NEW! LifeLine’s online store has relaunched with new items and styles. Shop and save lives today!

Close this search box.


community cat in trapping cage with blanket over cage

How to Trap-Neuter-Return

Trapping a community cat may seem intimidating, but it’s actually very easy! Trapping cats is the first step in ensuring happy and healthy community cat colonies. Most spay/neuter clinics are closed on Friday through Sunday, so we advise trapping Sunday through Wednesday. After trapping, bring the cat to a clinic to get medical attention and spayed/neutered to prevent overpopulation. See below for detailed instructions on how to trap community cats.

Before You Trap

Withhold food for at least 24 hours because hungry cats are easier to trap. Some cats may take more than 24 hours to trap, and withholding food will not hurt them. You can trap one cat at a time or all of them together. Cats will quickly forget about seeing others trapped if they feel hungry.

Trap in the evening so they will be ready for surgery the next morning. Select a quiet, discrete location that allows you to observe the traps from a distance. Avoid rainy days since cats won’t come out, and clean the trap after trapping each cat to avoid spreading any diseases. Kittens must weigh at least 2 pounds (about 8 weeks old) to get sterilized.


BAIT – a can of tuna, jack mackerel, fried KFC skin or Chick-Fil-A nuggets
COMMUNITY CAT TRAP – one for each cat you want to catch
NEWSPAPER – to line the bottom of each trap
SHEET OR LARGE TOWEL – to cover the trap on all sides
FLASHLIGHT – to see if the cat has an ear tip at night (an ear tip means the cat is already spayed/neutered)
CLIPS, CARABINERS OR ZIP TIES – to secure each end of the trap once cats enter

Start Trapping

  • Place the trap in a shady area on a flat surface where it won’t tip over. Insert thick layers of newspaper or a towel to disguise the bottom of the trap and absorb urine and waste.
  • Put two tablespoons of bait at the back of the trap behind the trip plate. Then, place one teaspoon in the middle and one teaspoon at the opening. Quietly set the traps, cover the traps on all sides except the opening, and leave the area. Cats usually avoid traps with people nearby.
  • Do not leave traps unattended in public areas! People may release the cats and steal the traps.
  • When trapping multiple cats, cover the entire trap after the first cat enters and move it where other cats can’t see it.
  • If you have trouble trapping a cat, try dangling a fried chicken drumstick at the back of the trap. You can either use a laser “red dot” for the cat to chase into the trap or a recording of kitten sounds outside of the back of the trap but inside the trap cover.
  • If a mother cat seems difficult to trap (and her kittens can eat on their own) you can use the kittens as “bait.” You’ll need two traps. First, trap one kitten (or more if they go in), and then cover the trap with a sheet, leaving one end visible. Next, place another trap longways next to the trapped kitten, and cover that trap with a sheet, except for the opening. The mother cat will see her kitten at the end of the other trap and go in.

After Trapping

  • Make sure the cat is securely trapped before approaching, and don’t put your fingers near the cat.
  • IMPORTANT! Make sure the entire trap is covered with a towel before moving it. Covering the trap calms the frightened cat, lessens the risk of injury and prevents the spread of disease between cats at the clinic.
  • It’s ok if the cat thrashes around inside the trap. However, if you think the cat is injured, don’t release the cat. Instead, ask the vet to examine the injury before surgery.
  • Determine if the trapped cats have an ear tip (a missing tip of the ear). If they do, they have already been spayed/neutered, so release them.
  • Withhold all food until finished trapping (except for very young kittens). Remember, it’s better for cats to diet a couple of days than to have dozens of unwanted kittens.
  • Remember to secure the trap at each end to keep the cat from escaping!

Housing Before Surgery

  • Keep the cats overnight in their trap in a dry, warm place such as a basement, garage, bathtub, spare room or covered porch. Make sure your pets can’t get near them.
  • In hot weather, use a box fan and in cold weather, use a warm blanket to cover the trap (leave airspace). If it’s too cold outside for you, then it is too cold for the cats, so bring them safely indoors.
  • Place cardboard and newspaper underneath the traps to absorb any urine.
  • Cats cannot eat any food 8 hours prior to surgery, so don’t feed them.

Transporting to the Vet

  • Place cardboard and newspaper under the trap in your car. It’s OK to put the cat traps in the trunk if it is not a hot day.
LifeLine Spay & Neuter Clinics


3180 Presidential Dr, Atlanta, GA 30340


2533 Sullivan Road, College Park, GA 30337

Housing After Surgery

  • After surgery, cats cannot regulate their body temperature and need to be kept in a warm place.  You can place solar panels on top of the trap or  wrap mylar blankets around ⅔ of the trap to reflect body heat if the post-recovery space is not warm enough. The cats cannot recover outside in cold weather.
  • Sprinkle dry kibble in the trap, or carefully slip canned food and water on non-breakable dishes under the trap door. Allow the cats to recover overnight in the traps, still covered. Feed them as much as possible.
  • Carefully replace soiled newspaper.
  • Cats should be released 24 hours after surgery unless the vet staff instructs otherwise. If you have been given take-home pain medication for the cat, do not release the cat until the day following the last dose. Do not release cats in the rain or inclement weather.


  • Release the cats in the exact location where you trapped them. Do not relocate the cats!
  • Releasing cats in a different area is considered animal abandonment and is a crime. Less than 50% of relocated cats survive because they don’t know the dangers in the area and succumb to predators, car tires, starvation, etc.
  • Release the cats by pulling the cover off the trap and letting them sit for a few minutes to acclimate to their surroundings. Then, open the trap door.
  • Kittens can usually be tamed between four and eight weeks old. However, do not attempt to tame them unless you can commit to providing a permanent home for them if no other homes can be found.
Other Community Cat Resources has information on community cats, including how to bottle feed newborn kittens, tame feral kittens, and find inexpensive shelters to keep cats warm during winter.

Georgia SPOT Society has a list of Atlanta area no-kill rescue groups for tame cats.

Other TNR Programs

County Organization Contact Information
Athens-Clarke County
Campus Cats/Cat Zip Alliance

(Free or low-cost spay/neuter for TNR cats)
Clayton County
Frida's Foundation
Cobb County
Good Mews

(FREE spay/neuter for TNR cats)
Cobb County
Kudzu Cat Alliance
Coweta County
DeKalb County

Meow or Never
DeKalb County

(Kirkwood/East Atlanta)
Douglas County
West Georgia Spay Neuter Clinic
Fayette County
Fayette Humane Society
Fulton County
Atlanta Humane Society

(FREE spay/neuter for TNR cats)
Fulton County

(East Point/College Park)
Tri-Cities Friends of Kitties
Forsyth County
Feral Cat Program of Georgia
Gwinnett County
Planned Pethood
Gwinnett County
Gwinnett County Animal Shelter

(FREE spay/neuter for TNR cats)
Hall County
Hall County Animal Services
Henry County
Henry County Animal Initiative
Paulding County
Paulding County Animal Control

Sniff around for the latest with LifeLine

View posts by content category


Every donation helps us keep pets & people together.


This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.