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How to Catch a Stray Kitten: 5 Vet-Approved Proven Methods

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on May 15, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Black maine coon kitten sitting outdoor

How to Catch a Stray Kitten: 5 Vet-Approved Proven Methods


Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo


Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Stray kittens usually are slower than adult cats and less capable of navigating their surroundings. However, you still have to be careful when capturing a kitten because they are smaller and more delicate than adult cats. When you try to capture adult cats, you can use a drop trap or other bait-triggered traps to keep them in the right spot. If a heavy cage falls on a slower-moving kitten when they aren’t entirely in or out of the trap, they can get fatally injured.

However, once you find a smaller trap that is guaranteed only to fall when the kitten is all the way inside, you are ready to go. Let’s take a look at a few methods and tips on how to capture a kitten.

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Observe the Kitten’s Habits

Image Credit: Anastasija Popova, Shutterstock

You might need to trap a stray kitten for any number of reasons. If their mother has abandoned them or died, they might need to be cared for or risk dying. With defenseless kittens, it is often best to trap them and bring them to a rescue shelter. There, they can be properly rehabilitated and rehomed to a safe family.

Before all that happens, though, you have to do the trapping. Stray kittens are often quite skittish. Capturing them can be difficult unless they are very young and still have trouble with their coordination. You also want to be careful when you capture them because young kittens are fragile.

Start by watching them. Depending on their age, this might only take a few minutes because they won’t move far. As they get older, they will stalk around and even hunt if they need to eat.

Watch where they go and if there are any areas in which they feel safe or spend a great deal of time. If a trap becomes necessary, you should try locating it where the kittens won’t be scared to go.

The 5 Ways to Catch a Stray Kitten

Before we explain how to use a trap on the kittens, let’s look at other proven methods that you can use to capture them.

1. Lure the Kitten into a Confined Space

Arabian Mau kitten
Image By: Abhijith Lal, Shutterstock

Start by trying to lure the kitten into a confined space. Stray kittens have claws that won’t be very clean, but it is generally easy enough to carefully pick them up and put them into a box or container so you can safely transport them to the rescue shelter.

Before putting them in the box or container, prepare the container by lining it with a blanket. If they are old enough to climb, you shouldn’t put them in an open cardboard box or they will climb right out.

2. Distract Them Using a Toy or Laser Pointer

cat plays with a toy
Image Credit: Ekaterina Kolomeets, Shutterstock

Some kittens might be harder to catch because they won’t let you get close enough to pick them up. You might need to distract them by engaging their hunting instincts and desire to play at such a young age. Use a laser pointer or a toy.

Take your time when you use this method. They might need to warm up to play because they can probably smell you. Lure them into a confined space or straight into the box. You need them to be entirely distracted by the toy to go somewhere they feel uncomfortable.

It is best to use a laser pointer to do this because you can be farther away. It also allows you more flexibility in your movements because you won’t have to steadily walk closer to the box for them to go into it. The more they associate your presence with the box, the less likely they will enter it.

3. Use Technology

Image Credit: Wild As Light, Shutterstock

The next option is to kick it up a notch with technology. You can set your phone inside a confined space or a box. Set it to play a noise they’ll be attracted to, like the sound of other cats or kittens meowing. If they have recently lost their mother, try to get them to come to you using a video of a mother cat calling her kittens.

If the kittens are slightly older, you can try to engage their hunting instincts by using a video sound of prey, like a bird or something similar. You are likely to have more luck using the catcalls. If they don’t seem interested right away, they are unlikely to become so because the call should immediately trigger their deepest feline instincts.

4. Use a Bait Trail

kitten food_Crepessuzette, Pixabay
Image Credit: Crepessuzette, Pixabay

Stray kittens that have lost their mother likely haven’t eaten in a long time. If they are hungry, they will almost mindlessly run after the scent of food and eat it up. Depending on their age, you can rip apart small pieces of cooked chicken or other meat and lay them in a short trail toward the box.

You don’t want them to eat until they are full before they reach the target space. You can also use soft food in gravy because it is easy for them to swallow and has a strong scent.

5. Place a Trap in a Dark Place

kitten_kudla, Shutterstock
Image By: kudla, Shutterstock

Once you have tried to lure them into a safe space using more benign methods, you can try placing a trap in an area where they feel safe. Try putting it in a dark place, so it is more difficult for them to see and understand the function of the trap. Dark spaces also make kittens feel like they are safer because they are hiding away.


Once you have captured the kittens, keep the trap covered with a blanket or towel, but let fresh air in to allow the kitten to breathe. This practice will help minimize stress while you take them to a rescue shelter or a veterinarian for a checkup. Many things can go wrong for tiny kittens, especially if they are very young or haven’t weaned off their mother’s milk yet.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: Ludmila Pankova, Shutterstock

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