Before you begin, take some time to plan -- -- plan to TNR the whole group and plan to do so with as little stress to the cats as possible. The best method to achieve this is the full-colony TNR. If you will not be able to conduct a full-colony TNR, but rather will be doing TNR on individual cats or small groups of cats intermittently, plan to do so aggressively, aiming for a completion time of no more than three months. This will reduce the possibility of a lingering minority group (altereds or intacts) from splintering off of the group (the former not in the best interests of those cats; the latter not being in the best interests of the cats or the community as those cats will be starting a new colony). Once you've formulated a plan, the following guidelines should help you accomplish stabilization of your feral cat group.
1. Establish a feeding area and feeding time. Morning is the best time to feed; the food provided should be an amount that is consumed by the cats within two hours and food should never be available after dark. Following these guidelines not only aids in the monitoring and TNR of the cats but limits their exposure to predators.
2. Once the cats are on schedule, assess the group: number of cats, age groups, possible pregnancies.
3. Find a veterinarian or spay/neuter clinic that routinely handles feral cats in TNR such as
Pawmetto Lifeline in the Columbia SC area and familiarize yourself with their policies.
Pawmetto Lifeline Spay/Neuter Clinic
4. If you will be trapping the entire group at once, you will need to use TruCatch traps
(or a similar trap with a quiet mechanism allowing for the simultaneous capture of multiple cats in close proximity)
True Catch Traps You will also need covers for all the traps you will be using and an isolation fork,if you expect cats in traps will be in your care for more than a few hours.
5. If you will not be trapping the entire group at once and you have obvious pregnancies or health issues you want to address as soon as possible, you will want to target trap those cats first. You can do this by rigging your traps to be manually operated using ropes attached to props holding the trap doors open or looped over a tree branch or similar object at the feeding area so that the trap is closed when you pull the rope. For all methods of trapping, it is extremely advantageous to allow the cats to eat from non-functioning traps (traps rigged to remain open) for a few days to a week before trapping. During this period, you will also learn about habits of the cats that will help you execute the TNR - for example, one of the cats you want to trap first may always be the first one to show up and eat at meal time; if she always chooses the same trap, you may elect to operate that trap conventionally rather than manually for her.
6. Once a cat is trapped, cover the trap with a sheet, towel or other piece of cloth that completely covers the trap. The cat will calm down when this is done. Do not remove the cover from the trap until the cat has been released from the trap after it's clinic visit. If using TruCatch traps, carefully* secure both trap and feed doors to the bottom of the trap with a zip tie, heavy twist tie or clip. (*Lift the trap by the handle so that you may put your shoe-protected foot under an end of the trap. Keeping your hands as far from the trap as possible, hook the tie or clamp through the door and bottom of the trap and secure. Repeat for the other door.)
7. If you have trapped the cats in the morning and will be taking them to a clinic that day, load them and deliver them as soon as possible. Always transport feral cats in traps in a closed vehicle - never the open bed of a pick up truck. If you will not be taking the cats to a clinic the same day they are trapped, keep them in a secure quiet place that is not too hot or cold. You will need to use an isolation fork to safely get food, water and a towel into the trap for each cat. Remove food by the time designated by your clinic the night before the cats' clinic visits.
8. After picking up the cats from the clinic, follow the clinics instructions as to when it is safe to release the cats - generally if the cats were kept overnight at the clinic after their surgeries, they can be released directlyafter pick up; if you've picked up the cats on the same day as their surgeries, keep them in a secure, quiet place that is temperature controlled overnight before releasing the next day.
9. To clean your traps and equipment, use a 30 to 1 water to bleach solution and rinse thoroughly.