napa humane

Community Cat Information and Resources

What's a community cat?

A "community cat" is a cat that doesn't have an owner. It may be a stray pet who lost their way home, or one who was abandoned when the owners moved away. It may also be a feral cat born in the wild, who has never had an owner. Regardless of how they became a community cat-and whether or not you enjoy having them as neighbors-these animals are now the shared responsibility of our community. Our local shelters can only find homes for adoptable animals with some promise of socialization; for many cats born into the wild, this is not an option.

Whether you consider them a public nuisance or a furry family of neighbors, it takes a community to manage our community cats. By working together, we can address the issue in a way that ensures our beautiful Napa Valley stays healthy and humane.

Community Cat Resources in Napa County

Napa Humane Spay/Neuter Clinic

3265 California Boulevard, Napa

  • Low-cost spay/neuter, vaccinations, and microchipping
  • Education and referrals

Napa County Animal Services
1535 Airport Boulevard, Napa

  • Respond to complaints of stray, sick or injured animals
  • Responsible for rabies control
  • Investigations of animal cruelty complaints and animal bite cases

 Napa County Animal Shelter
942 Hartle Court, Napa

  • Rents humane traps
  • Accepts adoptable cats/kittens

Napa County Trapper
Agricultural Commissioner
1710 Soscol Ave, Suite 3, Napa

  • Assistance with wildlife caught in humane traps

Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch

  • Financial assistance for spay/neuter
  • Financial assistance for other veterinary services needed for sick or injured cats
  • Assist with adoption and placement of cats/kittens

We Care Animal Rescue and Refuge
1345 Charter Oak, St. Helena

  • Space permitting,takes in unwanted animals
  • Financial assistance for spay/neuter
  • Housing options for FIV positive cats

Whiskers, Tails & Ferals
1370 Trancas Street, #206, Napa (mailing address only)

  • Financial assistance for spay/neuter
  • Assist with adoption placement of cats/kittens

Wine Country Animal Lovers

  • Financial assistance for spay/neuter
  • Assist with adoption placement of cats/kittens

Napa Wildlife Rescue

  • Respond to calls about sick or injured wildlife
  • Can assist with releasing unintentionally trapped wildlife 

Humane traps may be purchased at Wilson's Feed & Supply in Napa, Harbor Freight Tools in Vallejo, or purchased online at

Napa Humane Community Cat Program

Napa Humane has developed a two-part strategy for minimizing the negative impact of un-owned cats in our neighborhoods:

(1) a robust Trap-Neuter-Return program, and

(2) Humane Neighbors, educating residents about how to humanely manage community cat behavior.

PART ONE: Trap-Neuter-Return

All Napa County residents can agree it's essential to keep the population of un-owned cats in our community as small as possible. Our ecosystem is simply not equipped to deal with large communities of predators whose waste pollutes water systems and crops.

Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR for short) is an approach to the community cat challenge that controls population growth without resorting to lethal methods, and improves quality of life for both cats and humans. Cats are humanely trapped, taken to a veterinarian to be vaccinated, neutered, and eartipped (visually signaling that they are neutered), and then returned to the place they were trapped. 

Ending the cats' breeding cycles not only stops population growth in its tracks, it also makes the cats better neighbors by greatly reducing the incidence of obnoxious behaviors, like yowling, fighting, and spraying. Administering standard feline vaccines also prevents the spread of diseases like rabies, which affect other Napa County mammals-including humans.

Eartipping is essential to the program, visually signaling that a cat has been spayed or neutered. While a cat is anesthetized for its surgery, the vet removes the distal one-quarter of a cat's ear, approximately 3/8 inch, or 1 cm, in an adult. This universally accepted method allows everyone to immediately tell-even from a distance-whether or not a cat has been neutered, thereby avoiding unnecessary trapping and additional surgeries.

Napa Humane's TNR Program

Napa Humane's TNR program provides loaner traps and advice, and makes it possible to accommodate Napa County community cats for veterinary treatment without an appointment. At our clinic in Napa, community cats are spayed/neutered and eartipped; treated for fleas and ticks with Frontline Plus®; and vaccinated for rabies, rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia (cats under the age of 3 months do not receive a rabies vaccine).  We provide all of these services for $35 per cat for Napa County residents.  

