Manchester Animal Shelter ramping up cat trapping efforts with community support

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Above: Riesling, before and after (in the trap and then available for adoption). He was found in Manchester, trapped when the Manchester Animal Shelter volunteers were working on trapping a mom and two kittens. He was adopted in March.


MANCHESTER, NH – The Friends of the Manchester Animal Shelter have recently ramped up efforts in cat trapping with the help of local citizens as stray cat populations continue to be reported in the city. While some may be familiar with the process, the shelter has seen an opportunity for increased awareness and education surrounding shelter efforts to curtail community cat population sizes. 

In the simplest form, cat trapping is the act of safely moving stray cats from the outdoors to an indoor setting (typically a shelter). While the process has many different outcomes, cat trapping often involves the return of lost cats to an owner, adoption efforts, or what is commonly known as TNR (trap-neuter-return). Each scenario should be assessed carefully by shelter experts and locals who choose to get involved in the process.

While many cats have been successfully adopted out of the shelter that have arrived via trapping, there are numerous benefits to those who are safely re-released where they were found. In some cases, shelters will make a determination that the cat is best suited to continue living in the wild. In this scenario, the cat will be neutered and prepared for return.

This is Christmas in the trap. She is from a large colony that is monitored and cared for by MAS volunteers. She was adopted in March.

Christmas in her new home. Courtesy Photo

Manchester Animal Shelter Feline Coordinator Nicole Saitta works closely with locals and cats that enter the shelter. Saitta reports that female cats who are able to prevent the continuous cycle of mating and reproducing in the wild have a much higher overall health. Spaying and neutering greatly reduces the chance of cats developing mammary and testicular cancer as well as helping them gain weight and improve coat condition. Cats that are fixed are also less likely to roam in search of a mate, which reduces their chances of being struck by a car.

Aside from the benefits to the cats, Saitta finds an overall value to the public with the trap-neuter-return option.

“Society benefits from TNR as well. The first, most obvious benefit, is decreasing the cat population by stopping the cycle of kittens, where one cat can lead to 12,000 cats in five years. All cats that are trapped and fixed are also vaccinated. This protects both the cats and community from infectious diseases, such as rabies. Cats that are fixed will reduce problematic behaviors, such as spraying, yowling, or fighting,” says Saitta.

This is Smudge and just some of her babies. MAS had a volunteer who spent countless hours tracking her down for seven months. Smudge was very trap-savvy. In those seven months, Smudge had three litters and 14 kittens. All babies were brought to safety and finally Smudge was also captured and spayed. They were all, including Smudge, adopted out to loving families and doing well.  Courtesy Photo

Some of the strongest support with the cat trapping process comes with public participation. Anyone who believes an individual cat or family of cats is living in their area can contact the animal shelter to begin coordinating trapping efforts. Though anyone is able to help the Manchester Animal Shelter, a large amount of planning is involved prior to the trapping from both citizen and shelter coordinator. Determining how many cats are in the area, when they most commonly appear, and even how “trap savvy” they are can take days to figure out. Not to mention a pre-assessment of whether or not the cat can be released has to occur within the shelter.

This is a cat that is enjoying breakfast and the outdoor life from one MAS’s monitored and maintained colonies. Courtesy Photo

“When we speak about releasing a cat back to where it came from there are a lot of things that we like to make sure of to ensure that the cat will live a happy and safe life. The first and most important thing is that there is a regular feeder in the area. We like to make sure that we know of someone who is looking out for this cat and will continue to do so for years. The weather must also be taken into consideration. In the winter a cat must be released within two weeks of being trapped or they start to lose their thick winter fur and cannot be released,” says Saitta.

As of April 1, the Manchester Animal Shelter had two cats available for adoption: Poppy and Espresso, each of which were brought to the shelter via trapping.  In March alone, 10 cats were adopted out, six of which belonged to local colonies that volunteers had been monitoring to control the population. Two were turned over by a good Samaritan who had been providing them food, while the remainders were feral kittens that were reported by the public.

Manchester resident Allyssa Gilbert has been trapping since 2016, with the help of her daughter Kasey and husband Corey. Recently, Gilbert assisted the shelter with a large colony of community cats that were living near her backyard.

Night vision: This is a cat that was neutered and released rolling around in some catnip and enjoying life at night. He’s in a colony maintained by a MAS volunteer.  Courtesy Photo

“In the summer of 2020 we took a break from cat trapping but the populations continued to grow. Come spring 2021, as soon as the weather got warm, our backyard was full of cats. Some would literally sunbathe on my daughter’s trampoline or in our flower beds and we would see four or five scatter when we would come outside. By the time we got in touch which Nicole, we were able to identify at least a dozen in our area,” says Gilbert.

 Gilbert went on to discuss the challenges and concerns with trapping pregnant or lactating female cats. While pregnant moms are easier to bring into foster care with the hopes of the litter being adopted out, it can be worrisome to trap a lactating mother and not find the kittens.

 “We set up some traps one day and we caught two cats. A couple days later we set some more and continued catching cats. By the time two and a half weeks had passed, we caught eight adult cats. All eight were fixed by the Manchester Animal Shelter as a free service. They helped us catch them, they picked up the traps, fixed them, and either adopted them out or returned them to where they were found. We believe we still have another dozen we would like to catch in our area, but we’ve seen a lot of happy neighbors and cats as a result of this amazing service,” says Gilbert.


Those wishing to contact the Manchester Animal Shelter for trapping coordination can get in touch with Nicole Saitta at  felines@manchesteranimalshelter.org or by phone at 603-628-3544 x 206.