case top/edges, so kitty can get out of case once inside the carrier (or) if kitty isn’t violent, you can (with the pillow case edges/top, secured with some sort of rope/tie so it doesn’t come undone), simply put kitty on someone’s lap to pet, talk, comfort him/her in transit. I had one cat that freaked out about cat carrier transporting, but pit him in the pillow case like above and hold him on a lap and he was MUCH calmer during transport.

    Good Luck!!

    • August 24, 2014 9:04 am

      Love, love, love it! Thanks for the tip, Bonnie.

      -Doc Truli

  3. July 20, 2014 6:42 am

    Dear Doc,

    The tips for trapping cats you provide in this article are wonderful. Thank you for posting them. I have a bit of a “situation” for which I’m hoping you might be able to share some additional insight.

    I have an outdoor-only, feral-born, 11-year-old kitty who has not eaten or drank anything in 3 days. A similar situation occurred once a few years back. It lasted a week and somehow resolved on its own, but I don’t want to take any chances this time. I have tried multiple types of his favorite (raw brand) cat food, which he normally loves. I have offered homemade chicken broth (with nothing else added in it). I have even tried both poached and baked plain, dark, chicken thigh meat, as well as baby food (chicken and turkey). I have also tried Greenies Pill Pockets with Petromalt. He doesn’t like anything else, and he has refused every one of these options. He comes running and calling to me like his normal self at mealtimes, but takes one whiff of his food bowl and proceeds to chew on grass. His appetite was just fine before this; the situation began very abruptly. I’m wondering whether he might have a bad hairball — he is a nervous cat and grooms his long hair excessively — or is extremely constipated, as he let out some terribly smelly gas tonight, and has been sitting with his limbs tucked in, and sleeping more than usual. I’ve found no traces of poop, vomit, or any other sort of upchuck in the yard. I am almost certain he does not hunt or eat anything from anywhere else — he’s literally always in my yard and is an extremely picky eater anyway.

    My issue is getting him the veterinary help he needs. He is a wonderful, very soft-natured, and loving kitty who allows for all types of handling, except being picked up and carried. But although he is not at all aggressive, he is EXTREMELY paranoid and especially so when he’s feeling crummy. I cannot scruff him. He runs in a blink at the mere sight of his carrier, and is so fast and strong I have had no success blanketing or pillow-casing him. And the previous couple of times I did try to isolate him in a closed room, he quite literally nearly went into cardiac arrest — he panics easily, and when he does, it is off the charts. He is a unique cat, but a very fearful one by nature, and this proves difficult during times like these. Would you have any tips on how I might handle this situation? I love this little boy immensely and hate to see him in distress, am feeling extremely worried and helpless, and would greatly appreciate your help. My sincere apologies for the long post. Thank you so very much for your time.

    • July 20, 2014 3:45 pm

      How about darting him? Have a vet come over and either 1) shoot ketamine into his mouth when he meows or hisses (must get this right on first try or he’ll never allow it again or 2) dart
      Him with sedatives like a small bear.

      It might take work to find a vet who can do it, but I think you’ll prevail.

      • July 22, 2014 6:08 am

        I didn’t know these were possibilities, and I thank you for the suggestions — I’ll look into them. He’s not very big, so that’s something that concerns me; I wouldn’t want darting to cause any other serious complications. Is there anything safe I could give him to somewhat quickly induce drowsiness? If I can just get him into his carrier, the other pieces will fall into place.
        He is eating a bit since yesterday and showing interest in food again, which is good. I am hoping the progress continues. Thanks very much again, Doc.

      • July 22, 2014 8:30 pm

        Your local veterinarian could recommend a sedative to sneak in his food, now that he’s eating again.

  4. Dena permalink
    March 30, 2014 3:18 pm

    my cat has almost the same thing on the side of her was when she she was little and we took her to the vet and they said she was allergic to her fur and gave us med. for her. It was a liquid we put on the area where she scratched the fur and some skin off. after months is went away. but it always comes back worse. the med. doesnt help anymore and it has spread to her stomach today. it wasnt from another cat bite because we didnt have another cat at the time and she stayed inside. she was born without a tail as well. the only one in the litter. she is getting old she is over 8 or 9 i know that. she is black but is starting to get random whie hairs. i dont know if the skin condition will make her live shorter or what. shes an inside cat too. she doesnt go outside.i looked it up and it said it could be a fungal infection that humans can get too but she has been right beside me everyday since we were little. she still is today and i have not had any of it from her. some sites also say cats arent born with allergies. she has short snooth hair

