How to catch a feral cat

Education Aug 2, 2020

Capturing a cat on the streets of Chiang Mai can be difficult, especially if you’re trying to capture an unsterilized or feral cat, or a cat that needs urgent medical attention. Use this guide to find out how you can catch a cat in need successfully and safely.

Reasons to catch a feral cat

There are many reasons you may want to attempt to capture a free-roaming cat in Chiang Mai:

  • In order to get the cat sterilized and release it again to reduce the cat population on the streets
  • When helping a cat that requires medical attention
  • To catch a pregnant queen to help her and her litter have a better chance of survival
  • In order to catch a mother cat and her litter

This article shares tips for how to catch a cat, and what to do once you’ve caught it!

Using a cat trap

The easiest way to get a feral or unsocialized cat, or a cat that needs urgent medical attention to the vet is to use a cat trap. We have several available to loan at Adopt Meow and we can show you how to set them up. Just let us know!

Cat traps work by placing food inside the trap and setting it. When a cat enters to eat the food, they step on a plate which triggers the trap and the door closes behind them. Once trapped, you’ll need to leave the cat inside the trap until you can take it to the vets. If you’re planning to neuter the cat, do not give it any more food since the cat will need to have surgery and should not eat anything.

Tips for successfully using a cat trap

Cats are very smart, and many of them avoid cat traps. But there are a few tips and tricks you can use to encourage them to enter the trap:

  • Use particularly strong smelling foods which cats love such as Tuna or Mackerel, or wet cat food – switch things up each day if the first food offering didn’t work
  • Place the food in a small bowl on a tray of water to prevent ants and other insects from getting into the food. You can use an empty tuna can (beware of sharp edges) and a plastic lid from a food container
  • Try disguising the cat trap under a covering, or placing it in an area the cat likes to hide, such as underneath houses, or in the bushes
  • If you don’t succeed at first, try moving the trap around into new locations
  • When the cat eats the food without stepping on the plate, tie a long piece of string to the plate and pull the string to trigger the trap door when the cat enters
  • If trapping a mother and you have access to her kittens, you can use the kittens as a method of drawing the mother in to the trap
  • If trapping an aggressive feral cat – wear oven gloves or protection to shield your hands and arms from swiping claws!
Sguardi preoccupati da Maputo
Worried looks from Maputo

What to do when you’ve trapped a cat

It’s best to keep the cat inside the trap once it’s in there, because it will be understandably stressed and trying to remove it from the trap will undo all of your hard work.

  1. Place the trap in a safe place (where other animals can’t get to it) that is cool and dark
  2. Put a blanket or towel over the trap to keep the cat calm
  3. Do not give the cat any more food – this is especially important if the cat needs to be neutered, as they won’t be able to eat prior to having surgery
  4. Never withhold water. Try and pour some fresh water into the empty food container that you used to set the trap so the cat is able to drink
  5. Take the cat to the vet as soon as possible to avoid leaving it trapped for too long

If you trap the cat in the day time, take it to the vet so it can stay overnight prior to being sterilized the following day. The vets will be able to give the cat a more comfortable place to sleep.

If you trap a cat in the evening or at night, keep it in the trap in a cool, safe and dark place. This is quite normal, so you don’t need to worry. Cats are very resilient creatures and will soon forget that this ever happened to them!

Capturing a friendly or socialized cat

If the cat you’re trying to help is not feral and you think you can earn it’s trust, then you can also try to capture the cat without the use of a trap. You’ll still need a pet carrier of some description to take the cat to the vets, but if you’re confident you can get the cat to trust you or come inside your home, then it may be easier to simply put them inside a carrier and take them to the vet.

Be warned: even a well socialized cat may panic if you suddenly pick it up. Ease into this slowly, to get the cat used to being held by you before trying to put it inside a pet carrier. If you don’t take your time to earn trust, you risk getting scratched or even bitten! We generally only recommend this method to people who have spent a lot of time with felines in the past and understand their ways very well 😸

Earning a cats trust

Try feeding the cat in the same place at the same time every day and stay close while it eats.

If the cat starts to trust you it will get closer to you or even let you touch it. You can also try giving the cat some treats.

Thai cats can’t resist the Me-O Creamy Treats which you can buy at any 7-Eleven or supermarket. These treats need to be eaten out of your hands, so it’s a great way to build trust with a cat you’re trying to help!


The key to capturing a feral cat is patience! Sometimes you may need to try several techniques to capture the cat, and though it may protest, it’s important to remember that you’re doing this to help the cat and improve its life. Thanks for caring!

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