How to Catch Feral Cats, Even If They're in Your Basement
Just because they're wild, that doesn't mean feral cats always stay outside. Sometimes they get into people's basements, for example, mine.
Last fall we had a mother cat and two kittens that entered through a broken basement window. We didn't know they were there until I went down to turn off the outside faucet for the winter. There it was, a gray tiger-striped cat strolling along a shelf as big as life, and we don't have a cat.
Pretty soon we saw two kittens down there as well, another gray tiger-striped one and a dark calico one. This necessitated some kind of cat removal plan.
The two kittens were pretty bold. They came out and looked at us when we went down there, so we thought they'd be easy to catch. But the mother cat skulked in the shadows a lot, so it looked like she would be more of a challenge.
But we caught all three cats pretty easily, and here is how we did it.
The first thing we did was fix the window. Then we fed the cats for a few days. This was because, for one thing, they couldn't get out now and they would have starved. The other thing was that we wanted them to get used to taking food from us so it would be easier to lure them into a trap. Besides, it was fun to feed them; the kittens were really cute.
Then we got a size large raccoon trap from Havahart at www.havahart.com/. This is the size recommended for cats. It's a rectangular box about 32 inches long, 10 inches wide and 12 inches tall, made out of metal and something like strong chicken wire. It has a door that lets the cat enter when the trap is set. The bait sits on a plate at the other end of the trap, and when the cat steps on it, that releases a catch and the door shuts. It doesn't do any harm at all, and the cat or other animal has plenty of room to move around.
This trap is very easy to use. There's a lever on the top that you move forward to set it, and move backward to release the cat. And if you don't want to buy a trap, you can rent one from a farm supply store.
So after feeding the cats for a few days, we baited the trap with their regular food and set it near their regular food place. In ten minutes we had caught the gray striped kitten. We carried the trap upstairs and let it out in the yard. We caught the calico kitten a few minutes later, then went back down for the mother cat.
We waited about two hours after setting the trap, thinking that she would be much more wary of it than the kittens were. When we checked, the mother cat was in the trap, hissing, spitting, and clawing. She was quite put out.
Now the trap has a metal plate around the handle to protect the person carrying it with a live animal in it. But that wasn't nearly enough to keep our hands safe from a mad feral mother cat. We put a crowbar through the handle, and two of us each took an end of the crowbar to carry the trap outside. You might think about doing this, too, if you catch a large wild animal in one of these traps.
When we opened the trap outside, the mother cat took off across the yard like a bottle rocket.
The cat family was reunited outside the window with no harm done, so, if you have a similar problem, I highly recommend this kind of trap. Also, you might want to check your basement windows!