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Caretaker Instructions & Clinic Procedures

Clinic Coordinators

You will receive your clinic schedule from the person scheduling your clinic. It is you responsibility to call the caretakers to pick up equipment. Some caretakers will already have their equipment & it will be noted on your sheet.


Orange and white cat lying on the ground.

When a caretaker is given his equipment make sure to show them how to set the traps and make the caretaker set a trap so he will know how to do this. If you are giving them different types of traps make sure they practice setting each type. Depending on the type of vehicle the caretaker has, it is important to see if they can transport the carriers also. They may only be able to take a few, but the more the caretakers carry the less you will have to transport.


Give the caretakers trap covers also and explain the trapping procedure if this is a new caretaker. Also stress that they are NOT to open the trap for any reason once the cat is trapped. No food or water is to be put in the trap. During the summer months they can drop ice cubes in the traps. Please tell them that trapping cats involves PATIENCE, and if they do not trap all of the cats they are scheduled for they may have to wait several clinics until we can schedule again. All of your equipment will be at our storage building including the clinic bag. In this bag is the clipboard with clinic sheet, trap & carrier tags, and the tags that go on the cats' legs. It is important that these items be returned to the storage building ASAP for the next coordinator. It is not unusual for us to have clinics two Sundays in a row. You will also have to transport the remainder of the carriers to the clinics if needed. Please make sure you have enough newspapers and also bring the scrub bucket.

Clinic Procedures

Two cats lying on the ground.

When the caretakers arrive at the clinic, have them keep all of their equipment together until you sign them in.

Sign in each caretaker on the sign in sheet with their name and phone number. Stress to them that you will need to be able to reach them within 30 minutes to a few hours and they will need to pick up their cats when called. We do not CAT SIT. Many of the caretakers believe we keep these cats overnight. You will number each cat of the caretakers by placing a tag with the number that is the same on the sign in sheet, and you will also tag the carrier with that same number. Note on the sign in sheet the color of the cat and if they know the sex.

After all cats have been signed in and the clinic is starting, you will need to check in all traps. Make sure the person who is taking the cats out of the traps has the leg tags for them. You will need to keep a close watch on this because this procedure can get lost in all the activity. We cannot afford to switch cats. This would almost be a death sentence for the ones who would be sent back to the wrong colony.

When a cat has been cleaned/frontlined etc., two people need to go and place him in the correct carrier. The coordinator should have the sign in sheet and compare the tag number on the cat with the carrier and check the sign in sheet as to color/sex of the cat. When he is to be placed in the carrier, THEN AND ONLY THEN DO YOU REMOVE THE LEG TAG. Once a cat is put in his carrier, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES IS ANYONE ALLOWED TO OPEN THAT CARRIER DOOR.This is for our protection as well as for the cats.

Cat being operated on.

If the food dish is knocked off the holder that is all right. Most of the cats won't eat while they are confined and it is not worth a cat getting loose or someone being bitten. Highlight the cat's number on the sign in sheet and that will show he is finished. When all of one caretaker's cats have been completed, call the caretaker to pick up their cats. Make sure the carriers have all been signed out to each caretaker before they are picked up.

When the caretakers come to pick up their cats you will need to schedule a drop off time if applicable for that caretaker. You are to give the caretaker one of our info packets, which include a newsletter, a surgical instruction, and carrier-cleaning sheet. You will need to make these packets up and bring them to the clinics. It also includes a donation envelope. Some caretakers have been scheduled for the next clinic. You will have a sheet showing the caretakers you will need to give traps and possibly more carriers to. Please sign out all equipment. We do have some caretakers come to clinics just to pick up their equipment for the next clinic. The more equipment that you can give out at a clinic the less scheduling you will have to do for pick ups.

During the clinic a volunteer needs to clean all traps and set them upright to dry.

Two cats lying on the ground.

You will need to transport any remaining equipment back to the storage shed as soon a you can fit it into your schedule. All of the trap covers need to be washed with soap and Clorox. Do not wash anything personal with these covers. These, along with any traps, carriers, buckets, and clinic bags, need to be returned to the storage building for the next clinic. Also the tags need to be matched and hooked together and put in the clinic bag along with the leg tags and clipboard.

