Recovering and Releasing

After trapping a feral cat, there are specific steps to nurture and recover it.  Following this state of recovery, the trapper had two options: to release the feral cat back into the wild where it was originally trapped or depending on the cat, tame it to become a loving companion.  Please read on to learn about the specific steps to follow to recover, release, and tame a trapped, feral cat.


Holding/Recovery Area - Preparation

  • Prepare the vehicle in which you will transport the cat.
  • Before you put the trap in the vehicle, put plastic down with several layers of newspaper on top to absorb any urine, feces etc.
  • Prepare the area where you will keep the cat prior to surgery and for recovery after.
  • On the evening you plan to trap the cat and bring it home, place two pieces of wood (2 x 4) on top of several layers of newspapers.Placing the trap on the wood elevated above the newspapers allows the inevitable mess of food, urine, and stool to fall through the wire and keep the cat a little cleaner.
  • In summer, unless yours is an air-conditioned one, a garage is too hot a place to leave a cat in daytime.
  • Late evenings in summer, a garage would be okay for an overnight only stay.
  • A small, air-conditioned or well-ventilated bathroom or a well-ventilated shed that is in the shade of a tree would be suitable to keep a cat in while it recovers from surgery.
  • Spraying a garage or shed area ahead of time with a cat-safe flea spray (Adams or Ovitrol) might be helpful in discouraging ants.

Be Careful

  • You should exercise caution and consider the cat a wild animal – unless you know it to be a recently discarded or stray pet.
  • Do not try to pet the cat or get your fingers near it.
  • Do not let the cat out of the trap – you will likely never get it back in again.

When you have trapped the cat and have brought it to a safe place for the night prior to surgery, if you think you can raise the door of the trap just enough to put a tiny dish of water inside, do so, but if you are at all unsure then do not even attempt this.

Recovery Cage

You will have left a recovery cage or a cat carrier with a clean towel in it at the vet's to put the cat in after surgery. It is awkward to put a cat back in a narrow trap, although this can be done. If the cat is a male and you plan to release him within 24 hours, then you might as well keep him in the trap.

Larger Cage with Room for Carrier Inside

  • If you have recovery cage large enough to accommodate the necessary food/water dishes and litter pan, as well as a cat carrier, you might want to put one inside.
  • A cat carrier with its door open and tied back onto the wires inside the cage gives the cat a place to retreat and feel safe.
  • When you bring the groggy cat home, you can shake it gently out of its trap or carrier into the recovery cage.
  • It will go right into the carrier that's tied inside the cage to seek the security of the darkness and small space. (You will not have covered up the cage until the cat is inside the carrier so that it will automatically seek the darkness of the pet carrier.)
  • A frightened cat will normally retreat into the carrier when you have to remove and replace litter tray, food and water dishes.
  • When it is time to return the cat to where you will be feeding her, remove the cover from the entire cage and bang on the cage to get her to go inside the pet carrier if she's not already hiding in it.
  • You will have previously released (from the outside) the carrier door's attachments to the cage, so that you may quickly close this door when she enters the carrier.
  • You can then take the cat in the carrier to the place of release.
  • If you happen to need a return visit to the vet with the cat before it is ready for release, the cat carrier method is somewhat easier than handling her in a cage.


Small Cage – No Room for Carrier Inside

  • If the recovery cage is not large enough to house an inside pet carrier as well as the food/water dishes and litter tray, cover up the cage to make it a dark secure place for the cat to enter when you bring it home from the veterinarian's.
  • When removing litter tray for cleaning or replenishing food and water dishes, you should fold back the cover so that the front half of the cage is uncovered.
  • The cat will retreat to the back of the cage – under the covered part – allowing you space and time to quickly remove the litter tray and food/water dishes.
  • When the cat has had enough time to recover from surgery (it's a tough world out there for feral felines, remember), take the cage to the place of release and leave the door open for it to exit in its own time – could take several minutes or a split second.

Some Observations of Cats in Captivity

  • Often they will not eat for 2 or more days even though food is right there for them.
  • Remove the food after an hour if it is untouched and replace with fresh food after a couple of hours.
  • Often the cat will eat at night when all is still and nobody is around, so put fresh food in the cage before you retire.
  • Feral cats don't purr or meow but they will hiss and growl and spit.

Some Hints on Keeping Cage Cleaner

  • Place the cat carrier on top of an inverted litter tray if your cage is big enough to keep a carrier in. This will keep the litter and spilled water from going into the carrier.
  • If you don't have a large cage, place a clean empty litter tray in the back of the cage with a towel in it for the cat to rest in. This will provide a dry bed for the cat in the event of water spills and it will also keep some of the scattered litter out.
  • If you have a mother cat with young kittens, put the food dish for the mother on top of the carrier or else tie a feeding bowl a couple of inches up on the cage wires so the kittens don't end up in the food.


After the suggested recovery period – or longer if you think you want to fatten up the cat – take it back to where you first trapped it. That's where it came from and where it has a chance to survive if you continue to feed it.

Release it in the evening – it will feel safer in the dark.

Face the door away from you and stand back when you open it for the cat to get out. A tap on the cage/carrier will usually send it out but it might take a minute or two to think about where it is.

Don't relocate the cat to another area – it will be disoriented. Other cats in the vicinity will chase it away, and it could face many other hazards.