The combination of a cat’s agility and natural skittishness makes it difficult to catch one. But one when you add smarts to the equation, the task becomes more difficult. And it does not help that when a cat is cornered, he will not shy away from using his claws and fangs.
The tactics that you will need to enforce will depend on the circumstances. For example, if you are trying to catch your pet, you will need to use a different tactic compared to catching a feral cat.
So how do you catch a cat that has a knack for thwarting all your well-laid plans? If you are struggling to catch a particular cat, here are a few tips and tricks that can help you finally achieve your goal.
How to catch a smart cat
Here are our top tips on how to catch a smart cat:
Use a towel or blanket
In an emergency where you do not have the luxury of time to wait for your cat to come to you, you need to act fast and use whatever resources you have available. One resource that is available in most homes is a towel or a blanket.
Use this technique only if you have exhausted other available methods to catch your pet. It should go without saying that this catching technique can be stressful for your pet. Plus you might get a few scratches and even bites on your arms. But at the end of the day, an emergency requires quick thought and action.
Before attempting to catch your pet, start by protecting yourself. If possible, wear a thick, long-sleeved top like a hoodie. You can also wear thick gloves to protect your hands. While these will not prevent your cat from scratching and biting you, at the least, the cat’s claws and fangs will not break into your skin.
Next, try to lure your cat into an empty room. This will make it easier for you to catch your cat as he will have little to no exit points. Remove potential hiding places from that room, including pieces of furniture where your cat can potentially hide under.
When you have confined your cat inside that room, bring a towel, blanket, or any thick fabric that you can wrap around your cat. Ideally, the fabric should be about the size and thickness of a large towel.
Once you are inside the room, speak to your cat calmly. This will minimize the chances of your pet perceiving you as a threat.
As soon as you are sure that your cat is calm, move quickly to put the towel over his body and wrap it around his body and legs as if you are making a burrito. Do not worry if your cat squirms or cries or does both. The important thing is that you have caught him.
After wrapping the towel around your cat, hold him close to your body to secure him, and prevent him from escaping. Make sure that your cat’s head is exposed. Otherwise, if his head is wrapped in a towel, he might have breathing difficulties.
Use a carrier as a makeshift trap
On the converse side of the coin, if you have some time to spare, you can use your cat’s carrier as a trap to catch your smart cat.
Even if you do not see yourself traveling with your pet, it is still a good idea to get your pet used to the idea of getting inside the carrier. This is because over the course of several years, you will be making plenty of trips to the vet.
As soon as you get your cat home, make him used to the idea of the carrier as a part of his environment. Place it near your cat’s favorite spots in your home. Keep the carrier’s door open to allow your cat to go inside and investigate it.
Every time your cat goes inside, close the door, but only for a short time. Afterward, praise your cat and give him treats.
However, if you need to get your cat inside the carrier immediately, you can try to coax him to get inside by using smelly food, like tuna, sardines, or wet cat food. Heating any of these will bring out the aroma, making these more palatable to your cat.
Alternatively, you can use your cat’s innate curiosity to your advantage by luring him inside using a laser pointer.
Once the cat is inside the carrier, you can use pheromones like Feliway to keep him calm and minimize his stress.
Catching a feral cat
Feral cats are trickier to catch because of their wariness to human presence. Although some feral cats readily interact with humans, most people consider them wild animals. This is why experts discourage people from bringing home feral cats unless they are kittens who can still be socialized.
The best way to catch a feral cat, whether for neutering or emergency treatment, is to use a trap. The problem is that it can be quite difficult to get a feral cat to go inside a trap.
Use a trap
In using a trap to catch a smart cat, you will need to use a few of the same techniques you use in catching a cat with a carrier.
For starters, you should make the trap a part of the feral cat’s living environment. The best way to do that is to feed the cat near where you place the trap. Remember to feed the cat consistently over the course of a few days.
Each day, move the food closer to the trap’s entrance until you can place the food inside the trap. Over time, he will get accustomed to the trap and not see it as a threat.
This would be your ideal scenario. But what if you fail to catch the cat?
If the cat cannot be enticed by the food you give him, switch to smellier foods like sardines, anchovies, tuna, or even wet cat food. But more importantly, the trap should be free from scents that cats tend to dislike. These include scents from humans and cleaning products.
If this still fails, you can withhold food from the cat. But remember, cats cannot go on long without consuming food. You should use this method as a last recourse. Also, you should continue providing the cat with water.
But what if the cat does go inside the trap but does not activate the trap’s trigger plate? In this situation, you can coax the cat to activate the trigger plate by using a laser pointer.
Alternatively, if the cat snags the bait and walks out of the trap, you should extend the length of the trigger plate. To do that, you will need a piece of cardboard about 12 to 18 inches in length and about half an inch in width. Affix the cardboard to the trigger plate with masking tape. Now that the trigger plate is extended, the cat can activate it even before he gets the chance to go out after getting the bait.
Apart from these, there are a few other things that you can try to boost your chance of succeeding in catching the cat.
For starters, try to find a bigger trap. Some cats may be wary of getting inside your trap because they think that it is too restrictive.
If it is possible to lure the cat into a confined space, it becomes easier for you to catch him because you are limiting his possible exit points.
If that is not possible, you can hide your trap with camouflage. All you have to do is cover the sides with fabric and then put things that you can normally find in that environment, like leaves, twigs, or even pieces of cardboard.
Use a drop trap
If you do not have access to a trap or if you failed to catch a cat using one, consider using a drop trap.
You can create one using a milk crate or something similar plus a piece of string, markers, or a water bottle. The main advantage of a drop trap over a conventional trap is that the cat will not feel like he will be entering an enclosed space.
Once the cat goes under the milk crate, all you have to do is to pull on the string attached to the marker or water bottle and the crate will fall over him.
Catching a smart cat is not easy
When you have tried just about everything and you are close to giving up, do not. Sure, it can be frustrating. But you may have something that the cat does not have: time.
If you have not found any measure of success, just wait and be patient. Even a smart cat can be outwitted if you are patient and willing to wait.
Image: istockphoto.com / Kateryna Kovarzh