Since we sometimes do have clinics two weeks in a row, it is important that the equipment be returned as soon as possible for the next coordinator.

The clinic scheduler will pick up your sign in sheet and log in the information on the contact sheets for each caretaker.


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Post-Surgical Care For Feral Cats

These post-surgical instructions apply to feral cats only, and should not be applied to pet cats for any reason.

All cats are placed in a recovery carrier after surgery. They should remain in the carrier. Male cats may be released the following morning. Females, however, should be confined for a minimum of 24 hours and a maximum of 48 hours due to the high amount of stress they endure being confined.

Canned food may be offered through the carrier door as early as the evening after surgery.

On occasion the ear that was tipped may bleed, but under no circumstances should persistent bleeding from the incision (fresh, red blood) be considered normal. Seek help immediately.  Call the clinic coordinator.

Do not attempt to handle these cats or open the carrier door to add food or water. Any food, water or ice cubes should be put between the carrier door bars.

In Case of Emergency

Please contact the Wilmington Animal Emergency Clinic at 910-791-7387. 

What constitutes an emergency?

BLEEDING - bright red blood coming from the scrotum in males, or the abdominal incision in females.  Call the clinic coordinator for help.

What does not constitute an emergency?

Flipping, rolling, vocalizing, beating face against the front of the cage, panting, urinating, defecating.  Please do not call or take the cat to the emergency clinic.  This is normal.  If it continues for more than 12 hours, please call the clinic coordinator.

Trap & Carrier Cleaning Instructions

Please return traps and carriers clean and disinfected.

Discard all soiled newspapers. If your carrier has a mat, please do not throw it away!!! Wash all sides, top and bottom-inside and out with hot, soapy water and bleach. Also wash mat and food dish. Let stand a few minutes then rinse thoroughly. Turn carrier on its end with door on bottom. Allow to air dry. Replace dish and mat -- carrier is now ready for our next clinic.  Please repeat process for trap.

The cost of one cat through our clinic is $35.00. Please give a donation to help replenish our supplies for future clinics...Thank you. Remember, all contributions are tax-deductible.

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Humane Trapping Instructions

Preparation for Trapping

If possible, get the cats used to being fed at the same place and time of day.

You might try leaving the trap unset and covered with a large towel during routine feeding so that the animal will get used to seeing and smelling it in the area.

Two cats lying on the ground.

Don't feed the cats the day/night before you are going to trap so the cats will be hungry. Be sure to notify others who may feed the cats not to leave food out either.

Plan to trap so that you don't have to keep the cat too long before surgery. Trapping the night before is usually the best approach. Cats should not eat 12 hours prior to surgery. Water should be available if the cat is held in the trap for more than 4 hours after capture.

Prepare the area where you will be holding the cats before and after the clinic. A garage or other sheltered, warm, protected are is best. Lay down newspapers to catch the inevitable stool, urine and food residue. You may want to use pieces of wood to elevate the traps off the newspapers. This allows the mess to fall through the wire away from the cats. Spraying the area ahead of time with a cat-safe flea spray (like Adams or Ovitrol) will discourage ants.

Prepare the vehicle you will use to transport them as well. Plastic may be an additional precaution. But remember that you will need to use newspapers or some other absorbent material in addition. Urine will roll right off the plastic and that isn't what you want.

Plan your day of trapping carefully. Remember that if you trap an animal and release it for some reason, it is unlikely that you will be able to catch it again - they learn very quickly.

If there are young kittens involved, remember that they should not be weaned from the mother before 4-6 weeks of age. If you are trapping a lactating female, you may want to wait until you have located the kittens and they are old enough to wean. If you wish to tame and foster the kittens to adopt out, they should be taken from the mother at 4-6 weeks. If you wait until the kittens are older than 4-6 weeks before trying to tame them you will find the job progressively harder with age. (FOF has written instructions on Taming Feral Kittens and Raising Orphan Kittens)

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Setting the Traps

Plan to set traps just before or at the cats' normal feeding time. This is often at night. Dusk is usually the best time to set traps.

