Trapping homeless cats is more art than science. Here are some basics to help both you and the cats:
1. San Mateo County feral cat spay/neuter vouchers are available to residents of the county.
To request vouchers, vist the county website for more information and then phone 650.573.3940, press 1, then 2 specifying you need vouchers for feral cats.
Vouchers offset the coast of spay/neuter services. To have more of the costs covered, I recommend you schedule the spay/neuter services with the Peninsula Humane Society (PHS) or Nine Lives Foundation.
The voucher program is funded from animal licensing fees. Donations to the County of San Mateo Animal Population Trust Fund are welcomed - send your donation to San Mateo County, Animal Control and License, 225 - 37th Avenue, San Mateo, CA 94403 indicating you are making a donation.
Please contact the County at 650.573.3940 regarding any vouchers you were unable to use prior to their expiration. The number of vouchers available each month is limited by the funds the county has to provide them.
Another low cost spay/neuter services alternative is with the San Francisco SPCA Community Cats Program. San Francisco SPCA is top notch and treats homeless cats with the dignity and care they deserve. They also provide spay/neuter services on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday and can be reached by phone at 415.522.3539 for more information on drop off and pick-up times.
Not all SPCAs are created equal; some consider homeless cats unadoptable and euthanize them. Know who you're working with for spay/neuter/vet services.
Tip: Many cats don't like how the wire bottom of the traps feel on their paws. I like old placemats to line the bottom of the trap right up to the lever that triggers the trap door closing. Newspaper also works, but can blow around in the wind scaring the cats.
3. Mom cats and kittens require special care when trapping. Follow steps to keep everyone safe. I've used adult box traps for trapping kittens and will group 2 traps together to trap mom and all her kittens. Alley Cat Allies provides additional detail on trapping moms and kittens which may be helpful to you; what's critical is to get mom and her babies TNRed to stop the cycle of multiple litters and kittens.
Tip: Depending on who you trap first - mom or kitten(s) - they can be used as 'bait' to trap remaining mom/kittens. Kittens who have not been weaned need to be fed every 2-3 hours so it's critical to keep the family together.
4. Once you have trapped a cat or kittens, immediately cover the trap with a towel or sheet. This should calm the cat.
Tip: No food should be provided the night before spay/neuter surgery.
Cats should not be returned to their colony until 24 hours after surgery. They need to be stored in a safe place the night of their surgery and a small amount of food and water should be provided.