GET THE CATS USED TO EATING OUT OF THE TRAP
A short break can reduce a cat’s fear of the trap. During this time, keep feeding that cat and others in un-set traps for a few feedings up to a week before trapping. Feed the cats in the same place and time as normal. Load the trap the opposite way you normally would, so that the food is in the front of the trap and the front door is closed, because you do not want the trap set. Twist tie the door(s) securely open. Place the food by the entrance of the trap, then over the next two feedings move it closer to the back. Feed in the same place and time as always. Monitor the traps while the cats eat to ensure traps are not stolen or a cat is not accidentally trapped. In difficult weather, cats shouldn’t be left in traps without protection from the elements. The cat will see other cats eating inside the traps and will likely try it as well. When you are ready to trap in the future, withhold food for 24 hours.
For difficult to trap cats: TRY USING A LARGER SIZE TRAP
Some cats may be more comfortable entering a larger trap that has a taller opening and wider sides.
WITHHOLD FOOD FOR UP TO TWO DAYS
For a particularly trap-savvy cat, you might consider withholding food for up to two days, but do not withhold food for any longer. Never withhold water.
MAKE TRAP MORE ENTICING – USE SMELLY TREATS AS BAIT
Bits of jarred baby food (without onions)
Catnip (smear fresh catnip on trap plate)
Make a strong-smelling broth by boiling the pungent herb “valerian root” in water, and then douse the trap with it.
Try other types of bait, such as “people tuna” in oil, mackerel, canned cat food, sardines, anchovies, or cooked chicken.
Cats have an extraordinary smell. Traps often smell like humans or cleaning products. Try wiping the trap with fresh catnip or sardine oil. Always leave trap covers outdoors to lose the human scent.
USE DISTRACTION TECHNIQUES TO COAX CAT ONTO THE TRIGGER PLATE
You may be able to guide some cats into a trap with a laser pointer. You can use a pointer from quite a distance away, too. Use the laser to emulate the movement of an insect, to draw the cat’s attention inside the trap.
Hang a piece of cooked chicken from a string above the trigger plate. The cat will likely need to step on the trigger to reach the chicken. Tie the chicken in the far right corner of the trap so that the cat must “reach” to get the chicken.
PLACE THE TRAP IN A MORE SECLUDED LOCATION
Moving the trap to a nearby, quieter or more protected location can raise the cat’s comfort level enough to enter.
CAMOUFLAGE THE TRAP
Disguise the trap so that it blends in with its surroundings. First, hide the trap under a bush, under a leaning piece of wood, or in a box so the cat feels like he is entering a dark hole. To further disguise the trap, cover the sides with branches, leaves, camouflage material, burlap or other natural materials (not the rear – the cat needs to see all the way through) and on the trap floor.
Even simply covering the trap with dark cloth or a towel can do the trick. Be sure that the coverings you use do not interfere with the trap door closing. Sometimes even simpler things work, like putting the trap inside a cardboard box (with the rear door not covered) or leaning a large board against a wall and putting the trap behind it so it’s hidden.
SPRING THE TRAP YOURSELF (WATER BOTTLE TRICK)
The problem may be a particular cat is wily, or it could be that he’s only one you want out of a crowd of others who keep going in ahead of him. In either case, the solution is to bypass the trigger/trip plate mechanism of the trap and go to manually spring the trap. You can do this by propping the trap door up with a full water or soda bottle. Tie a long string around the neck of the bottle then stand some distance away. When your cat of choice finally goes in, yank the string, pulling the bottle away and shutting the trap door. Practice the method at least once so you get the right feel for it, and wait until the cat is up to or past the trip plate before you pull the string.
Watch these short videos demonstrating how the water bottle trick works: