A drop trap is a lightweight frame covered with netting - made to catch feral cats. It is propped up on one side with a stick, and food is placed in the back. The trapper stands at a distance, holding a string attached to the stick. When the cats are eating, the trapper pulls the string, allowing the trap to drop, capturing the cats inside. The trapper immediately covers the drop trap with a blanket to calm the cat(s).
The transfer: The cats are easily transferred into traditional box (wire) traps for transport. A box trap is placed door-to-door with the covered drop trap. The box trap is also covered (top and sides only) to make it appear to be an exit tunnel. When the matching guillotine-style doors are raised, the cats discover the “exit” and move into the box trap, for secure transport to the vet!
A drop trap is a lightweight frame covered with netting - made to catch feral cats. It is propped up on one side with a stick, and food is placed in the back. The trapper stands at a distance, holding a string attached to the stick. When the cats are eating, the trapper pulls the string, allowing the trap to drop, capturing the cats inside. The trapper immediately covers the drop trap with a blanket to calm the cat(s).
Drop traps SAVE TIME!
Most cats don’t recognize that it’s a trap, and will walk right in. Are you trying (and trying!) to trap cats who just snicker at you? Think they’re “too smart”? With a drop trap, you will most likely be able to trap every cat that shows up. Just reset the trap and they will keep coming.
You can often catch more than one cat at a time (SEVEN is the current record - a Florida mom and 6 kittens). Imagine the time and angst that are saved!
You won’t have to starve all the cats for several days to catch a few. We generally feed a normal breakfast, just picking up the leftovers, when trapping at suppertime.
You are in control of the trap!
This means that you can prioritize baby-maker females, pregnant cats or kittens to stop reproduction NOW. Or, handle the opposite situation: trap the newcomer when everyone else is 'done'!
Catch sick or injured cats. Re-trap “trap-shy” cats if necessary.
Use the fact that cats copy one another to your advantage. Suspicious cats see their friends eating from the trap – and are lured in as well – even if you captured their friends!
Michelle F in MA:
...The target cat was a very skittish female who was very pregnant. My friend set up the drop trap and walked back to the car for the food/bait. As she did that, the cat went under the trap to investigate... My friend yanked the stick and got her without ever adding food! Not bad for a morning out!
Jan P in NC:
I am so impressed! I have been trying for years to figure out how to make a drop trap that is easily transported. I have been doing TNR for over 10 years and this is one of the greatest things I have seen for trapping cats. We had a foster cat escape the foster home and the cat would not go in a regular trap and would only come within a few feet of the foster mom. We caught the cat within 15 minutes of setting up the drop trap.
Siobhan T in FL:
We had never trapped before and we were really nervous. ... On the first try, we got Momma and 6 kittens. I think we broke your record of 6 cats stated on your blog!
... We then got [the 2 remaining] kittens the same way. Even though one kitten had previously been trapped and gotten away, she had no problem going back into the trap.
...We helped someone else tonight catch 2 cats behind their house using the same drop trap. This lady had never trapped before and she was surprised how easy it was.
Thanks so much for designing this. I'm going to recommend it to anyone I know who traps as it really is an easier and more effective method.
Amy in New Jersey:
Thanks to your instructions on how to build the droptrap, this morning I was able to trap a pregnant cat that had eluded me for 2 months. I had rescued her first litter in May and since then had been trying to catch her with a traditional box trap that she would have nothing to do with. I can't tell you how relieved I am and also very excited toknow that I will be able to help other people trap elusive ferals.. I thank you! (Way to go, Amy!!)
Denise, in Delaware:
i borrowed one of your wonderful traps and caught a hard to get feral that was injured. it worked fabulously! thank you for coming up with such an ingenious design. i cannot wait to get my very own....
(and, after she got her own)...i have gotten some of the most difficult cats this way. also is good for trapping in areas where alot of cats are already done b/c you can still feed them and then get the one you want. it seems so cruel to starve an entire colony for just a hand full of cats that you are after. it is a valuable tool. plus love how it folds up. the ones that i used before were horses and difficult to manage.
Lois in NY:
...We were successful - we did 12 cats the weekend of Mar 17th - 2 of the elusive ones - were caught using our new drop trap! Thanks!
Katharine, in Philadelphia:
...my new drop trap IS AMAZING!!!!! i cannot think of a way to thank you enough! i am so blown away, i don't think i can go back to my hav-a-harts! i know you told me not to in the video & paperwork, but i went after the hard one (also the baby factory) on the first try AND CAUGHT HER!!! AND IT TURNS OUT SHE WAS NEWLY PREGNANT! i also caught a kitten and an injured male. the best money i have ever spent! and yes, i am telling all my feral catching friends, so don't be surprised to get another order from the philly area!
