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Cher, Feline Specialist
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 21387
Experience:  Feline Healthcare & Behavior Specialist 40+ years Experience
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We have a cat trapped in the basement rafters of a building ...

Customer Question

We have a cat trapped in the basement rafters of a building down in Brooklyn. It is actually incorrect to say trapped, because she can get down, only won't when anyone is there. A rescue operation has been contacted, and a trap is set. More than a week has gone by with no luck...we are almost 100% certain this is spayed neighborhood stray, friendly to people...she has been in this situation for close to two weeks, we think when a hole in the exterior wall was repaired she was trapped inside the building. Any suggestions on how to get this cat to enter the trap?
Submitted: 10 years ago.
Category: Cat
Expert:  Cher replied 10 years ago.

Thank you so much for trying to help rescue this kitty! : )

What type of trap do you have now? If it's not the kind of trap that will 'trip' when the cat enters, you need that type. I assume you've been placing food in the trap to entice the cat, who must be hungry. Place a 'smelly' [fish] variety (slightly warmed in the micro, if you can to release more aroma) of canned cat food in a bowl in the back of the trap. Once the cat enters to eat the food, the trap should spring shut. You can also try 'human' canned tuna, salmon, or sardines to offer as the food in the trap.

If you use a trap like this, it really must be monitored 24/7 so the cat won't hurt herself once she enters, however, at the same time, you want to have as little noise as possible in the basement, because as you said, she won't come down when anyone is around. Cats will come out when it's quiet and the best times of day and night to try to get her to enter the trap, baited with food is around dawn, and after dark; also late at night, when the traffic outside and activity in the building itself, is more settled and quiet.

Since the kitty is primarily staying in the rafters, where is the trap? I assume it's on the ground? If it's up where the kitty is, and she gets trapped, she will rattle that cage and it can fall, if it's not on sturdy, level ground. What has the rescue organization suggested or done so far? I know they supplied the trap, but what about the NYFD? They know how to get kitties out of trees, but what about basement rafters?   : )

I hope you're able to accomplish this very soon, and would you please keep me posted on how everything is going and when you get her and if she's okay? Thanks very much!

Cher and 4 other Cat Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 10 years ago.
The trap is the type that closes once the cat goes in, it is on the ground. The fire department can use a rabies pole to get her out if need be, but the problem there is that she would be dragged across nails and there is a concern that she would be seriously injured. My son owns the building so there is no rush from any outside interests, how long do you think she can go without eating? Is it a good idea to cover the trap with a blanket to make it more inviting? We did feed her when we first discovered she was there,before the trap was put down, that was a week ago today.We did try tuna fish over the weekend in the trap, no luck....I was thinking something could be put on top of the nails immediately before she was caught if we come to that....I don't know how long to wait this out? I also don't know what kind of an emotional state the cat would be in after such an experience...
Expert:  Cher replied 10 years ago.
Hi again,

Well, there's no doubt she'll probably freak, once she's caught, but it's very important to get her and bring her to a vet immediately to be checked out. She might be eating insects, mice, etc., if there are any around, but a cat who doesn't eat for a while can develop liver damage from a condition called feline hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver disease.

I understand the problem with the nails and I would definitely try to cover them or make them less sharp/exposed. Can you lay down a board of some sort, to cover the nails and make the rafters more of a smooth, flat surface for her to walk on.
I just had another thought--can you put a tall scratching post or kitty condo under the area you know she frequents on the rafters?

You can also get some Feliway spray, available in Petsmart and other pet supply stores, and spray it around the room, in the trap, and up in the rafters. Feliway is a synthetic pheromone which helps to calm stressed cats and make them feel more familiar in the area they're in. This might help her feel more inclined to enter the trap.

Is she able to hide in a hole or any opening in the wall up by the ceiling, so she actually disappears from sight, or is she always somewhere up there, visible to you?

Putting a blanket over just the top of the trap might be a good idea to help her feel more secure, but as I said, someone must monitor the trap around the clock, because if she goes in there and starts thrashing around, she'll hurt herself.

When you offered her food and she ate it, where did she eat it, up in the rafters, or did she come down? Setting up more than one trap with different foods might be a good can use dry food, too. Also, try putting a litterbox in one part of the room. Cats are fastidious and she may prefer to use this. A kitty litter called Cat Attract has herbal attractants which encourage use of the box, so she might like the smell and choose to use it.

So, the only possibility the fire dept. or animal control/cat rescue orgs can offer you is a rabies pole to drag her down with force?

I'm trying to think of more alternatives for you and will get back to you ASAP. Thanks for filling me in on all the details.