    • March 30, 2014 7:12 pm

      Dear Dena,
      I think you wrote your comment about another post. Recently I wrote “Even a Kitten Can Have a Terrible Problem” about a bad skin condition that ultimately needed skin tests and a biopsy to diagnose it. It cost about US$900 to finally cure the kitten (mostly because dermatopathology specialists are the best for analyzing skin biopsy samples and they cost double a general pathologist). So, if your vet is guessing, they are trying their best within financial limitations. If there is dome financial flexibility, you could take her to see a veterinary dermatologist-a skin specialist.
      Good luck,
      -Doc Truli

    • May 20, 2014 2:25 pm

      We had two cats once who developed bright red raw places on their skin with fur loss. They were miserable. We eventually found a vet who diagnosed it correctly as a fungus and they had to take a special compounded oral medication for many months. It slowly cleared up and they lived for many more years. Good Luck.

    • jeny B permalink
      June 8, 2014 4:18 pm

      Hi dena, I wish you read this reply, so keep my finger cross.
      I have a white cat that i adore, his brother end up dying and a friend of mine have him and was also a sweet cat. Boths have a sensible skin the hair fails on parts like neck between legs, stomach, skin get red itchy the could could get bliod from scratch.
      I give him or royal cannin food of fancy feasts, the rash returnd because I been giving him fancy feast bcuz I dont have the money for royal cannin and have two more cats.
      so tips be careful with the dry foods.
      one thing that will help her better than vet is apply pure unprocessed coconut oil, also they like it, and mtg mane tail and groom oil. I cure my cat in days just with those oils, and are safety, mtg oil is smelly but works wonders, do not remove the oil, or bath her, apply daily or bettwen days untils you see get better but will see improvement quickly, start with coconut oil one day to get her use too.
      other thing I start recently give her raw sardines if she dont eat at first just get ur hands dirty and cut the sardines by ur hands and give to her, she will eat it more easy by hands, mine eat in my hands. Sardines are full of omega 3 and omega 6 sooo is perfect for their skin issues. his hair become better so quick after that. Give 1 or two times a week.
      His brother died bcuz my friend take him to vet and they dont know what to do on him eventually he died bcuz he stop eating and maybe his inmune system become compromise between the medicine vet give him and the health.
      My cat have th3 rash now but was more than a year he dont have it. And his brother was almost all time with that but she didn’t do the things I told her and the vet never help because they never know excatly what was the condition and how to help.
      mine still alive and he dont have too many skin rashes he get like 3 or 4 times in his almost 4 years, and now have but im sure give him the nutrients he need from raw sardines will keep him rash free.
      soo please follow the advise is cheap and easy to do.

      Pure unrefined coconut oil
      MTG Mane tail groom oil
      raw sardines once or two times a week

      also if you can buy royal cannin food buy it.

      • June 8, 2014 7:17 pm

        Just a Doc Truli note here:
        Hey! Whaddaya mean “better than the vet?” (just kidding!)

        You should find a vet that helps you with a diagnosis, helps you understand the biology and issues better. But add your own common sense and ideas, too. Then you get the best of everything!

        I have ok’d this comment, but I am not medically prescribing anything Jeny said. Those are her views. Consult your local holistic or integrative veterinarian.

        Yours,
        -Doc Truli

  5. Andries permalink
    December 31, 2013 11:52 pm

    Me and my family loves cats and has a few cats. We had several stray cats that attacked our cats in the past and via a cctv system we caught the cats as soon as they jumped through our windows during the night. Meaning we have to lock our cats up in a room for the night, while we sit up and wait to catch the stray cats.We then used thick gloves and placed them in a cat box and give them to our local SPCA. We now battle with a cat that has possible a owner and attack our cats severely and injure our cats extremely. We tried to catch him as per routine, but he is not interested in food, he only wants to fight and possible kill our pets. Any advice what we can do to eliminate this problem?

    • January 1, 2014 10:43 am

      Riiiight. So you need to catch a menace who has a full belly. You probably have animal licensing laws in your area (you do if you live in the US). You could report the cat to animal control. They would visit, require rabies shot, license. In my neighborhood, there’s a law that they must be under control in your yard like a dog. (Although not enforced, it could be helpful for animal control to confiscate the cat if needed).

