Catching and Handling of Felis silvestris - Wild cat (Wildlife Casualty Management)

Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / UK Wildlife Casualty Management / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords N.B. This information should be read in association with Wildlife Casualty Handling and Transport which contains background information together with links to the Electronic Library and Organisations (UK Contacts). The related Species pages contain similar linkages.
Description This page has been prepared for the "UK Wildlife: First Aid and Care" Wildpro module, and is designed for the needs of the following species: Felis silvestris - Wild cat
  • Wild cats should only be handled by experienced personnel as they can inflict serious bites and scratches.

Catching and Initial Handling:

  • A strong net may be used to catch and restrain wild cats in an enclosed area.
    • Once in the net an adult cats(unless collapsed/severely shocked) must be sedated before being removed from the net. Alternatively it may be possible to transfer it directly into a suitable cage.
    • See: Catching Using Hand-held Nets
    • (V.w6)
  • Darting may be required for initial capture; blow darts may also be useful for sedation of cats within an enclosure.
  • A dog grasper may be used, with the noose placed around the neck and one front leg.
    • Great care must be taken to ensure the cat does not damage itself severely whist struggling (e.g. strangling or spine damage).(V.w6)
  • Scruffing of adults is not recommended due to the likelihood of these animals to struggle fiercely.
  • Kittens, depending on age/demeanour may be caught and lifted by the scruff, or wrapped in a suitable cloth such as a towel or canvas.
  • (B123, B151)

Restraint for examination and treatment:

  • Kittens may be held with hands or wrapped in a suitable piece of cloth, depending on age/demeanour.
  • A crush cage is suitable for restraint e.g. to allow subcutaneous or intramuscular injections.
  • Use of a net may allow sufficient restraint for e.g. intramuscular injections and a basic examination.
  • Sedation or general anaesthesia is likely to be required for adequate restraint of adults for thorough examination and treatment.

General Anaesthesia and Sedation:

General Information:

  • Combination of intramuscular medetomidine and ketamine is commonly used for general anaesthesia in small and zoo animal practice in the UK; extrapolation of dose rates for companion animals from the manufacturers recommendations may be appropriate. Manufacturer's recommendations for feline general anaesthesia include "[Medetomidine] Domitor [Pfizer Limited] should be administered at a rate of 80mcg/kg [intramuscular] with a concomitant dose of 2.5 - 7.5mg/kg [intramuscular] of Vetalar [Pharmacia and Upjohn Ltd.] or Ketaset [Fort Dodge Animal Health](ketamine)." (B202) In extrapolating dose rates a number of issues must be remembered:
    • higher dose rates may be required for very nervous / excited / agressive animals who may initially over-ride the effects of anaesthesia
    • smaller animals with a higher metabolic rate may require proportionally higher dose rates; the reverse is also usually true for larger animals
    • collapsed, shock and/or dehydrate animals may required lower dose rates
      (V.w6, V.w26)
    • Sometimes there may be a requirement for additional "top-up" doses of injectable anaesthetics (V.w6, V.w26) and the following should be considered:
      • ideally, if a mask can be applied without excessive stress on the animal, masking it down with either isoflurane or halothane is usually the best option.
      • it is not desirable to reach the situation where additional doses are being given in order to reach initial stable anaesthesia whilst the first drugs are wearing off. It is all too easy to overdose in this situation. If three injections are not effective - if possible, it is highly advisable to stop the procedure, allow the anaesthesia to wear off and then repeat the procedure at a later date using higher doses initially.
      • when increasing dosages, careful consideration should be given both the side-effects of the drugs and the availability of reversal agents
      • If an intravenous injection can be given, it may allow more control over the depth of anaesthesia
      • if a top-up dose is required, the following rule of thumb is recommended:
  1. If there is little effect on the animal after 15 minutes (it is alert and reponsive), give a second full dose
  2. If the animal is clearly affected but still active after 15 minutes, give a 3/4 dose.
  3. If there is some degree of anaethesia, but a deeper level is required, give 1/2 dose.
  4. Beyond that - use best judgement.