Customer: replied 10 years ago.
The NYFD will use a rabies pole, that is all they have to offer in this situation. The space is very tight. She ate the food on the basement floor, so she definitely got out of her little area....she is always visible if you shine a light into the area.

My husband and I were just talking about it, we are starting to think the cat should be allowed her food and water with a litter pan in the basement, forget the trap, wait for the work to be finished. There are contractors there during the day, on the floor above her. Give her lots of time to learn to trust the situation after they are gone and only the people who live there are around. Then, hopefully, she will allow herself to be caught? My son is certain he met this cat outside in their yard before the work began, and she was very friendly....what do you think of that approach?
Expert:  Cher replied 10 years ago.
Hi again,

Yes, I like your idea. As long as you know she's able to get down from her 'upstairs' area to eat, drink and use a litterbox on the floor, that's most important.

If the work will be finished and then there will be no noise, and this has become her new little home, she should be fine. As you know, cats LOVE to be up high, especially when they're frightened, so that's why she's hanging around up on the rafters, especially when there's noise and people around. As long as you see evidence that she's eating, drinking and eliminating, she should be alright. You could even make a little cat bed for her from a nice-sized cardboard box lined with old towels or a blanket folded over (no fuzzy materials).

Will you please keep me posted? I'm really concerned about how she's doing, and I applaud you for being an animal lover and caring so much about her welfare! You're great!   : )

Customer: replied 10 years ago.
How can I keep you posted? Is there an email address? I would also like to let Terri Riba know that the three cats she helped me with are all getting along much better now, not perfect, but much improved...Murdock ventures into the hallway and down to the kitchen without constant challenging from MJ.

The house where the trapped cat is belongs to my son, so I will have to sell my daughter-inlaw on the idea of just letting the cat set up down there. She is a very good-hearted person, but highly allergic to cats....

Thanks for your help, as I said, let me know how to keep in touch and I will keep you posted.
Expert:  Cher replied 10 years ago.
Hi again, and thanks very much for your accept! I'm sending this as an 'information request' so you can just hit 'reply' to respond. You can also send a 'private message', if you like--just click on my username below (Jessesmom) to bring up my profile, and then click 'pm' on the top left of the profile box.

I'll pass your message along to Terri and I'm glad to hear your cats are doing much better.

Tell your daughter-in-law to to try some Zyrtec or other antihistamine for allergies, if the cat's presence is bothering her. Her doctor can advise her on a good medication.

I do hope this little, sweet cat will do well in her new basement home and I'll look forward to your updates!   : )

Customer: replied 10 years ago.
Reply to Jessesmom's Post: I don't know if you will get this message, I don't see "Pm" on your profile box.

I wanted to let you know that the cat was caught in the trap on Wednesday morning. The animal control people put her and my daughter-in-law through a horrible experience the day before, flushing the cat out of the rafters but not being prepared to catch her. We thought it would be weeks before we could find her again as she disappeared beneath the floor boards in a new spot. But, the next morning, she was in the trap. A vet saw her, she is severely dehydrated and underweight, but he thought in good condition. She is a cat whose ear was notched, so she is a feral cat who had been spayed. My daughter-in-law wants very badly to take care of this animal, we have told her to let her go in the yard outside the building, keep food and water there with a spot where she can hide out. We are as certain as we can be that that is where she had been living before this all happened...the yard is fenced in securely, so no dog can get her and she is protected from the street. They are going to try to gain her trust, and perhaps, in the future, she can live inside, but that of course depends on her. Thank you for your help.
Expert:  Cher replied 10 years ago.
Hi again, and thanks so much for updating me on the situation! I'm glad she was caught without too much trauma to herself (what animal control did, was really dumb!).

Having her stay in the yard with all necessary supplies, if you're absolutely sure she can't get out, and nothing can get in, that should be fine, except for inclement weather. It's too early for you to be having afternoon thunderstorms now (I'm a former NY-er), but still, during rainy periods and/or extreme heat/humidity during the summer, she needs a safe place to go, inside. She might find another opening or hole to burrow under to get into the building again, so just keep that in mind. I assume the vet is treating her for the dehydration and malnourishment--is she still at the vet's, now? Once she's physically strong enough to be 'released', also make sure she's fully vaccinated.

I'm so glad this story had a happy ending, and I think your daughter-in-law should slowly try to make this little girl an indoor-only kitty; however, once feral, it's often difficult to keep a cat indoors and be sure she'll be happy or not try to bolt out the door at any opportunity. If she can make her indoor/outdoor and the cat can hang out in the secure yard, that would be the best of both worlds, I guess! : )

You all really went above and beyond to save this kitty and I applaud you!

Much good luck and best wishes to you all, and this true 'rescue' kitty! : )