Laura in Florida:
My friend and I are caregivers to 3 colonies of ferals in our little town here in Florida...we have done this for 4 years now and have spayed/neutered over 300 cats and found homes for about 200....anyway....we borrowed a drop trap from another organization last evening and were immediately able to trap a cat that had eluded our conventional trap for months. Wow were we impressed and happy ! !
I think we will go ahead and build our own starting with a trip to Home Depot today....it will be a fun Spring Project ! !
Diane in SF, California, who built her own (non-folding) trap:
Word of my droptrap's success rate got around and some people who had unsuccessfully tried to trap sick, wounded, or trap savvy ferals, called me; that started a two-month trapping streak that "netted" 57 cats. The most I had ever trapped before was 111 in a year, so the trap literally became a magic trap. That didn't count the numbers who were already fixed or got away.
....within five minutes, I had five six-month olds all directly under the trap and got them all. It was such a thrill! Thanks for getting me back into trapping without breaking my back. I had to give it up because trapping one at a time was so backbreaking, time consuming, and nerve-wracking!
Linda, in Florida:
I would like information on your drop trap. One of your traps was used to catch a cat that had evaded any kind of trap for many years!
Jeanette in NY:
I have worked with a borrowed drop trap and in one weekend trapped two feral males that I have been trying to trap and neuter for over a year. This trap is great for trap smart and shy cats.
Denise, in Illinois:
...I am a volunteer for a cat rescue group in the suburbs of Chicago. Recently, we were helped by the Chicagoland Strays group while we were working with a colony in our area. Their volunteer had brought a drop trap, and we caught three cats in one morning. We're usually lucky if we get one a week with a 'regular' trap!
Anyway, I'd like to order two.
Sue, in Nevada:
...just wanted to let you know the drop trap is wonderful! I got a cat last week with it that would have nothing to do with the box traps. Please let your dad know it is a work of art!
Susan, in New York:
...I bought a Fold-O-Matic trap from you Saturday at the Feral Cat Summit. I used it Sunday & Monday nights and was 100% successful. I built one based on the alley cat allies plan and have used it successfully for the past 2 years but yours is so much more user friendly. I love it!
- Use a workaround: See "The Trick" to re-train a trap-savvy cat to go into a box trap, and to pick out just the cat you want by controlling the trap door using a prop-stick and string. This is a great technique to know.
- Borrow one: see the drop trap map above - there may be a drop trap in your area, you may be able to borrow it. Drop trap owners are high-volume trappers, and they're great cat-people! Contact me for assistance, if the contact info for private individuals is not listed.
Lisa has devised a folding PVC trap, and (oh, by the way) has devoloped a remote control box trap!She is not interested in building drop traps commercially, but will consult on design issues.
If you're interested in buying the remote control box trap, it might be available, for a price (around $250, most likely).
Consider using "The Trick", described here to train the cat to go into a box trap, and if necessary, to control the trap door using a propstick and string.
How to build a Drop Trap
This is a non-folding, homemade drop trap (2 different netting options). It requires basic woodworking skills, some handiness, and tools (drill, circular saw) to make. Folding traps are heavier (19 pounds versus 12 pounds, and also less weatherproof - this means you can't leave them in place for several days, when you have the misfortune to meet the rare cat who won't come near it). Folding traps take more advanced woodworking skills to make, so I don't provide instructions, but you can download detailed photo's and a supplier list, and I'm happy to answer questions (email@example.com).
How it works A wooden frame, covered by netting or mesh is propped up on one side. Food is placed in the center-back. The trapper stands at a distance, and when the cats are inside, pulls on the string attached to the prop-stick, allowing the trap to drop, capturing the cats. The drop trap is then covered with a blanket, and a box trap is placed in front of the door. The box trap is covered (top and sides only) to make it appear to be a tunnel/exit, and the matching guillotine-style doors are opened. Each cat is securely transferred to a box trap, for transport to the vet.
Design and construction Dimensions are 3’Wx3’Dx14”H. The prop stick is 14-16” long. These dimensions work well. I just discovered that the folding trap is 36" wide but 32" front to back, never missed those four inches.
A smaller trap might work with a shorter prop stick (cats back up fast when trap starts to drop, so trap must be down by the time they reach the front of it).
The frame is constructed of “strapping” for light weight and rounded edges. This trap is built to be light rather than sturdy.
