How to Live Trap Feral/Barn Cats

By: Taylor Oberkramer

Millions of cats make their homes outdoors throughout the country, with a great deal right here in northwestern Wisconsin. The best way to help these cats is to trap them and get them spayed or neutered. Some cats tend to be particularly hard to trap and may be suspicious of your efforts. Don’t give up on them or yourself. You’ll eventually trap them and be able to provide them with a better quality of life.

Before live-trapping the feral/barn cat(s), please speak with your veterinarian to set up a date for TNR (trap, neuter, release). It’s recommended to only keep cats in a live trap for one to two days, so you don’t want to trap them and then try to make an appointment. In this case, Purple Cat Mobile Veterinary Clinic is exceptionally useful. Not only can you make your appointment online and save money, but Dr. Angie will also work with you regarding the deposit if you fail to trap the cat(s) prior to the scheduled appointment.

Here are some tips on how to live trap feral/barn cats so you can get them spayed or neutered to help prevent overpopulation.

1. Use a Safe Trap

Some live traps are made specifically for trapping cats. Try to find one that is slightly larger than you think you may need and that has wider sides and a taller opening as a way to be more inviting to the cat you’re trapping. Cover the trap with a towel or blanket but don’t block the door. Make the space seem safe and appealing for the cat.

2. Use Food as Bait

Cats, especially feral cats, are very food-driven animals. You can make a food trail with scraps or cat food that leads into the trap as a way to lure them inside. Start with small bites and slowly increase the size as you trail into the trap, don’t leave enough that the cat may be full before they find the trap. You can also place something exciting to lure the cat inside, such as fragrant food that’s out of the ordinary. You can try canned cat food, canned chicken, or even jarred baby food.

3. Use Kittens to Your Advantage

If you manage to trap a cat’s kittens, you can place them in a carrier inside the back end of the trap as a way to bring the mother inside. You can also use your phone or a sound machine that plays the sound of a kitten crying behind your trap as a way to lure the mother cat or other kittens into the trap.

What Not to Do

At no point should you put you or the cat’s safety in danger. We know that failed attempts at trapping can be frustrated, but you should never resort to the following:

  • Don’t withhold water or food from the cat. This can be detrimental to the cat’s health.
  • Don’t try to catch a feral cat with your bare hands. This can cause the cat stress, and you may end up being bitten or scratched, and it can even harm the cat as it tries to escape.
  • Don’t use a trap that isn’t designed to be used specifically for cats. These may cause harm to the cat.
  • Don’t give up! Be clever and patient. Eventually, it will happen if you keep trying.

Help Break the Cycle

You can help the feral/barn cat population by safely trapping them and getting them spayed or neutered to prevent pregnancies. If you live in NW Wisconsin, Purple Cat Mobile Vet Clinic is here to help you keep your cat healthy and happy. We’re a high-quality, high-volume, low-cost spay/neuter clinic. We see cats exclusively. Find information for scheduling on our website. You can also look on our Facebook page for more helpful information on all things feline!


All cat spay/neuter appointments are made on this website. We post new clinic dates 6 weeks ahead of time. Check back often if you do not see a date that works for you.

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We are a high-volume, high-quality, low-cost spay/neuter veterinary clinic. 99% of our surgeries are done on cats. We occasionally do dog spay/neuter surgeries for our shelter partners

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