If you have a cat in a trap, you may bring him/her to the Clinic (3265 California Boulevard, Napa) on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. (with the exception of holidays). We will do our best to fit the cat into that surgery day, but, at times, we may need to hold the cat overnight and place him/her onto the next surgery day. In that case, we transfer the cat into a cage with food, water, and a litter box until surgery. For the best chance of having the cat spayed/neutered on the same day, it is best to bring the cat to the Clinic between 7:30 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. Cats going home after surgery must be picked up between 3:00 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. on the day of their surgery. 

Tips for Trapping

When it comes to trapping community cats, planning is essential to ensure both your own safety and the safety of the animals. But with the right information and techniques, it's easy to do! Read on for Napa Humane's best practices for trapping, handling trapped cats before and after surgery, and releasing other trapped wildlife.


The Place

If possible, get the cats used to being fed at the same place and time of day. This will then become the best trapping site and time.

Prepare a different, safe place where you will hold the trapped cat the night before surgery and during recovery after surgery. This space can be a garage, spare room, bathroom, or any other sheltered area that can be secured against intruders such as raccoons or people. Use plastic to protect the floor, and absorbent newspapers on top of the plastic.  Spray the area with a cat-safe flea spray ahead of time in order discourage ants.

The Trap

Buy, borrow or rent humane traps that capture an animal without hurting it. Napa Humane has some available to borrow with a small refundable deposit.

Whether traps are borrowed or your own, they should be cleaned after each use, before they are stored. Even traps that appear clean must be disinfected-the scent of the cat previously trapped may deter other cats from entering.

* Never leave a trap out where it could fall into the hands of someone who might be abusive toward a trapped cat.

* Never use nets, darts, or tranquilizer guns, which are all dangerous and stressful to cats.

The Time

Have a plan for when you will take the cat(s) for its surgery (see Napa Humane TNR Program hours, above). Plan to trap at least 10 to 12 hours before surgery. If you don't know all the cats in the area, notify neighbors either by talking to them or by posting a notice telling when you will be setting traps, and asking that people keep their own cats inside during that time.

The Lure

The key to trapping is food, of course, so try to withhold all food from the cats for 24 hours before trapping (but continue to provide water). This should make the cats hungry enough to go into the traps on trapping day… as long as everyone in the area cooperates. Ask neighbors who feed outdoors to abstain from feeding on the entire day you plan to trap.

(After you have finished trapping, do leave food for the cats who were not caught.)

The Transport

Plan ahead to make sure you can safely transport the cat in the trap. Always place the covered trap on a flat surface. If traps must be stacked inside a vehicle, be sure to secure the traps with bungee cords or other restraints so they don't topple over. Have absorbent puppy pads or newspaper on hand to place between the stacked traps, in case of accidents.

A few pro tips

1.      Place the trap near where the cats normally feed. For the safety of the cats, always place traps on flat and stable ground. If you're using multiple traps, stagger them and face them in different directions. Try to place the traps in quiet and hidden areas, so cats are more comfortable going near them.

2.      Tag the trap. Always label a trap with the location of where it was set up. Once you trap a cat, write a brief description of the cat on the tag, too. This will help the Clinic return the right cat to the right home.

3.      Prep the trap. Line the bottom of the trap with one or two pages of newspaper folded lengthwise, so that the metal floor is more comfortable for kitty paws. If you're concerned about accidentally trapping other wildlife in your area, leave the trap's back door unlatched.

4.      Bait the traps. The smellier, the better! Place about one tablespoon of bait (tuna in oil, sardines, or other strong-smelling food) at the very back of the trap so the cat will step on the trigger plate as it tries to reach the food. Drizzle a little bait juice along the trap floor toward the entrance to guide them in. You can also place a tiny bit of food (maybe ¼ teaspoon) just inside the entrance of the trap to encourage the cat to go in.

5.      Monitor and keep track of traps. Traps should never be left unattended. Check frequently from a distance, so you don't scare cats away. Keep a close eye out for trap malfunctions, in case you need to spring into action to prevent a cat from being injured. Even if you haven't heard a trap shut, check the traps at least every 30 to 45 minutes. At night, use a flashlight to check from a distance whether the trap has been sprung. When one does spring shut, a flashlight will let you see what animal you have trapped. 