There’s a ¾” plywood hinged flap (carpeted for traction) attached to the back on which is placed an anchor weight (a bucket of bricks) – this allows the trap itself to be light enough not to crush a cat or kitten, to be carried easily, and also stabilizes and anchors the trap.
The door is constructed of ¼” sanded underlayment plywood, 7”Wx18”H, and the slides for it are straight-grained fir tongue-and-groove flooring, ripped in half.
Directions:1) cut 8 pieces of "strapping" (1x3's with rounded edges) 3 feet long.
2) cut 5 pieces 14" long.
3) rip a 32” piece of 3” tongue and groove fir flooring in half. cut the “groove” side in half.
(these are door slides)
4) cut a piece of 1/8" or 1/4" plywood for a door (shd be opaque), around 7" x 16"
5) cut a piece of 3/4" plywood, around 10" x 18" (anchor flap) - you can use 1/2" ply if you will paint or varnish it.
6) construct two rectangles out of 2 long, 2 short pieces of strapping, these are the front and back frames. Use 5/8" or 1" drywall screws, as appropriate.
Attach them together with the remaining long pieces, so that you have a frame about 3 feet square.
7) sand the frame really well - watch out for screws poking through, splinters, rough surfaces.
8) cover frame with netting. Don't use staples! lash the netting in one piece neatly to the frame with nylon string or rope. You'll need about 6' x 6'. I like athletic (golf cage) netting best, altho you can use deer netting, or any kind of plastic fencing (but line with deer netting, for strength). You want a barrier that is strong, VISIBLE to the panicked cat, and relatively soft - ie, NOT chickenwire or hardware cloth.
If you use athletic netting, you can use 3/8" dowels threaded through to speed assembly (lash the dowels to the frame).
9) Assemble door and slides, and fasten near a corner of the frame. line up one slide with the corner vertical. At this point you should cut the netting in a T shape - up the center of where the door opening will be. You'll need to wrap the cut netting around the frame and secure the netting some how, or other. You can use staples as long as the cat won't be able to get at them.
A 14" piece of strapping placed behind the outer door slide (the side away from the corner can be used to wrap that side of the netting.)
You can use two 2" screws per slide - one through the top of the frame, and one through the bottom.
10) Cut a piece of carpet and glue to bottom of anchor flap. Use T-strap hinges (light duty) to fasten the anchor flap to the opposite side and corner (from the door) of the frame. Watch that screws don't come through!
11) install a cabinet knob on the door.
12) Cut a paddle for string out of 1/4" plywood. Use scrap fir flooring for prop stick (15").
13) Give yourself about 60 feet of mason's line (as heavy as possible - the fluorescent stuff stretches like mad when wet - an undesirable characteristic).
The cover should be VISIBLE to create a visual barrier. This prevents the cat from putting everything he has into getting through. Ideally it should also be soft to bang into, and very strong.
The best material with all these attributes, is athletic netting, with a one inch mesh. We buy it online. It's also the most expensive, naturally, but you can often buy the exact size you need (about 6' x 6'). It's more difficult to work with than the rigid materials. We buy it cut to size from Gourock.com - #12 thread, 1" diamond mesh. It costs around $15.
Next best is the green landscape fencing sold at home stores (see pic on left, above). I used a trap for a long time with this netting before a cat got through it. You can double this with a layer of "deer netting", also sold in home stores. This is a very strong polyethilene netting, but it has the fault of being almost invisible. Combining the two covers all the bases.
The photo top left has deer netting on top, and "debris netting" (from a construction materials place) which is a non-rippable knitted product. The debris netting is very strong, and soft to bang into - but I thought the cats felt too safe inside and I couldn't poke them with a stick to get them to leave because the mesh is so fine. I replaced the top panel with deer netting so they'd feel more exposed and I could poke them if I needed to. Combining the two materials made the trap heavy.
Orange 'safety fencing' is NOT strong enough on its own, but can be combined with a layer of deer netting. Just cable-tie the two layers together.
Make a prop stick out of 14-16" of the unused half of tongue-and-groove fir flooring (used for making the door slides), and round the bottom end so it won't jam when pulled, and L-notch the top end. Cut out a paddle (to hold the string) from the 1/4" sanded plywood (for lightness).
String PaddleThe paddle looks like a ping-pong paddle with a waist - it has a spool shape, with a handle. It's cut out of 1/4" plywood, well sanded, for lightness. The cord is from Home Depot, 75 feet - not fluorescent mason's line - it's too stretchy when wet.