Don't trap in the rain or the heat of day without adequate protection for the trap. Cats are vulnerable in the traps and could drown during storms or suffer from heatstroke in the sun. Use common sense.

Plan placement of traps on a level surface in the area where the cats usually feed or have been seen. Cats are less likely to enter the trap if it wobbles. If trapping in a public area, try to place traps where they will not be noticed by passersby (who may not understand that you are not trying to harm the cat). Bushes are often places where cats hide and provide good camouflage for the trap.

Use smelly food to bait the trap. We find that canned Mackerel is very effective and relatively inexpensive. It is best not to put any bowls inside the trap to hold food since the animal can easily hurt itself on it in a panic. Paper coffee filters or small paper plates work well. (Smelly canned cat food also works)

If the situation requires that you are trapping very early morning on the day of the clinic, soak a small scrap of newspaper (2" by 3-4") in the Mackerel juice and place it on the ground where you plan to place the rear of the trap.

Orange long-haired cat lying on the ground

Spoon a small amount of food onto the soaked newspaper scrap and place the trap on top of the food so the food is as far back in the trap as possible while still not accessible from outside the trap. (You want the cat to go all the way into the trap to avoid being injured when the trap door closes.) Press the trap down onto the food so that it squishes up through the wire. The idea is to make the food a little hard to get so that the cat has to go into the trap as far as possible and has to work at getting it long enough to trip the trap. (Some cats are very good at getting in and out of the traps without getting caught. We don't want to make it too easy for them to get away with that trick. Also, having the food essentially outside of the trap prevents the cat from eating it in the trap before surgery and is less messy.)

After baiting the trap, open the trap door by pushing the top of the door in and pulling the bottom of the door upward. There is a small hook attached to the right side of the trap top. It hooks onto a tiny metal cylinder on the right side of the door. The hook holds the door in an open position, which also raises the trip plate. When the cat steps on the plate it will cause the hook to release the door and close the trap.

Just before you are ready to leave the trap for the cat to enter, you may want to push the hood (ever so slightly) a little bit back off the cylinder to create a "hair trigger". (Don't get too carried away with this step or the trap will trip as soon as the cat takes a sniff!)

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Waiting for Success

Never leave traps unattended in an unprotected area, but don't hang around within sight of the cat (or you will scare it off). The trapped animal is vulnerable. Passersby may release the cat or steal the trap with the cat in it. Wait quietly in an area where you can still see the traps without disturbing the cats. Check traps every 15 minutes or so. You can often hear the traps trip from a distance. As soon as the intended cat is trapped, completely cover the trap to calm the cat and remove the trap from the area if other cats are not in sight. You may consider putting another trap in the same spot if it seems to be a "hot" one. Be sure to dispose of food left on the ground when you pick up the trap. (You don't want to litter or give out any freebies and spoil any appetites!)

When you get the captured cat to a quiet area away from the other traps lift the cover and check for signs that you have the correct animal and not a pet or previously neutered feral. If you note that you have captured a lactating female check the area for kittens and remember that this female must be released 12 hours after surgery so she can care for and nurse her kittens. We will advise the veterinarian that this is a lactating female and has kittens she needs to return to. Cover the cat back up as soon as possible. Uncovered, the animal may panic and hurt itself thrashing around in the trap.

Of course, there is always the chance that you will catch some other wild animal attracted to the food or an unintended cat. Simply release the animal quietly as stated in the releasing procedures here.

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Holding Procedures

After you have finished trapping, you will have to hold the cats overnight until you can take them to the clinic the following morning.

Place cats in the prepared protected area. The cat should not have any food after 8pm and not have any water after midnight the night before surgery the following morning. If the cat is in the trap long enough to need a meal, canned cat foods have some water content and they can be dropped through the wire in the trap without danger of coming into contact with the cat. One suggestion to give the cat some water is to place ice cubes into the trap by dropping them through the wire top of the trap.

Keep cats covered and check periodically. They will probably be very quiet as long as they are covered. Don't stick fingers in the trap or allow children or pets near the traps. These are wild animals that scratch and bite.


Wash and change clothes before having contact with your own pets as a precaution against spreading any contagious diseases the cats might carry.