      Oh! Plus, keep your pussums indoors where they can’t get attacked and injured.

      Please let us know if you find a resolution. I’m sure there are plenty of readers who have the same problem.

      -Doc Truli

      • Andries permalink
        January 1, 2014 4:29 pm

        Our animal control in South Africa only rents a trap at a high daily tarriff, but tried this and not working. I have reported incident of the cat to animal control and they do not visit,
        In my neighborhood, there’s no law that require that they must be under control in your yard like a dog. SPCA will not help to confiscate the cat. I do catch daily my cats and lock them in the extra bedroom for safekeeping indoors where they can’t get attacked and injured, after the first injury, but unfair that they need to be locked up daily every night. We normally caught the previous stray cats by looking on the camera and pull the rope which close the one window after stray cats jumped in, but this one menace who has a full belly do not fall for the trick and we sat up every night for the past seven (7) nights and has to sleep during the day because he rocks up at my house every night at about 21h00 until 05h00 next morning. this nightly visits are starting to take a toll on the whole family to try and catch him humainly and deliver him to the local SPCA as done in the past with about five (5) previous stray cats.

        Hope this input could help further to obtain to find a resolution, since I’m sure there are plenty of readers who have the same problem, but possibly proceed to shoot them out of pure desperation possibly???

  6. December 30, 2013 10:44 am

    I have a 1 year old very small male cat who got out accidentally last night. He was originally rescued from a feral colony as a small kitten, but has not been outside since I got him as a pet at 4mo old. Since he got out I have only seen glimpses of him but every time he sees me he runs away. I am very scared he will get hurt or sick outside. What can I do to bring him home??

  7. ted permalink
    November 13, 2013 10:25 am

    Well I have a male cat that was handled all the time as a kitten.. I kiss him on a daily basis.
    And he still will not let me pick him up. To catch him, I just took a plastic carrier in one closed off room with him and put his food and cat nip inside. Once he went in after a long wait, I shut the door. You can also put a trap carrier in a closed off room too with their
    food inside. IF they get hungry enough,they will go in the carrier eventually. Cat nip does help as a lure too. Once they are in the trap, and in the car I make sure the carrier is covered
    with a sheet so they cannot see out of the car windows. But leave enough air for them to breathe. I also talk to them and allow them to hear my voice the whole time I am driving to the vet… They really need to find a sedative that owners can give their cats to sedate them
    to avoid all the hardships of catching them. If anyone knows of a safe sedative that can be administered I would appreciate it.. Once you trap a cat they will remember it and not go
    near it if at all possible.

    • November 13, 2013 4:57 pm

      Unofficially, look into valerian root. Vetriscience composure chewies. Feliway pheromone spray.

  8. October 7, 2013 7:41 pm

    Hi, this is a great article. 
    I was wondering if you could give me some tips to catching an outside cat overnight. 
    I’m pretty young and I’ve just saved up the money to get two of the many strays I feed spayed. 
    See, my neighbors hate stray cats and tend to kill them. 
    I have an appointment in the morning that is the only one I’ll he able to make for a while because the place I am taking them is an hour away. 
    I caught one cat, that is injured. Her paw is injured too, but I can’t afford to have it fixed right now.. And it’d be injustice to put her down when she’s fought so hard to live. 
    (We’re almost positive that one of the hateful neighbors hurt her) 
    Anyway, the one I need to catch only likes me, and she probably doesn’t like me anymore because I did the trick with food one. 
    She used her back legs to kick me in the face and run. 
    I’m at such a loss at what to do. 
    If you see this before midnight, and you have any advice, it’d be greatly appreciated. 
    It’s just me I don’t have anyone to help me and I don’t trust my local kill shelter and don’t want to use the traps they provide. 
    Thank you!

    • October 9, 2013 10:08 pm

      I know of no way to catch a feral cat without a trap. It’s like getting to the moon without a rocket ship.