Fastening the coverThe cover should NOT be stapled onto the frame (staples will rust, and might break the netting under impact). Staples on the inside (where the cat is) can hurt the cat, catch claws, but mostly, they just don’t hold). Before the door or flap have been mounted, cover the frame with a big piece of netting (or two pieces), and cut away the extra at the corners (leave enough material to overlap 3"), and cable tie to itself at the corners or where you have to join pieces. Leave it long enough at the bottom to overlap the frame. The netting is only fixed to the frame at the door, and around the bottom – otherwise, it’s left to move as needed. This allows the cover to give a little bit because it's loose over the frame. This is easier on the cat, and on the trap.
Fasten the door and slides (I usually put a second vertical piece of strapping behind the vertical door slide to wrap the netting around).
Then, lash the cover to the frame at the bottom rim of the trap, with rope. Using rope has the added benefit of padding the frame, so that when you are trapping on a wooden deck, the trap comes down softly, rather than with a big BANG.
Anchor FlapThe anchor flap plays an important role. The RIGID weighted flap allows the frame to be very light, so as not to crush a cat or kitten if it falls on them - while preventing the trap from being lifted or moved very far by an angry tomcat. The weighted flap increases the footprint of the trap, and gives it stability when propped - which helps especially when trapping on a breezy day. should be finished 1/2" or 3/4 plywood (17"H x10"W) with a piece of carpet on the bottom for traction. Mount the carpet on the plywood first, and then mount to the frame with two T-hinges.
Placement of the door and anchor flap
The door was originally offset to one side to simplify the cover, which was originally in several pieces, each fastened to the frame. It happens that having the anchor flap on the opposite corner from the door does a good job of balancing the trap’s weight. When it has a cat or cats inside, jumping around and pushing UP on it, if you station yourself at the door and put your knee down on the frame, the anchor weight will hold down the opposite - farthest - corner, and the cat will be secure. If door and flap were centered, I’m not sure this would be the case. Since you will be standing at the door, having the door at the corner also gives you easy access to two sides of the trap.
TransportThe drop trap is lightweight - but fairly large and bulky. Several people in the Boston area have constructed versions of this trap that come apart for transport, or, you can carry the drop trap on an inexpensive set of roof racks. If you’re planning to put the trap in your wagon or minivan, remember you’ll also need room in the car for box traps.
Folding drop trap
I have developed a folding version of the drop trap for easier portability ($125+$25 shipping). Email HubCatsBoston@aol.com for more information, or to order. Folding traps take more advanced woodworking skills to make, so I don't provide instructions, but you can download a bundle of detailed photo's, and I'm happy to answer questions (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Drop Trap: User’s Manual
(this was written for the HubCats version, but most is applicable to any drop trap)
You will need:
1. An appointment at the vet, for surgery the following day. Cats should be fasted over night prior to surgery.
2. The drop trap and a cover (double size sheet or blanket) for it
3. The stick-and-string, and an anchor weight (eg. a bucket with bricks OR patio block).
4. Bait food and a deep unbreakable dish.
5. One or more wire box traps or transfer cages (one per cat) with guillotine doors in addition to the trap door. Covers for these traps.
**WARNING**: The drop trap isn’t foolproof. Cats can escape at various points in the process, but careful technique can avoid most disasters. Practice this procedure several times, and DON’T use the drop trap for the first time on a cat you’ve been trying to get for 3 years. You’ll make mistakes at first, you’ll lose a few, and you don’t want it to be THAT one. Once you think you’ve got the hang of it, you might trap a few eartipped cats for practice (you can update their rabies vaccines, or just thank them and release them).
1. Set up in a good location (where you can see, and the ground is level), door facing your position (the spot where you will be watching from), if possible.
2. Place a plentiful amount of food in the center-back of the trap.
3. Leave some wire box traps and covers where you can reach them from the drop trap.
4. Stand back a good distance (depends on the cats) with an unfolded blanket, holding the cord. Take up the slack. Ask observers to stay back unless you call them.
5. When cat or cats **have settled down** to eat at back of trap, give the cord a good yank
6. Run or walk up to the trap and COVER COMPLETELY. This is important if they’re very wild! If you’re alone, hold the trap down firmly and wait for them to settle before you attempt the transfer.
7. You want to get the cat(s) out as quickly and quietly as possible, and reset the trap.
8. Line up the box trap, door to door, to receive cat, and cover it with a towel. DON’T cover the far end of the trap – you want it to look like an exit. Don’t let helpers stand there, either. CAREFULLY arrange towel and blanket to cover gaps between the two traps, place your foot on the box trap to keep it from shifting -- and open both doors. Stand very still -- don’t talk.
9. If he doesn’t move into the box trap in 15 seconds, twitch the cover or call a helper, to stand behind the droptrap and motivate the cat to move towards you and enter the box trap. Keep the cover between you and the cat so he doesn’t see you.
