There is always some discussion on what bait to use to catch the most cats during Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). Even if you’ve been at trapping awhile, it’s always nice to hear what other people think is the best bait for feral cats!
I know I personally love hearing the innovative ways people have encouraged the most cautious cats to enter traps. We all have that one wily cat that won’t enter a trap no matter what you do! (I STILL have one that I’m trying to earn his trust regarding food at least!)
No, you don’t need to buy fancy cat bait on the internet!
I’ve put together a list of the best bait for feral cats by scouring the internet, posting a question on Instagram and Facebook, AND from my own experience!
This is the most common and well-known way of baiting a TNR trap for cats.
Personally, I always make sure to have traps with DIFFERENT types of food bait. I learned the hard way during my first TNR experience that some cats do not like fish and will not be interested enough in it to enter the scary-looking trap. But when I switched back to chicken, I caught the elusive cats immediately! Cats all have different tastes, so be sure to pack at least two very different food baits: One fish and one non-fish, at least.
So what types of food make good bait? Anything that smells really good to the cat. The more fragrant, the better.
Common Cat Bait Foods:
- Cooked chicken
- Canned chicken
- Sardines (in oil) (or Mackrel or Anchovies too!)
- Tuna (in oil)
- Pink Salmon
- Wet or dry cat food
- Chicken baby food (no onions)
- Fresh fish
Apparently, though, KFC’s original chicken recipe works the best! As in, tie up an entire drumstick at the back of a trap and it will catch the wiliest cat. Supposedly, the skin is irresistible to cats. I have had the best luck with chicken bait myself, but this particular trick is definitely worth trying!
Warning: Please consider using really small pieces of fish instead of the whole sardine. Apparently, a trapper once had a cat choke to death on a sardine after the trap scared the heck out of the kitty! Super LARGE pieces would work or super small to avoid this problem.
If the way to a cat’s heart is not her stomach, you may want to try:
- Catnip or catnip oil
- Valerian root
As all cat lovers know, some kitties love their nip. The ones who don’t respond to catnip may respond to silvervine or valerian root. There are several types of catnip/silvervine or catnip/valerian root blends online!
Of course, you may have a cat that doesn’t respond to ANY of those, so always use food as well.
You heard me. If you can get a cat to chase the little red dot, you can lead him straight into the humane cat trap. I have yet to try this one, but it is on my todo list for the next time I trap!
- Set a feeding schedule so the cats know when it is time to be fed.
- Do not feed 24 hours before you trap.
- If one type of bait doesn’t work, try two or even three!
- Use fish and nonfish in different traps in different locations! Variety helps!
- Leave a trail of fish oil or treats leading up to the bait inside the trap (some trappers start outside the trap, some start the trail just inside the trap)
- Try covering the bottom of the trap with newspaper, puppy pads, or even dirt! Be sure to not cover the trigger plate!
- Don’t use chemicals to clean out the trap as some cats are put off by the smell
- Camouflage and covering a trap may work to entice more cautious kitties into taking the bait
- Sometimes the smell of humans on a trap could put a cat off! Try rubbing the trap itself with catnip or dirt to replace the smell or spray with catnip oil around the trap itself.
- If your bait isn’t smelly enough, a few seconds in a microwave can help that!
It has been suggested by many TNR groups that you should acclimate your cats to being fed in traps. I disagree! So does a study by the American Veterinary Medical Association. It does not improve the success rate and simply increases the time and cost of a TNR project. But if you want to do it that way, you’re welcome to.
Cat Trapping Don’ts
Do not use these bait suggestions for any other purpose than to humanely trap them in an approved trap. Or a drop trap in certain situations can be used. Do not try to catch cats in nets, carriers, bags, boxes, or other unsafe methods.
Please remember, this post is to be used for the humane LIVE trapping of feral and community cats for the purpose of Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) or relocation, if necessary.
If feral and community cats are a nuisance or destroying your property, please consider contacting your local feral cat rescue group who can help TNR the cats, which WILL reduce the behaviors that are upsetting you. Or if the problem is bad enough, they can help you protect your property with humane deterrents designed for cats or help you discuss with your neighbors a better location for feeding. And in extreme situations, they may be able to find a new outdoor home for them, such as a barn or farm.
Do not poison, shoot, or set up dangerous kill traps for cats. Poison is NOT a humane way of getting rid of feral cats! Not only is it cruel to the cat, you put wildlife in danger of being poisoned as well, which can also be illegal. Killing a cat is illegal in all 50 states and only a few states have laws allowing the killing of feral cats at all. Killing cats is immoral and horribly cruel.
Do not trap cats to dump them elsewhere. This is a cruel and monstrous practice some people use instead of killing them and it is NOT much better! They are often scared, lost and try to make their way back to their home territory only to die being eaten by a coyote or by being run over by a car. Do NOT do this.
Do reach out to rescue groups or animal control for suggestions and solutions to your cat problem, instead. Be a caring human being and look for solutions that don’t harm them or other animals.
Did I Miss Anything?
There are so many different ways you can entice a cat to enter a trap! Cooked chicken, fried chicken, sardines and sardine oil, catnip and silvervine, or even just regular old cat food.
If you have a trick I missed, please share it with me by commenting below!
Happy trapping, caretakers!