Always get feral kittens checked out by a vet and isolate them from your pets. Some deadly diseases can incubate without symptoms. Check with your veterinarian and use caution.

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Post Surgery Care

After surgery, the cat is placed in a carrier provided by Friends of Felines. You will pick up the cat(s) from the veterinarian's office and provide them a safe recovery area. The recuperation time for feral cats is 24 to 48 hours. A food and water dish is placed on the inside of the front door of the carrier so food and water can be placed in them without opening the carrier. Do not open the carrier door! The cat recuperates in the carrier. Also see Post Operative/Recovery Instructions.

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Releasing the Cats

If the cat does not seem to be recovering well from the surgery, consider having it checked out by a vet before releasing. When cats are ready for release, return them to the area that they were captured and release them there. Do not relocate them! It will be disoriented and most likely die. In all likelihood, area cats will drive it away.

If the veterinarian discovers a serious medical problem that cannot be treated, and the veterinarian deems that it is impossible for the cat to be returned safely to its colony, the decision to euthanize can be made by the veterinarian. Untreated abscesses and respiratory infections, and a number of other conditions, can mean suffering and a slow death.

The cat will be released back to the same spot where you trapped it. Make sure the spot you pick for release does not encourage the cat to run into danger (like a busy street) to get away from you. When ready, simply place the carrier on the ground with the door facing away from you and open the door. The cat will probably bolt immediately out of the carrier. If it is confused, just tilt the carrier so the back is slightly up and tap on the back of the carrier to encourage it to leave. Never put your hand in the carrier!

After releasing the cats, hose off traps and carriers and disinfect them with bleach. You can mix up 90% water and 10% bleach in a spray bottle. Spray the traps and carriers with the mixture, let set a few minutes and rinse off. Make sure all residue is out of the traps and carriers and ready for the next cat to use. Never store traps in the set position (door open); animals may wander into even un-baited traps and starve to death.

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Helpful Hints

Bring a flashlight with you if trapping at night. It will come in handy for checking traps from a distance and might help you avoid a twisted ankle in the dark.

Bring a cap for the top of the Mackerel can. Nothing smells worse than fish juice spilled in the car. Don't forget a spoon!

Females with kittens will be attracted by the sound of her kittens if the previously captured kittens are placed in a covered carrier just behind the trap. Similarly, kittens will be easier to trap if the previously captured mom is in the carrier.

For advice regarding the taming and/or fostering of feral or orphaned kittens, we have available written instructions on "Taming Feral Kittens" and "Raising Orphan Kittens"

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Friends of Felines, the State of North Carolina and the County of New Hanover want you to know the laws and codes concerning the care and well being of your feral colony.  The following paragraphs outline the expectations of caretakers regarding care, vaccinations and complaints. 

The caretaker must maintain their colony in an environment of sanitary conditions.  All cats need adequate protection from the elements and have adequate food and water supply.  If any animal becomes sick or diseased, the caretaker must contact their veterinarian to have the animal examined and properly cared for.  All cats in the colony must be spayed or neutered and vaccinated against rabies. 

The first rabies vaccination of a cat is valid for one year from the date of vaccination.  A second vaccination is due after one year and is valid for three years from the date of vaccination .  Friends of Felines will assist caretakers by lending you traps to have the cats vaccinated against rabies at the proper time.  Rabies as well as distemper vaccinations are critical in controlling the spread of these diseases. 

If a nuisance complaint is reported to Animal Services regarding your feral colony, please contact Friends of Felines at 452.6721 as soon a possible.  A public nuisance is anything, which annoys and disturbs right and privileges of others.  Example:  a cat turning over garbage containers, or damaging flower or vegetable gardens.  Friends of Felines will assist you in answering any medical questions, vaccination dates and overall condition of your colony.  We will work with you and Animal Services to resolve the complaint. 

We ask all caretakers to keep cats under sanitary and humane conditions, to provide proper food and water at all times, shelter from the weather, reasonably clean quarters and proper medical attention for sick, diseased or injured animals, as well as adequate vaccinations against disease according to the laws of the State of North Carolina and the County of New Hanover. 