10. Close BOTH doors when cat has entered box trap. If there are other cats remaining in the drop trap, you’ll transfer them one at a time, generally.
11. Cover and remove cat to some distance if he’s the only one, if there are others, just put him aside while you transfer the others. Then reset the trap and get them away.
12. Inspect the cat in the box trap at your leisure to be sure he/she is not eartipped or nursing kittens you don’t know about.
Tips and Techniques
Choosing a site and Setup
1. You’ll generally put the trap in the area where the cats are used to finding food. Set up the drop trap where you’ll be able to see it well! Try to site the trap where you’ll have a good view of the general area around it, so that you don’t drop it just when a second cat is lurking nearby, thinking about entering. Also, since you’re in control of the trap, you’ll want to see eartips, etc. A super-bright flashlight (or car headlights) work fine at night to spotlight the trap. Cats don’t seem to be concerned by lights.
2. A car is a good place to hide while waiting, especially if it’s cold and windy, if you can park within view of the trap. If the cats are particularly wary, you might park facing away from the trap, where you can see in your rearview mirrors. In general, people in cars are invisible to cats, and cars are not considered alarming.
3. Try not to make multiple trips back and forth with trap, bucket, food, etc. Cause as little commotion as possible.
4. Lay the trap down first, to be sure that when the trap is dropped, that there are no gaps or objects that interfere with its dropping.
5. Place it as close as possible to where they’ll expect to find food – this saves time. If you can, set it next to a wall or porch railing to restrict entry to one side. This enables you to place the food further away from the available side, which means they’ll be farther into the trap when eating. Remember to leave room for placing a box trap in front of the sliding door.
6. Orient the trap, so that the front (the side with the door) is facing you. This means that the cat will have to turn her back to you, to eat (and won’t see your motions). If this is not possible, put the prop-stick on whatever side IS facing you – it may jam otherwise, and not come immediately when you pull on the cord.
7. Put a trap or traps (and covers) near the trap so they’re easily accessible when there’s a cat or two in the trap. Once the drop trap is covered, the cats will generally be quiet enough for you to go grab another box trap. Sometimes the unfamiliar smell of your traps and/or covers will be too distracting to the cats. If so, keep the traps where you are standing, and bring one with you when you’ve sprung the trap.
1. Use a deep, unbreakable dish (I like the Gladware Large Rectangle), or a dish familiar to them. Ideally, you want a dish large enough that two or more can eat simultaneously. A weighted, non-skid pet dish is good, to avoid spills.
2. Supply enough food for several cats to come and eat their fill (if there’s more than one cat in the area). Even if they’re not the cats you want, they are useful as decoys to assure the others that it’s safe to eat – and that the food’s good! You don’t want to run out of food before your target kitty enters the trap.
3. If possible, use their usual food, especially if they’re suspicious of anything new. I use Friskies wet food mixed into a good quality dry food, unless they’re the suspicious types. Remember, unless there’s only one cat in the area, you want to put down plenty of food. They may associate tuna with trapping if you’ve trapped their colony a lot. You’ll figure this out from their reactions.
4. Put the food ONLY in the center-back of the trap to keep the cats as far as possible from any outside edge of the trap. If the trap is up against a wall or fence, limiting access to one side, you can put the food closer to the wall/fence – this puts the cats even farther from the edges of the trap.
5. If they don’t seem to realize that there’s food in the container, if they’re not used to scavenging for food (because they’re so spoiled or they’re young kittens), or they are very wary, or if you’re using bait that’s unfamiliar to them, you may need to leave a sprinkling of food (free samples) around and in the trap. The empty can of cat food left near the trap is a visual cue that they will be familiar with, and be attracted to.
Dropping the trap
1. WAIT UNTIL THEY’VE SETTLED AT THE BACK OF THE TRAP TO EAT. If you wait too long, or if they’re a little nervous and they leave quickly, they’ll COME BACK sooner or later – they know there’s food there. Don’t make the mistake of dropping it before they’re settled at the back of the trap, and have them squeeze out! You’ll have made that cat MORE wary, and s/he will be harder to trap. If there are 2 eating and 1 is waiting (but inside the trap), wait until they’ve ALL started eating, or one leaves, or you’re taking a chance that you’ll lose one.
2. If other cats are watching when you drop the trap, they’ll scatter when the trap comes down (or when you approach). Don’t worry, they’ll be back. They won’t understand that you’ve taken the cats inside, away, they’ll think – oh great – now it’s my turn to eat.