A trapped cat will likely be very frightened, and thrash around trying to escape. Immediately cover the entire trap with a large towel or sheet to calm the kitty down. Secure the back door of the trap (if your trap has one), then carefully move the covered, trapped cat away to a quiet and safe area that's temperature-controlled to prevent her from scaring off any remaining un-trapped cats.

For both your and the cat's safety, don't attempt to pick the cat up, or catch her with your hands or a blanket. As sweet as the cat seems, this can all change in the blink of an eye. Being picked up is extremely stressful to a cat who isn't used to interacting with people.

If there's something other than a cat in the trap, call Napa Wildlife Rescue at 707.224.4295 or see our "NOT A CAT?" guidelines below!

What to do with Mama Cats

Especially in spring and summer, you should lift the trap and try to check the cat's belly. If the cat's nipples are enlarged, pinkish, and surrounded by a ¼-inch circle clear of fur (or with matted fur), she may be nursing kittens. If you suspect that a cat is lactating, ask the veterinarian to verify. 

Never knowingly trap a mother with kittens younger than 4-6 weeks old unless you are sure you can find and bottle-feed her kittens, as these kittens will be too young to eat on their own and may die of starvation or predators in her absence. Use infant milk-replacement and a bottle to feed them until the mother has recovered from her surgery. She can then be placed back with her kittens in a large cage or small room until the kittens are old enough to eat on their own (and be spayed or neutered themselves, of course). 

While the mother cat is at the vet's, check her trapping area for crying or hidden kittens.  If they are under 4 weeks old, you may be able to capture them fairly easily. Older kittens will be easier to trap if the previously captured mom is left, covered, with a second trap placed beside her. However, be sure never to leave the "bait" animal unattended, or where it may be harmed by other predators, such as raccoons, or by people.  Be careful not to let the "bait" cat escape: double-check the trap doors.

If you are not able to rescue the kittens, let the vet know you will need to pick up the mother cat and release her that same day. That evening, as soon as she is awake and alert, release her exactly where you trapped her.


After surgery, allow the cat to recover overnight in the trap or hard-sided carrier. Keep the cat in its trap or carrier and make sure he/she is dry and away from loud noises or dangers such as toxic fumes, other animals, or people. When a cat is recovering from anesthesia, he/she is unable to regulate their body temperature, so it is extremely important that the recovery location is temperature-controlled.

Check on the cat often to make sure s/he is recovering; keep an eye out for bleeding and illness. If a cat is vomiting, bleeding, having difficulty breathing, or not waking up, get veterinary assistance immediately.

Unless the vet tells you otherwise, a cat must be held at least until the morning after surgery, or longer if their recovery speed is slower. Make sure the cat is fully conscious, clear-eyed, and alert before letting them go free. In some cases, females may need 48 hours of recovery, depending on their specific circumstances. You may return a nursing mother cat to her kittens as soon as possible, however, once she completely regains consciousness.

Release the cat in the same place you trapped him/her. Do not be concerned if the cat hesitates a few moments before leaving the crate/trap. S/he is simply reorienting to the surroundings. It is not uncommon for a cat to "disappear" for a few days after being returned. Resume any regular feeding schedule, and continue to provide food and water-the cat may be eating when you are not around.

Not a cat?
What to do if you trap wildlife

If you trap at night, there is always the possibility of trapping other wildlife. These animals are protected by the department of Fish and Game, and by law, should never be relocated to another area. Relocating a wild animal even just a few miles away can cause serious risk to the animal and other animals in the area.

Anyone who traps wildlife is responsible for ensuring that as little harm as possible is caused when releasing the animal from the trap. We urge everyone to be compassionate and cautious. Do not release the animal if it appears to be sick or badly injured. Call Napa Wildlife Rescue at 707.224.4295.

If you are comfortable with wildlife and find a raccoon, skunk, opossum, or rat inside your cat trap, the following suggestions may be useful.  However, if you are not comfortable releasing the animal on your own, please contact Napa Wildlife Rescue.