    • jen permalink
      May 3, 2014 9:38 pm

      Get a trap from the pound several times if you need to. Space the times apart. Tell them you need to catch a possum or something. Just use their cage to take your cat in to get it spayed/neutered. Don’t tell the vet the cage belongs to the pound. Just remove the number off it for a while. Those are great cages & work really well. Unforunately for many cats though. Or get a trap at Tractor Supply for about $25. It just doesn’t work as good as the pound’s. ………………..Check with your local Humane Society. Tell them you want to clean up your neighborhood & get the cats spayed/neutered. Tell them about your lack of money. they may pay for it for you for $15-$25 each until they are all done. Money is available. Check with the low-cost spay centers in your area. ……………….I have had bad neighbors and gone through what you have……………………….It’s really hard. But better when you get them done & find some homes………It’s alot to look out for, especially when bad neighbors kill them and call the pound……………….I wish my bad neighbors no good. Good Luck!

  9. Gayle permalink
    September 8, 2013 9:50 pm

    I have a similar problem. Two of my kitties were feral for their first 6 or 7 months, so they’ve always been a bit odd. One, Gypsy, was diagnosed with attention-seeking disorder and is alway very anxious, very talkative.But sweet. Her sibling, Sweetie, is painfully shy. She’s friendly at the supper bowl and on my bed, and she used to join me with the others on the sofa. However, she’s now sick, and I can’t catch her. I can tell she’s getting worse because she’s hiding. She’s thin, and her hair is very scraggly. But she’s still eating and drinking.

    I do have a trap that I used one time for an outside feral cat who was sick. I am really afraid of using it and screwing up and then having her not trust me. I’m getting desperate, though. I almost got her in a carrier a couple of weeks ago, but she was way stronger than I was. (I had a cat bite years ago–don’t want that again.) I’ve used a large towel in the past, but I don’t think I could hold her in it or a pillow case. I’m thinking of putting the trap in my bedroom, plus a litter box, and water, and letting her go a day without food, and then put food in the trap. I thought about stoning her with catnip, but she doen’t react to it like Gypsy does. I need to practice setting the trap. Any advice? Thanks.

    • September 11, 2013 4:14 pm

      Dear Gayle,
      Medical care is worth the stress of trapping. If it is available in your country, pick up some Feliway pheromone spray to help relax kitty.

      Yours,
      -Doc Truli

    • Patty permalink
      September 12, 2013 3:56 am

      Not sure what Doc will think – BUT you could try the “easy” treatment first – since it’s pretty common for them to have worms and present with similar symptoms you could add some worm paste to her food and see how she does. Most vets just don’t seem to “get it” that with feral (semi-tame) cats your treatment options are so limited anyway. It’s unlikely you’ll be shoving pills down her throat after you DO get her to the vet so there’s no real reason “not” to start small.

      On a more ‘positive’ front, when our feral was really sick, he eventually went into the carrier without much trouble – although he hated my guts for a couple days after, he DID come around when he was feeling a little better. GOOD LUCK!!!

      • Gayle permalink
        September 13, 2013 1:01 am

        Thank you for the worm med idea. I’ll ask the vet about something for her food. I’m working up to using the trap on my screened porch, but I know if I don’t get it right the first time, she’ll be even harder to catch. I have the trap sitting on the porch with water next too it. This weekend I will go another step farther. If I do succeed, I have no idea how I’ll move her from the trap to the carrier. I’ve used pillowcases and towels on previous cats, but this one is really strong when spooked. I’m going to try catnip, too, but it’s hard when I can’t get close to her.

        I did try Feliway once for Gypsy, but it didn’t work. Maybe I should try again, or maybe there’s a different form. I couldn’t get the kitty valium into her, either and neither of these cats likes treats. Fortunately, they’ve been very healthy until now, and they are between 8 and 9 years old.

        Thanks for the input.
        Gayle

  10. Kimelisse permalink
    July 11, 2013 1:51 am

    There is a feral cat who had kittens in our back yard about 4 weeks ago. We have been placing water and food for her, and since we do not bother her, she has grown comfortable with us around. (Our plans are to wait for kittens to start with solids and then trap the mom and get her spayed along with all the kittens). However, tonight we noticed that she has been staying away from her kittens, hasn’t fed them, and hasn’t moved from the same area (she’s on top of our picnic table) for the past several hours. Her sides right in front of her hind legs look sunken in. I placed some water close to her and she didn’t looked at me, but didn’t move. She is laying on her stomach, not her side. Again, she is a feral cat with kittens, and I’m not sure if it is safe to approach her. But obviously, something is wrong. Not sure if trying to trap her is a good idea because she might be hurt. But can’t get too close to try to check her because we don’t know if she’ll feel threatened. Any suggestions???