3. Don’t worry too much about dropping the trap on a tail that’s left under the edge of the trap, as long as the owner of the tail is eating at the back of the trap. Once the trap starts to move, the cat will move.
Transferring a cat from the drop trap to a box trap
Don’t do your victory dance until the cat has been safely transferred to the box trap.
Tell observers to STAY BACK unless you call them for assistance -- avoid getting distracted.
Sometimes the transfer from the drop trap to the box trap takes a minute or two. Don’t panic, be patient. It takes a few seconds in most cases, but it can take longer (or seem longer).
1. Take the time to cover the gap between the traps with the towel and cover. Put your foot on the box trap to keep it from shifting. Focus yourself, then open the two doors, together.
2. The cat may not notice the open door right away.
3. Give him 20 seconds or so to see the open door. He should calm down slightly (or not). You might try closing and re-opening the wooden door, and that may get his attention. Sometimes it helps to twitch the cover slowly towards you and away from the back of the trap; the cat may move towards the front as he attempts to stay under cover. (Don’t let him see you and realize he’s also moving towards you). But, sometimes he redoubles his effort to get out of the back of the trap when the back is uncovered.
4. If the cat is determined to get out one of the far sides of the trap, it helps to have a helper (any observer). Ask them to get DOWN, face to face with the cat (not hover overhead which just frightens them and doesn’t give them direction.) Assuming that the cat can’t see where you are standing at the front of the trap because of the trap cover, the cat will turn away from the helper and run toward the “exit”.
5. If you don’t have a helper, just re-cover the trap and try again. He’ll go in eventually. Just be patient, stay calm and quiet. I don’t talk to them generally – I want them to forget that I’m standing there, since I want them to come towards me and into the box trap.
6. You’ll see him pass into the box trap between the two covers. He may hurl himself with a lot of force at the end of the box trap thinking he can get out that way – be sure that he doesn’t shift the trap too much, increasing the gap between the two traps. Quickly push down the WOODEN DOOR completely, it works more smoothly than the box trap door. As long as the trap doesn’t shift position, he can’t get out (and he’ll be at the far end of the trap anyway). If there’s a second cat in the drop trap, you must close the wooden door before you move the box trap away, or the second cat will escape. Keep the trap from shifting to the side (helper or foot), until you can also get the box trap door down. Now arrange the towel to cover the trap and take him away.
7. Once in a while, especially with semi-tame cats and young kittens, the cat will settle down in the middle of the drop trap, and won’t leave. Having a can of compressed air (available in office supply places, for cleaning keyboards) is useful for these occasions – give him a few poosts from the back of the trap, with the back and top of the trap exposed (it really helps to have a helper work the doors). Sometimes turning the trap may help – you may be asking him to run towards the house, and he may want to run toward the woods, for example. Sometimes a broom slipped under the edge of the trap will spook them sufficiently to move them, but it’s risky to lift the trap.
If you blow it
If the cat escapes at some point in the process, it’s not necessarily a fatal error. Cats sometimes wiggle out of the trap, only to come back the same day, within an hour or two, to try again. You’ll need to allow the cat to see the trap, and her friends eating from it for some period of time (short or long, depending on the cat) before she’ll re-enter it. In this case, I would not drop the trap again, until you get the cat that escaped. The cats that eat uneventfully from the trap in the meantime will enter it again AFTER you’ve trapped this cat.
If you’re used to trapping with box traps, there are a couple of differences, using the drop trap.
1) You are in control of the trap. You want all the cats to eat from the drop trap. If they’ve already been neutered, they’ll serve as good decoys to reassure your target cats – don’t try to keep these cats out of the drop trap by feeding them elsewhere.
2) You don’t have to withhold food for long periods, since cats are less suspicious of the drop trap. If you have a cat that refuses to enter the drop trap, and there are no other cats around to demonstrate its “safety”, you’ll probably have to leave the trap, and feed only in the trap for a few days, before making the attempt.
CAUTION: If you must leave the drop trap unattended, DISABLE IT by taking the stick and string with you, and by removing the door. You don’t want the trap to come down and trap a cat (either by itself or due to another person’s interference) when you’re not there. Prop the trap securely on a bucket, or milk crate – anything stable, and about the height of the prop stick.
· If there’s a cat that’s particularly jumpy, wary, or pregnant, I like to catch her first, and not do anything that will confirm her suspicions, until she’s safely out of the way. However, if she’s not around, go ahead and catch the others. Cats that eat safely from the trap will return and you can get them another day. If there’s a momcat and kittens younger than 3 months, I try to get kittens first, unless they all eat together, and I can get them at once. Kittens 3 months and older are probably okay without mom - if you want to trap her first. Remember that she should be coming right back in a couple of days, after her spay.