If you choose to release a wild animal and it bites you, DO NOT release it from the trap. Contact animal services at 707.253.4517. They will remove the trap and have the animal tested for rabies. This is a public service and will be done at no cost to you.


The most common wild animals that find their way into our cat traps are raccoons. Raccoons are strong, smart and aggressive creatures.

To release a raccoon from traps with back doors, stand on the opposite side of the trap to lift the door up, then slowly back away. You can use binder clips to support the back door handle so it is ready to grab, and a long dowel or lightweight pipe to grab under the handle and lift up the door. You may want to practice this first.

To release a raccoon from traps without back doors: NEVER use your hands to lift the trap door to release a raccoon or any other wild animal. Get a rope, dog leash, thin belt, or even a rolled up plastic bag to thread through the finger grip at the bottom of the trap door. Hold both ends of the rope in one hand, with the other hand push in the top of the trap door. Pull back on the rope as you step backwards (behind the trap) to lift the door.

As soon as you open the door, the raccoon will shoot out straight ahead. It wants to get away from you and the trap as fast as possible, so just like releasing a cat, you want to first point the trap toward bushes where it can run and hide-never towards traffic.

Rats, mice, etc.

Release these critters as you would a raccoon, standing behind the trap.


Opossums mean no harm. They will hiss at you like a cat and show you their fifty teeth, but that's about it. Opossums are released in the same manner as raccoons.

Sometimes an opossum will get its jaws caught in the trap or play dead. If they bite at the cage in an attempt to escape, their narrow upper and lower jaws might push through the spaces between the cage wires. If they open their mouth a little wider while pulling back, their jaws will get stuck. Often the opossum's struggling just makes it worse. The animal will dehydrate quicker because its mouth is open. It is unlikely you will be able to shake the possum out of the trap by turning it on one end. If an opossum is stuck and you are unable to release him, please call Napa Wildlife Rescue at 707.224.4295.


Skunks are reasonable creatures. Don't surprise them and they will work with you. Here are two methods:

1. Approach the trapped skunk slowly and talk to it gently. Talking is mandatory! Skunks have poor eyesight and will need to know your position through your voice. Take a few steps and stop, take a few more steps and stop. Speak softly to the skunk and always MOVE SLOWLY.

If the skunk gets nervous, it will give you a "pre-spray" warning by stamping its front feet. You can't miss it, it's NOT subtle. If this happens, STAND STILL. After the skunk calms down in 15 seconds or so, you can continue to move forward. Keep talking gently. Release the skunk as you would a raccoon. When it's over, you will feel a rush of victory!

2. If the above method is too scary for you, try this one. The chances of the skunk spraying are greater, but you will feel more protected.  Cut head and arm holes in a large plastic garbage bag and pull it over your clothes. Get a blanket (best) or LARGE towel and saturate with water. SLOWLY walk towards the trap with the blanket held up in front of you like a shield.

Talk to the skunk. Slowly and gently drape the blanket over the trap. Then release the skunk from the trap. The wet blanket will do a good job of absorbing skunk spray, if any.

Here's a recipe to neutralize skunk spray, just in case:

1 gallon water
1 quart hydrogen peroxide 3%*
¼ cup baking soda
1 good squirt Dawn or equivalent (about 1-2 teaspoons)

Mix ingredients together in a bucket when needed, then rub on affected area and leave for one to ten minutes. Rinse off with water.

Do not make and store this recipe in advance. The mix causes a mild chemical reaction and the expanding gases could burst the container.

*Hydrogen peroxide may cause bleaching. You can substitute white vinegar for a slightly less effective remedy.

PART TWO: Humane Neighbors

Some people love having cats around and take great joy in feeding and caring for them.  But others don't appreciate their company, and want them to give their homes a wide berth. There are simple things we can do together to ensure a peaceful coexistence. 

Below are humane tips for both groups of people, designed to minimize the negative impact of community cats on our community health, environment and well-being.


There are several humane ways to discourage cats from visiting and disturbing your property:

  • Cover all trash cans tightly.
  • Install an ultrasonic animal repellent or a motion-activated water sprinkler like CatStop™ or ScareCrow™.
  • Physically block or seal locations that cats are entering with chicken wire or lattice. Double-check that no cats or kittens will be trapped inside.
  • Participate in Napa Humane's Trap-Neuter-Return Program! Spaying/neutering helps to resolve and reduce many irritating cat behaviors, such as yowling, fighting and spraying.

