How To Catch a Cat With a Towel

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Catching a skittish cat can be a tricky endeavor. A towel can be an essential piece of equipment for cat owners in these cases.

Minimizing stress to the cat and keeping handlers safe are both essential whether you are helping a feral or stray cat that needs medical attention, an injured or fearful cat that is resisting handling, or looking for a safe way to hold your cat while doing routine care.

Quick Overview


A towel is a handy piece of equipment for skittish cats, as it protects the handler from scratches and bites while also providing safe restraint and reassurance to the cat.


Handleable cats can be placed onto a towel and then wrapped securely for medicating, examination, and basic needs such as nail clipping.


Feral and stray cats can be caught using the towel drop method and then transferred, if necessary, into a carrier or trap for transport.

Using a towel is an excellent alternative to a trap, and the “cat burrito” method is a safe way to restrain an injured or frightened animal.

Why Might You Need a Towel

If you must restraint your cat, using a towel makes things easier and safer for you and your cat.

Cats like to interact on their own terms and can find handling and restraint very stressful. Cats have strong survival instincts, and a captured cat in a confined space with no exit can become fearful, agitated, and even aggressive.

Using a towel for restraint serves multiple purposes. It can protect the handler from bites and scratches, minimizing the risk of injury and even the transference of infectious diseases. This is achieved both by the thick material of the towel providing adequate protection against the cat’s teeth and claws and also in the restraint of the cat to limit its movements.

The restriction also benefits the trapped animal, as it can prevent further damage to injuries such as broken limbs. This method of restraint is also fairly stress-free for cats, compared to a carrier or trap, and can allow for more hands-on examination and action, such as giving medication.

Also Read: Will Cats Fake A Limp For Sympathy?

When To Use Towel Restraint

Gently restraining your cat with a towel makes it easier to give medication, trim their nails, or brush their teeth.

Only restrain, capture, and hold cats when necessary for their health and well-being. Some cats will tolerate examinations, medicating, grooming, and other necessary care without restraint. Others might move, wriggle, agitate, or become stressed, and need some method of gentle restraint. Feral cats might need more specialist equipment for restraint than just a towel, but it can be an effective method.

Common reasons to employ the cat burrito method include:

  • Giving medications such as tablets, oral liquids, eye drops, or ear drops
  • Checking a cat for a suspected injury or wound
  • Necessary hygiene and maintenance such as nail trims, grooming matted areas, and tooth brushing
  • Restraining a stray or feral cat that requires attention, if a trap is not available or is undesirable

Also Read: How To Care For Feral Cats: 4 Tips For Happy, Healthy Ferals

Catching a Cat With a Towel: A Step-By-Step Guide

This technique will vary depending on whether the cat is handleable at all, so we will go through two separate methods.

The Cat Burrito

Being wrapped in a towel can help nervous cats feel safer and more secure.

If the cat is handleable and just needs some extra reassurance and restraint for a certain procedure, then the cat burrito is an excellent technique. Always use a quiet area, and get your timing right so your cat is relaxed and accessible.

  1. Gather the tools, medications, or supplies ready for whatever you need to do once the cat is restrained.
  2. Lay out a large, thick towel on a flat surface such as a table. Position the towel in a horizontal position.
  3. Pick up the cat and place in the middle of the towel. Always approach a cat slowly and quietly, perhaps with a tasty treat such as some cat food, or a catnip toy.
  4. If you cannot pick up the cat, try luring them onto the towel using highly scented food such as tuna or sardines as bait, or an enticing toy such as a dangling feather.
  5. Place your hands on the cat’s neck and back, exerting very gentle pressure to persuade them to lie down. Do not force them if they prefer to stay sitting!
  6. With one hand on the cat, take the upper right-hand corner of the towel (near the cat’s head rather than rump), and bring it over their body, wrapping it around so that only their head is left out.
  7. Make sure the tail and paws are comfortably tucked inside the towel.
  8. Swap hands, take the top left-hand corner of the towel, and wrap it over the cat’s body the other way.
  9. Pull the towel across the cat’s body during steps 6 and 8—not too tightly to be uncomfortable, but enough that the cat is restrained from wriggling around.
  10. Lift the cat and wrap any remaining towel around their body.
  11. Hold the towel-encased cat close to your body for safe restraint.
  12. If you need a certain body part exposed, such as a paw, leave the needed limb out of the wrapping process rather than trying to extract it after you have completed the burrito.

Many cats tolerate this method well. Always remember to stay calm and handle the cat gently, and do not use excessive force. Pair the technique with plenty of treats and praise, especially if you will repeat this procedure many times, for example, if your cat needs ongoing medication.

Also Read: What To Do If You Accidentally Step On Your Cat

Catching a Wild Animal

For cats that don’t want to be handled, move quickly and take care to protect yourself from claws and teeth.

A towel can also be a vital piece of equipment when dealing with cats that are totally unused to being handled. Care must always be taken in these circumstances, and a trap may be more appropriate in some cases.

If you need to catch a feral or stray cat, timing is essential. The cat is likely to be most active at dawn and dusk. The best times to catch a cat tend to be around the cat’s normal feeding time when they are most likely to be hungry. Using food as bait, such as chicken or tuna, can help entice the cat to a good location. Wear long-sleeved clothing as a precaution, as a towel is not a fail-safe protection.

Approach the cat slowly and cautiously. Wilder cats are often extremely wary of people. When close enough, drop a large towel down on top of them. You can then pick up the cat and wrap the towel securely around them. This move must be made quickly, as the cat will likely struggle to escape initially.

Once the cat is restrained in the towel, examine, medicate, and release them fairly quickly so they do not become too distressed. If the cat requires further attention, such as for a trap-neuter-release program, veterinary attention, or surgery at a clinic, look for a more suitable restraint method.

A towel-restrained cat can be transferred into a cat carrier, or even into a trap, either through the rear door or through the entrance of the trap. If no carrier is available, a cardboard box is suitable for a short period.

Also Read: How To Tell Which Cat Is Dominant

Catching a Cat With a Towel: Final Thoughts

A towel restraint is a helpful tool anyone can use when providing routine care.

The humble towel is an underestimated tool for handling recalcitrant, nervous, or uncooperative cats. Those that are merely skittish or wriggly can be gently restrained for routine procedures by careful wrapping, and even cats that are totally unused to being handled can be caught and carefully restrained using this method. A towel is not a fail-safe, either in terms of capture or for handler safety, but it can be a useful and efficient tool if used correctly.

Also Read: Why Do Cats Play With Their Prey?

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you grab a cat with a towel?

Skittish cats that are able to be handled can be placed onto a towel and then wrapped in a burrito fashion for restraint. Feral cats can be caught by quickly dropping a towel onto them, then picking them up and wrapping a towel around their body and limbs.

Can you catch a feral cat with a towel?

Yes, if you can approach close enough to a feral cat you can drop a towel onto them, then pick them up quickly and wrap the towel around them. Other options include a carrier with food inside or a trap.

What is the fastest way to catch a stray cat?

If you have a towel or blanket handy, you can catch a stray cat by dropping the towel onto them and then picking them up and wrapping them in it. If you cannot get close enough to do this, or it is not safe, then a trap or carrier with food in it is also an option.

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About Dr. Lizzie Youens BSc (Hons) BVSc MRCVS

Lizzie has worked in companion animal practice for over ten years, in a variety of roles from small rural branch surgeries to large hospital environments. She also enjoys reading, gardening and spending time with her young daughters. She covers cat behavior, nutrition, health, and other topics for

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