· When one cat finishes eating, there’s a delicate moment when one of the other cats who has been observing, will suddenly make up their mind to try out this new thing. If that is your target cat, you don’t want her to discover that the dish is empty, or have to run in at that point to adjust something. If you need to adjust the drop trap somehow, or get a better look at the cat who’s in it, add more food or check the food, it’s better to approach the trap casually when the first cat is still in there, they’ll scatter, but they’ll be back as soon as you leave and will generally take up where they left off.
· Sometimes, you’ll want to “shuffle the deck” for some reason – for example, if a target cat is in the trap along with a cat you don’t want to trap just yet (a mom with young kittens, for example). Approach the trap casually, until they scatter. When they return, you may have a better shot at your target cat.
Addendum: The Fold-O-Matic drop trap
Setting up the Fold-O-Matic
1. Open it like a lawn chair – hold the two ends about waist high, and spread apart. The folding arms will SNAP open – don’t get in their way!
2. Release the anchor flap and set a weight on it (a bucket of bricks, or similar). This anchor will hold the trap down, making it stable when propped, and will keep the trap somewhat anchored when there are cats banging around inside. If you hold the front corner down as well, the trap will be secure.
3. Place the food inside, center-back, then prop the front.
1. Remove the prop stick.
2. Stow the anchor flap.
3. Lean the trap onto its back end. While holding the front end, push in the folding arm with your knee (don’t use your fingers – they could get pinched!). Gently set the front end down on that side, and repeat with the other side.
Storing and Transporting
1. I would strongly recommend that you keep it DRY, and STORE IT out of the sun (the netting may rot and weaken after long exposure to sunlight).
2. It would be wise to find a bag, case or box – or wrap it in a sheet - to protect the netting from getting caught on the sharp edges of box traps, during transport.
Customer Service, Repair, Complaints and Suggestions
You may NOT need a drop trap to catch a cat who is simply wary of the standard wire traps. Many cats, possibly 50%, just need a little more time to get comfortable with a wire trap. Perhaps they've been trapped before, or they've just been around the barn a few times - we call them trap-wise, or trap-shy. In a few days, you can train most trap-shy cats to eat out of a wire trap, using this common-sense technique.
This is also a great technique for trapping in areas too confined or uneven for the drop trap. Thanks to the good folks at Neighborhood Cats (NY) for this idea!
STEP 1: Training cats to use a box trap as a feeding station
Although this technique is ideal for backyard cats, it's possible although more difficult when the cats eat in a very public spot. The more time they have to spend with the trap, look it over, live with it, the better. If possible, disable the trap so that evil-doers cannot use your trap for mischief - I generally use traps with a removable door, and remove the door until I'm ready to trap.
1. In the place where the cats normally feed or hang out, tie the trap door open (with a piece of string, a twist-tie, a pipe-cleaner). Line the floor of the trap with cardboard.
Ideally, you should leave the trap in one place, 24/7 - chain it to something if you need to - and leave the only food available in it. You want ALL the cats to eat from the trap. Don't give them the option of NOT eating from the trap.
2. Start off with the food bowl placed in the opening (not at the back). If one or more of the cats eat from the bowl in that position, move it further into the trap at the next feeding. If they DON'T touch the food in that position (in 12 hours, say) AND they seem suspicious of the trap, you may need to start with the bowl outside, but NEAR the trap.
One or more of the cats will get up the nerve to try it out. That cat will demonstrate to the others that it's safe. Once they're comfortable with eating from the bowl, at the next feeding, place it closer to the back of the trap. You don't need to wait until ALL are eating before moving it. Once they're eating from the very back of the trap, you're ready to make your vet appointment, and set the trap, for real!
STEP 2: Controlling the box trap to catch the cat you want
If there's only one cat to trap, you're all done! In many cases, though, you want to pick out a particular cat to trap first, such as a female, or several of the cats might already be done and you'll want to avoid trapping (and scaring) these decoy cats. You can control the trap and pick out the cat you want - while still allowing the other cats to eat happily and without alarming them (the better to catch them later!). You can catch a mom with her kittens if they all eat together (use a large-ish trap and a plate or cake pan, above). In order to do this, you want to control the boxtrap's door.
1) Find a soda bottle or stick that's the right height to prop open the trap door. Get some cord - you'll want 30-50 feet, NOT "mason's line" which will stretch too much.
Untie the door and prop the door open with the bottle. You may need to put a weight on the trap if the door spring is very strong, or the trap is very light. Put the bottle to one side of the opening, braced against the trap, taking up as little of the opening as you can. You'll have a bigger, less slippery surface to work with if you put a paper/styrofoam coffee cup over the bottle.