 To keep cats away from gardens, flower beds, or specific areas of property, scatter fragrant items that don't appeal to a cat's sense of smell, such as:

  • fresh orange or lemon peels, organic citrus-scented sprays
  • coffee grounds
  • vinegar
  • pipe tobacco
  • oil of lavender, lemongrass, citronella, or eucalyptus
  • the herb rue

To discourage digging in your gardens, landscaping or flower beds:

  • Use plastic carpet runners, spiked-side up and covered lightly in soil, in gardens, flower beds, and other landscaping.
  • Set chicken wire firmly into the dirt with sharp edges rolled under.
  • Arrange branches in lattice-type patterns or use actual lattice fencing material over soil.
  • Embed wooden chopsticks, pine cones, or sticks with dull points deep into the soil with the tops exposed eight inches apart.
  • Pick up some Cat Scat™ plastic mats to press into the soil. The mats have flexible plastic spikes that are harmless to cats and other animals.
  • Cover exposed ground in flower beds with large (and attractive) river rocks.

You can combat cat urine smell by spraying the area thoroughly with white vinegar or products using natural enzymes, such as Nature's Miracle®, Fizzion Pet Stain & Odor Remover®, or Simple Solution®. This also helps to repel cats from the area.


If you or your neighbors are feeding the cats, try to be sure it's on a regular schedule each day. This will ensure that the cats are well-fed and won't search the neighborhood or the wilderness for their next meal. In addition, only leave the amount of food that a cat would eat in a single feeding. Food shouldn't be left out all day in order to avoid attracting other wildlife or insects.

The following tips will also help ensure the cats are tended humanely with minimum disruption to our environment:

1.     Build a Feeding Station

Providing food and water in a private, calm, and safe location may reduce the likelihood of cats bothering neighbors.  The ideal feeding station will have a raised floor to deter bugs, and a slanted roof to keep the food and the cats safe from the elements.  Don't feed near high-traffic areas, where they sleep, or where they typically relieve themselves.

And remember, keep it clean!  Remove all garbage and leftover food every day to keep the feeding area sanitary and unobtrusive, and doesn't attract wildlife.

2.     Provide Outdoor Shelters

Shelters located on your property, or other agreed upon property will encourage cats to remain in that area, rather than venture onto other properties where their presence is not appreciated.  The more hidden these shelters are, the more comfortable the cats will be to use them.  A dog house, Igloo, or homemade house that is about 2ft by 3ft and 18 in high is an ideal shelter for up to five cats. Shelters should be placed in secluded areas far from areas they aren't welcomed.

3.     Provide Clean Outdoor Litter Boxes

Strategically placed outdoor litter boxes that are regularly cleaned make cats far less likely to use neighbors' yards and gardens for elimination.

To build an outdoor litter box, you simply need a frame of four low walls that are the appropriate height for the cats in the area (kittens need lower walls so they can crawl in and out easily). Don't worry about building a bottom for the litter box because you will need to allow for drainage. Be strategic in placing your box, and opt for areas that cats typically frequent. Choose a location that is quiet and sheltered. 

Fill the box with sandbox sand that you find at most hardware stares. Don't use conventional litter, which absorbs water and will be ruined by the weather. You only need enough sand in the litter box for the cats to dig comfortably. If cats are not using the box at first, sprinkle some Dr. Elsey's Cat Attract (found on, which is an herbal attractant with a scent that cats love.

Keep litter box areas as clean as possible to ensure the cats will continue to use them. All litter boxes must be scooped regularly to reduce odors and keep flies away.

4.     Keep Tabs on the Kitties

Feeding time is a great opportunity to take stock of the health of our community cats, and to identify new cats in the area.  Sick or injured cats should be humanely trapped and taken to the veterinarian for care, and any new cats (without an ear tip) should be trapped, spayed/neutered, and returned.

Remember: community cats are our responsibility. We all need to do our part.


Adapted from Alley Cat Allies.  All rights reserved.