NEW The Trap: Building a Better "House Trap"

Before you go out and get humane traps, consider the following:

• Is your lost pet an indoor-only cat?

• Is there a very good chance it is close by? (Are there attractive places for your cat to hide nearby? Is your kitty timid? The more timid a cat is, the more likely it will stay close by. Has the weather been rainy or stormy? Bad weather can keep cats hunkered down.)

• Do you live in a house with a garage or basement or enclosed porch? Did your animal escape out of one of these areas?

• Do you live in an area that is so teeming with wildlife that you are hesitant to trap with a humane trap? or has your pet had previous negative experiences with traps (maybe as a feral kitten)?

If you answered YES to all of the above, the best method for recovering your cat might be to turn the same exit point that your cat escaped out of into a trap. In short, you will be using your house as the trap.

If you answered NO to most of the questions above, then continue on to the next section on trapping with a traditional humane trap.

Why not use a humane trap?

Humane trapping — when it works — can be quick and sure, but the strangeness of the contraption intimidates cats and may delay capture in those wary animals. The stress of being captured can be enormous for the cat, and heartbreaking to watch. Instead, the "House Trap" may make a slightly slower, but gentler method of retrieving a lost pet.

A few more criteria that may help you decide. . .

• Did your pet just recently escape? If so, it's hunger level may not be so high that it would enter a strange trap, but may creep into something slightly more familiar, and that would be the same door it escaped out of.

• Is your pet timid, but not THE most timid like Sage is? If so, your kitty may be brave enough to re-enter the house.

• Does your pet have some outdoor experience — even as a kitten? If so, it may be less likely to completely freeze.

How do I set up a "house trap"?

If the weather is clear, set the "trap" each night with fresh food. If the weather is bad, leave the trap open for your cat 24 hours a day.

The Trap: Use the basement, garage, or enclosed porch that your cat escaped out of as the trap. Crack the door open just enough for your cat to get in. If your door swings use a heavy object like a brick to hold your door open, and if necessary another brick to prevent the door from swinging in the other direction.

The Lure: A few feet inside the door, have your kitty's favorite meal waiting. Provide and advertise that THIS is where all the good kitty things are, THIS has all the things your kitty won't have on the outside: FOOD, SHELTER, and SAFETY.

FOOD: Use your kitty's favorite food and the juice of your kitty's favorite food. Dribble the juice (tuna juice for the tuna lovers or cooked chicken juice for the chicken lovers etc; don't use Jack Mackerel unless your kitty actually likes the stuff) in a line from the direction you believe your cat is hiding, towards the doorway of your "trap."

WARMTH/SHELTER: If the weather is wet or cold, be sure the room is warm and dry.

SAFETY: Spray the area with Feliway spray or use a Feliway plug-in. Put items in the room that would convey safety; remove items that are threatening.

The Capture: Once you get a customer eating inside your trap, you have several choices: keep checking on the area to see who is taking the bait; ID the critter via a video camera (set the video camera so it only captures a frame every 15 seconds so the it can tape several hours); or quietly stake out the area until critter eats and close door manually. If you will be periodically checking the area, enter from the outside, rather than the inside — that way if your kitty happens to be inside your trap and and startles, it will run away from you which would be INWARDS into the house — rather than back OUTWARDS.

The downside to the "house trap" method?

Unlike the humane trap, you will need to check your house trap yourself to see if your kitty has taken the bait and close the door. Just as with the humane trap, there is a chance of getting unpleasant (!) non-target animals like skunks or raccoons. If a skunk should get startled in a basement, cleaning would be a lot bigger problem than skunk spray on a wire trap in your yard.

Budding pet detective Suzanne came up with this idea when her former feral kitty Toulouse escaped from the basement. When Suzanne contacted his rescuer, he didn't think Toulouse would enter a trap because of a likely bad experience as a kitten. So, read how Suzanne was able to recover sweet Toulouse and return him to the nest via her "basement-as-trap." Thank you Suzanne for the great innovation and congratulations on the very successful operation "House Trap"! I think this will be a VERY important tool for recovering lost cats. We will be reevaluating this as we see more cases, but at present, it seems like a very promising tool!

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