    • July 11, 2013 8:03 pm

      That’s a tough one. She will certainly panic if you trap her. She obviously needs medical care. I would say, trap her, but do not leave that trap alone for a minute. If you leave it out for a few hours, she could get trapped and then stay I. There are thrash and have a heart attack before you find her. Also, if she is very sick, she might not resist too much. The vet will have to sedate her to examine her, which carries some risk, too. But these are the compromises we make.

    • michelle permalink
      October 12, 2013 8:15 pm

      maybe she is just resting…

  11. Laura permalink
    July 9, 2013 9:23 pm

    There was a fire in my apartment building this morning, luckily it was way on the other side. My one cat was no problem to get in the carrier. But my large and agile maine coon Bodie hates the carrier. He was frightened by the knock on our door from maintenence, and i think they smelled the smoke as well. We chased him and he went into a closet, way behind a bunch of crap, and we could not get to him. It really upset me, what if it happens again and he needs to be taken out? Any tips?

    • July 10, 2013 8:37 pm

      Oh wow! That’s the definition of an emergency. All I can say is try to declutter and stuff up any holes a cat can bury into. Also, if you do have a few seconds before getting the carrier out, quickly close doors so he has less options for hiding.

      In the animal hospital, we use a slip leash to lasso a cat and the gently pry them out of a tight hiding spot.

      In an emergency, if you do not have time, I would suggest leaving a way for a cat to run out on their own. Need I remind all the readers, I am advocating you get yourself and any humans who are dependent on you out of the place if there is smoke or fire.

  12. Patty permalink
    July 8, 2013 7:18 am

    I have an 18 yr old cat, who was feral as a kitten. He loves us to pieces – but trust is something completely different. Working on getting him to the vet this morning – this ought to be fun! Thank you for the ideas. Going to try to wrap him in a towel and ‘drop’ him into the carrier. Based on past attempts, this really seems like it would work.

    Normally we’ve been able to bait him with food – but the problem now is that he refuses to eat (or sniff!) anything – I believe he has a broken or abcessed tooth. :-(

    Marie – Catnip frequently makes cats behave quite differently – and is incredibly hard for cats to resist. That might be a way to capture his attention while you’re there.

    Since you have a ‘deadline’ I might try NOT feeding kitty for a day (or 2) to make sure he’s real hungry (but leave plenty of water!). Then pick an evening where you have time that you can go sit in the attic. Make sure you have a carrier handy and stand it on end with the door open. Bring a heavy towel. Bring a bowl of the most aromatic food you can find. Sardines comes to mind if Kitty likes fish. If it’s possible to kind of ‘block’ the food in, that would be best to avoid escape routes. Try to put the bowl within your reach and sit next to it. Hopefully the smell will drive him bonkers and he’ll come up to eat. Do the “Good Kitty” things and talk soothingly to him. DON’T be in a hurry – they can tell. Breathe deep. They normally run forward first, but backwards (sideways, straight up, up, over and through your body, whatever it takes) is a distinct possibility as well so be prepared. You are NOT faster than your cat – surprise is the only advantage you have. When he’s getting into eating, lunge and cover him rightly with the towel and wrap him in it FAST.(a damp towel is easier to control) As soon as it’s on him, he’ll stop fighting for a few seconds – it’s critical that you cover his face (the sudden darkness disarms them). Wrap him up and drop the cat, towel and all into the carrier.

    Be super careful of the sharp parts of the kitty – I nearly lost a finger due to a cat bite at the joint. Needle sharp, pointy teeth, laden with bacteria – it’s a terrible bite. They may SEEM like cute, cuddly balls of fur, but pound for pound they’re right up there with the most viscious animals.

    In the past my vet gave me kitty valium to help calm him down to get him to the vet. We never had a chance to use it before it expired, but might be an avenue to explore (it wasn’t too expensive). It was liquid, so I think you could mix it in with the food, but then you’d REALLY have to be around.

    Good Luck!!

  13. marie permalink
    June 8, 2013 3:30 pm

    I have tried all the above. my escape artist cat even managed to open have a heat trap.
    is there another way to catch her. I have moved. and she in in the rafters of my old house. she comes out when no one is around to use the litter box and grab a bite to eat. can I drug her food? frustrated

    • June 8, 2013 6:19 pm

      They cannot open a properly operating and properly set up have-a-hart trap. Maybe call a trapper To help you. Or contact a local cat rescue, shelter, animal control expert, etc. but them lunch and ask for specific advice. But first, I’d check that trap. Have-a-hart traps are impossible for a cat to get out of. Must have been broken.

