One of our feral “working cats” accidentally got out of our workshop when we weren’t aware the shop door latch wasn’t working properly. Given the number of predators around here (coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions) this was a rather disconcerting experience. I tried catching her with a cat trap, but since she’d been trapped on prior occasions she would not go in. She’d drink the water I left out, but she would not go into the trap even though I’d baited it with tuna.
At wit’s end I contacted Animal Experts here in Tucson. Mark suggested trying a dog trap since it’s significantly bigger. He loaned me one he keeps for use by local dog rescue groups. Slowly I got her to approach the trap then to take steps inside. Any time I made a change like adding canned food to the dry food or moving the food further in she would not go into the trap. I monitored all this with a wildlife trailcam and would text Mark who kept saying, “Be patient.”
Then one night I heard screams that sounded like she was in the mouth of a predator. Eventually I realized it was not her and was relieved when I got verification by seeing her on the trailcam the next day. But it made being patient harder.
Finally the trap was set but locked open. And she wouldn’t go in. The trap’s bottom plate changed with the setting so she only looked in at the food. After a couple days of not eating she went back in. Once I had video verification she was going all the way in I set the trap for real. An hour later I checked the trap before going to bed and there she was. RELIEF. In the morning I took her to the vet’s for a rabies shot then let her loose in the workshop. I’m so relieved she’s safe. And back to work. She and her buddies keep the mice from chewing up our camping gear, power tools, and such. (Mice seem to really like the mouth pieces of camelback water containers.) They also keep the mice out of our predator proof chicken coop. (To see our coop, go here.)
If anyone has need for working cats, contact your local animal shelter or Humane Society. They often have healthy cats that aren’t tame so can’t be adopted as family pets. Cats that come from hoarding situations are often in the greatest need for homes. They’ve often been kept indoors so don’t know how to survive outside, but since they weren’t socialized they are indoor feral cats. (We just got three cats from such a situation.)
And thank you so much, Mark Harmon, for all your help. You have helped me save some feral dogs (they are now our family dogs and my jogging buddies.) And your team helped remove a rattlesnake from our porch. I truly appreciate how kind you have been to all these animals. And now I hear you oversee the humane treatment of the rattlesnakes you supply for training dogs to stay away from snakes. I’ve liked your facebook page on my page so anyone can see all the amazing videos you post. (And we are looking forward to your National Geographic Show. My kids have watched your dvd of your last show so many times I think they can repeat just about everything you say.)