(V.w6, V.w26)

 Suggested protocols for sedation and general anaesthesia include:

  • A combination of medetomidine and ketamine intramuscular may be used at the same dose per unit body weight as for a domestic cat. For a healthy animal the upper end of the dose rate interval may be appropriate. (V.w5, V.w6, V.w26)
  • Ketamine 5-10mg/kg bodyweight, intramuscular - may be sufficient for short-term restraint and brief examinations.(B10.48.w29)
    • Further doses may be given intravenously to prolong sedation.(B10.48.w29)
  • Combination of ketamine with a sedative (e.g. benzodiazepine, alpha-2 agonist) is generally preferable to the use of ketamine alone. (V.w5, V.w6, V.w26)
  • The effects of medetomidine are normally reversed by injection of the agent atipamezole, unless otherwise indicated. (V.w5, V.w6, V.w26)
  • Ketamine may be combined with xylazine (0.5-1.0mg/kg bodyweight) or with diazepam (0.1-0.5mg/kg bodyweight) for longer anaesthesia. [Route not specified in reference].
  • Inhalant anaesthetics such as halothane and isoflurane may be used to maintain or prolong general anaesthesia.
  • Intubation of cats is straightforward and recommended during general anaesthesia.
  • The length of starvation prior to induction of general anaesthesia should be appropriate for the species in question and the likelihood of regurgitation. Clinical judgement should be used as to the pros and cons of starvation in an emergency situation.

(B10.48.w29, B123, B151)

  • In some situations, particularly where an animal can be easily targeted, it may greatly decrease the stress of capture by darting the animal rather that physical capture and then using hand-injection. In using darting techniques, the following points must be remembered:
    • The size of needle, volume and viscosity of the fluid and the amount of power used to project the dart should be appropriate to the size of the muscle mass and thickness of the skin. The use of inappropriate equipment and materials can cause serious damage to the animal.
    • Darting should only be undertaken by experienced personnel holding the requisite UK firearms licence.


Appropriate Use (?)
  • Catch only if necessary.
  • Handling of wild animals should be minimised.
  • Consider design of accommodation and timing of treatments to minimise requirements for capture and handling.
  • Consider whether physical or chemical restraint is more appropriate.
  • Wild cats are considerably stronger and more difficult to restrain physically than are feral domestic cats.
  • Wide-gauntlet long gauntlets/welder's gloves provide protection against severe scratching, although minimal protection against bites. N.B. loss of dexterity must always be remembered when thick protective gloves are worn.
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Can inflict severe injuries with teeth and claws.(B123, B151)
  • Scruffing of adults is not recommended due to the strength of these animals.(B151)
  • The strength and ferocity which may be displayed by a wild cat must be remembered and respected at all times.
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Nets, if used, should have a mesh sufficiently small to prevent the paws or head being poked through the holes.
  • Wide-gauntleted welder's gloves.
  • Dog grasper.
  • Squeeze cage.
Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • Experience is important for the safe catching and handling of wild cats; persons who are inexperienced should seek appropriate expert advice and assistance.
Cost/ Availability
  • Appropriate nets, gauntlets, dog grasper, squeeze cages may be available from specialist suppliers or veterinary suppliers; some of these items may be relatively expensive.
  • Some drugs used for chemical restraint are expensive.
  • Drugs used for chemical restraint may only be available to veterinary surgeons or other licensed persons.
Legal and Ethical Considerations
  • Risks to human health, both physical and risks of zoonotic illness, must be considered (Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974).
  • Felis silvestris - Wild cat is listed on Schedule 5 and Schedule 6 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It is an offence (Section 9) to "take" i.e. capture any animal on Schedule 5 of this Act. However, there is an exception (under Section 10) for a disabled animal which is taken "solely for the purpose of tending it and releasing it when no longer disabled." (W5.Jan01) It is an offence (Section 11) to "take" (i.e. capture) any animal on Schedule 6 using a variety of methods (snares, traps etc.) including "any net". (W5.Jan01)
  • See: Legislation relating to Wildlife Casualties.
Author Debra Bourne
Referee Becki Lawson and Suzanne Boardman

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