      Good luck,
      Doc Truli

  14. July 18, 2012 8:57 pm

    This is incredibly relevant to me. I have 3 cats. One is a mom and the other two are her boys. They are all grown now. The female is so easy to get in a cage. The boys on the other hand act feral when they see a cage. Otherwise they are totally nice and friendly/enjoy being pet. It’s true I didn’t pick them up much when they were kittens because i thought it would scare them and I wanted them to have freedom of choice but now I know that was a mistake. I am moving soon and I am preparing what I am going to do. One of the boys is tougher than the other and I almost always end up with wounds after but it is the price i pay. I discovered that if you get them in on the first try you are much better off because once they know whats happening it’s going to take hours. I tried a blanket once, totally didn’t work. I am liking the idea of trap similar to how you get a spider out of your house.

  15. KingSerenAnubis1709 permalink
    July 9, 2012 6:41 am

    I had to trap my fellas cat and the catching him while he was eating worked there.
    For my three I have always left a carrier out somewhere in the house so they don’t get scared when they see it, they willingly climb in. Sometimes I close the door when I am not taking them anywhere so they get used to a closed door they like their extra bed :)

  16. Neelix permalink
    July 6, 2012 4:30 pm

    The trick is, when your cats are still kittens, to hold them often. Our cats are used to being picked up and snuggled with daily, and so it’s not very difficult for us to catch them. Also, playing with their feet when they are kittens makes trimming claws oh-so much easier!

    • July 7, 2012 12:16 pm

      You are correct. Research shows kittens who are handled daily will trust people more. Obviously, often people need to care for cats that they did not know as a kitten. Like barn cats, strays, ferals. They can be incredibly difficult to help.

  17. ann permalink
    March 23, 2012 1:31 am

    The pillowcase does NOT work. My kitten, yes kitten not full grown cat, slashed a slice in it in literally 2 seconds and jumped out when I tried to catch her last year to get her fixed. I finally did, but not with a pillowcase. I had to let her get pretty hungry. I set up a large cat carrier near where I fed them. I had it propped up with the door open and the opening facing straight up, not laying on it’s side. While she was eating I quietly slipped on a special kind of pot holder called an ‘ove glove. (oven glove.. silicone coated), grabbed her by the nape of the neck and since the opening was already pointing up, put her in before i released and slammed the door shut. She was extremely fast. Lightning fast. Whew.

    • March 25, 2012 8:46 am

      Dear Ann,
      I agree. With a smart, slashy cat, they cat dice up the pillow case. I recommend an old one. I like a flannel one because it is thicker, and then have a carrier waiting. Quickly cover the cat with the pillowcase, then slide the whole bundle into a hard-sided carrier for back-up when the cat escapes.

      Another good trick is this: if you have a cat that needs to be sedated at the vet’s, if you can get the cat into a soft-sided carrier and then put aht into a hard carrier it serves two purposes: back-up containment so they do not get loose in the car and, the vet can open the hard carrier and get a sedative through the mesh in the soft carrier without taking the cat out.

      Doc Truli once saw a full grown cat destroy a hard-sided airline carrier that was sealed and run around the cab his mom had called. Luckily, the cab driver liked cats!

  18. Hunter Davis permalink
    March 16, 2012 10:36 pm

    Hmm. What if there is a neighborhood kitty that we want to try and adopt off the streets? We live in a close-knit community, so she stays in bounds, but is extremely skittish. She’ll come up to eat, but keeps her distance. What should we do?

    • March 25, 2012 9:32 am

      Very tricky. She thinks she wants to stay on the streets. Probably get her used to a human while she’s eating. Some cats will accept one person, but no others. It can take 6 months or more. You could also try trapping her with a Hav-a-Hart style trap. But it can be so stressful as to precipitate kitty heart attacks if you do not monitor the trap every few hours. Any ideas from our readers?