Taming shy or feral kittens can take anywhere between two and six weeks or longer, depending on their age and state of wildness.  Kittens are individuals whose temperaments vary greatly, even within the same litter.  Taming a shy or feral kitten requires patience, commitment, and lots of love, but the process can be tremendously rewarding.

 The steps involved in the taming process are listed below:

  Containment in a cage or large pet carrier.

Transfer your kitten to a cage or a pet carrier large enough for a small litter box and bedding.  Place the kittens’ new home in a small room away from pets and children.

DO NOT attempt to handle the kitten for the first two days as he/she learns to feel safe.  Visit him/her frequently and talk quietly, but resist touching him/her.  Always move slowly around him/her.

Food and water should be placed in the cage or carrier, along with a small litter box or pan.  Many cages have food and water bowls attached to the doors, so that you can feed and water the kitten without placing your hands inside the carrier.

Another method is to place the kitten in a small room, such as a bathroom, in the carrier.  Put the litter box in the room and leave the carrier door open so that the kitten has access to the box.  Remove toxic cleaners, put the toilet seat down, and otherwise kitten proof the room as needed.

Remember to give the kitten a place they can hide.  An overturned box with a small entrance can provide a safe retreat.

HELPFUL HINTS:  Don’t leave a shy or feral kitten in quiet isolation for long periods of time.  Let them hear human voices, televisions, and the normal clatter of your household.  Walk by your kitten’s carrier or room often, and talk to him/her whenever you get the chance during the taming process.  You can continue to help your feral kitten adjust to domesticity while you are gone for a few hours- just leave a radio or stereo on and treat your kitten to soothing classical or soft pop music.

Use some of your worn clothing as bedding for kittens.  This will help them get used to your scent.

Periodic and brief handling with a protective towel.

After two days, place a towel over the kitten, and pick him/her up in the towel.  If the kitten stays calm, pet her gently on the head from behind.  Don’t approach him/her form the front; a hand coming directly toward the kitten will frighten it.

If the kitten remains calm, grip him/her by the nape of the neck, put the towel on your lap, and set the kitten on the towel.  Talk gently and stroke his/her body briefly, then release him/her.

After handling, reward the kitten with a treat she can lick off a spoon, such as a tiny amount of canned kitten food.  Repeat this process often—hand-feeding food is an excellent way to bond with your kitten and speed up taming.

Begin to brush your kitten with a soft pet brush to mimic a mother cat’s grooming, and work your way up to using a flea comb.  Talk to her often.  The attention will give your kitten a feeling of well being, and she will begin to transfer her need for maternal love to you.

Do not stare at your kitten for any length of time.  Cats consider this to be a form of aggressive body language.  Instead, avert your eyes and lower your head often to signal submissive, friendly behavior.

You can begin to play with your kitten now.  Choose “kitten tease” toys or other lightweight cat toys, but be sure not to give string toys with a shy or feral kitten, or any kitten, as they may try to eat the string while you are gone.

Containment in a small room.

If your kitten has made considerable progress within a week, she should be allowed access to a small room and should be placed in the cage only if needed.

A large room may overwhelm a timid kitten and increase his/her fear level.  For example, bedrooms may not be a good choice if the kitten hides under the bed and you have difficulty reaching her.

In fact, the tiny places and spaces a kitten can wedge into in any room will amaze you.  Think like a kitten by getting down on its level; then kitten-proof his/her quarters as much as possible.  Resist the impulse to chase him/her if it begins to head somewhere you don’t want it to go.  Chasing will reinforce the kittens already ingrained urge to run from you.  Even very tame kittens can develop the habit of fleeing from the people they love if they are chased during the training period.

Exposure to other people.

When the kitten no longer responds by scratching or biting, you can encourage friends to handle them frequently.  Shy or feral cats tend to bond with one person, so it is a good idea to socialize them with other people and children who are willing to handle the kitten quietly.

Placement in suitable adoptive homes.

The most suitable home is a calm environment in which the kitten will feel safe and secure.  A perfect home for shy kittens is two shy kittens kept indoors.


This article edited from “The Guide to Handraising Kittens” written by Susan Easterly; Manufactured in the United States of America by T.F.H. Publications, Inc.


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