  19. kyra permalink
    February 21, 2012 10:31 pm

    Thank you so much for the article about Sparky. I have had a feral cat living in my backyard with an injury that looks exactly like sparky’s. I had no idea what could have happened to him. We have been working with a feral rescue group and caught him one time, but he escaped the trap in just a couple of minutes and then disappeared for a month. He is back, the neck looking awful and we are trying again. He won’t go near the trap though and I am at a loss as to what to do. You wouldn’t think it would be so hard to catch an injured cat. Thank you for all of the information though. I am determined to help this cat and your encouragement to forge ahead even though you feel like you are being mean, helped. We will try to get creative.

    • February 26, 2012 12:11 pm

      Excellent job Kyra!

    • KellyAnne permalink
      March 13, 2012 6:21 pm

      Im no expert but just an idea for trapping a feral cat based on my own experience. My cat didn`t come home one night and next morning, I found him in a 7 ft cement pit in front of a basement window down the street. If you have anything like that nearby, maybe you could throw some strong smelling food like tuna down there. The cat might jump in and not be able to get out like mine did.Just make sure you can check it often and don`t do it in on a hot day! Night would be best. I was able to climb down calmly by ladder and carry him out. You would probably need to do that part differently with a wilder cat. There is always a chance you might catch something besides your cat too but just throwing it out there as a starting point..

      • March 15, 2012 7:36 pm

        I would not recommend KellyAnne’s technique because 1) a feral cat will rip you to shreds when you go into a pit with him or her 2) The cat could die of stress and terror and 3) you are likely to catch something else, then what are you going to do? Say, with a skunk?

      • kyra permalink
        March 15, 2012 8:05 pm

        Thanks for that bit of advice too. I have been warned NOT to try to pick up or touch the cat, as I was told nothing is worse than a cat bite. The animal control guy has the little noose thing, I know, but with his neck being exposed like it is, I can’t imagine the pain that would cause the little guy. I will just keep trying to coax him into the drop trap and get him to the vet. The feral group here has been great to advise and let me borrow things like the drop trap, carrier, etc. They said if I can get him in the drop trap, cover it immediately with a blanket, and call them. It just seems like it shouldn’t be THIS hard to get a cat into a trap with salmon or tuna in it. Every other cat in the neighborhood has had a turn in it. (:/)

      • March 15, 2012 7:36 pm

        I would not recommend KellyAnne’s technique because 1) a feral cat will rip you to shreds when you go into a pit with him or her 2) The cat could die of stress and terror and 3) you are likely to catch something else, then what are you going to do? Say, with a skunk?

      • kyra permalink
        March 15, 2012 7:58 pm

        Thank you for any suggestion at all. This little guy is just not catching my “I’m trying to help you” vibe, and has decided that the car is his permanent home. My husband is calling it the Hospice House (:/) There are many other cats in the neighborhood that are all too eager to eat the food in the traps, but not him. He escaped our trap once, and a neighbor trapped him also, and he got out. We have named him Harry. Thank you for the idea.

  20. Lorie permalink
    February 9, 2012 11:28 am

    poor kitties that r put into pillow cases. that’s how all those Dalmatians were stolen. :(

    • February 12, 2012 11:43 am

      101 Dalmations is not on the approved movie list for kitties. It is rated “Hiss” for kitties and doggies!

  21. Karen permalink
    August 31, 2011 12:44 pm

    I’ve been building trust for a few weeks now. Have moved to food in the carrier in the living room. Calico sits in my chair and stars at me…I know she’s smarter than me, at this point. We’ll keep putting food in the carrier, how I catch her before the male cat does. Next, I must catch him. Hey, they moved uninvited into my yard. But I shall prevail…I hope!
    M

    • mommasez permalink
      October 16, 2011 7:33 pm

      Hopefully you follow all the tenants of Trap, Neuter and Release. Check on Alley Cats Allies for complete info on how to take care of your feral cat colony. Cats are where they because someone is taking care of them. Be a good neighbor and educate others on their proper care. We love our feral cats now they have been fixed. From the street they look no different than domesticated and can be socialized to a degree. Good luck

  22. Dan permalink
    May 27, 2011 11:50 am

    Wow, great tips, I’m going to catch all the cats in my neighbourhood!!! They’re mine now!

    • May 29, 2011 10:49 am

      Dan,
      You do realize cats are still formidable escape artists? Be careful! Do not catch yourself bartonellosis (cat scratch fever), or rabies, please!
      -Doc Truli

  23. February 5, 2011 10:44 pm

    Great tips! Thank you so much for posting! Helped me a lot. Glad Sparky got all better, too.

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