2) Tie a string around the waist of the bottle
3) Put a bowl of food at the back of the box trap, and taking string in hand, back off as far as you need to so that the cats no longer take notice of you. You may be able to sit in your house or car, with a view of the trap. Ideally, you should be in a position where you're looking at the side of the trap, and somewhat to the rear of it. In this position, a cat eating from the trap will not be "tipped off" by seeing you move to yank the cord. Take up any slack in the cord, now.
4) wait for your target cat to eat. Other cats may eat first, and you can catch them later. If you have a very wary cat, don't do anything to scare her, like trapping a male cat that just happened to go in the trap first - you'll get him later! You don't have to wait until she gets all the way to the back, but don't jump the gun, or she'll be able to back out. You want her rear end to be 6 or 8 inches inside the trap, and let her settle, and then YANK the cord.
Remember - you must WAIT for her to get far enough in the trap and settle down. If she backs out because she's still nervous, she'll keep coming back because she's hungry - and you'll get a better opportunity, but if you scare her by tripping the trap too soon and she gets away, it may take her a while to try it again.
This technique, as well as others, for trapping the hard-to-trap:
Linda, in WI:
I wanted to tell you how beautifully this alternate trapping method worked for us. We left two traps out all week, tied open as your website suggested. Once we were ready to trap the mother cat and her kittens, we were successful almost immediately -- 4 cats in two days.
We implemented “The Trick” and were able to nab our 3 hard to catch kitties. It worked like a charm. To date, we have caught 16 cats which have all been neutered and spayed. ... One of the females had a painful cyst on her ovary which was removed. The last guy caught, had an open wound which never seemed to heal. He is being treated for that. Before “The Trick”, he had triggered the trap and had backed out, so 'The Trick" was key in being able to catch him.
Marie in FL:
It worked!!!! I am off to the vet with the last of the parking lot gang!
Debbie, in VA:
With the help of an empty Welch’s grape juice plastic container, some string tied around it, and a Havahart trap, I finally trapped the very skittish cat. Now he’s healing downstairs in a Midwest Cat Playpen after getting neutered and vetted.
Eva, in New Zealand:
Recommended Equipment for drop-trappers
The drop trap has no bottom, so it’s always necessary to transfer the cat(s) into a conventional box trap (or transfer carrier) for transport to the vet. This is not difficult or risky if you have the right equipment!! You’ll need at least one trap or carrier with a guillotine-style door (in addition to the trap door at the other end).
In a pinch, you can use a single-door trap (such as a Havahart), but because the Havahart’s door swings OUT, the traps won’t fit flush to each other - you will have a gap of about 3 inches between the drop trap and the Havahart, which needs to be blocked somehow so the cat doesn’t escape (another trap on either side, for example, and the cover arranged to conceal the gap).
I. Traps with guillotine-style doors:
Tomahawk Live Traps: 800-272-8727 or http://www.livetrap.com/
Tomahawk 606 – Tomahawk calls this 2-door trap a "Deluxe Transfer trap". It is beautifully made, 9x9x26, weighs only 8 pounds, resists rusting, is sensitive enough for kittens and large enough for MOST cats. Extremely useful as a trap (as well as for transport), I think that you catch more cats in a short trap like this, than in a large trap. If you feel that it’s too small for pre- and post-op holding, you can always transfer to a larger setup after capture. There are occasions when there’s just not enough level area for a drop trap – then these traps come in very handy.
the new Neighborhood Cats "TNR" version of the Tomahawk 608: for really BIG cats - it has a longer trip plate to lessen the possibility of the cat stepping delicately OVER the trip plate (you should be lining the bottom with newspaper, which lessens the likelihood of this), and it's great that they put the catch for the guillotine door on TOP of the trap (doh!).
Other traps with guillotine-style rear doors: Tru-Catch, Safeguard. Don’t come in the small cat-appropriate size of the Tomahawk, Tru-catch’s rust quickly, and Safeguards bend easily and then don’t work smoothly.
Not recommended: Hav-a-harts don’t have a trap with a rear door that opens flush, their rear door is poorly designed, traps are unreliable, noisy, have sharp edges and rust quickly!
2. Carriers with guillotine-style doors:
Tru-catch makes a transfer carrier (T24TE, $67) that is highly recommended for its versatility: It has a guillotine-style door for transfer of cats or kittens from a drop trap. It is large enough to hold a pregnant or large cat comfortably, or several smaller cats, or a litter of kittens, overnight. If desired, you can hold a small cat overnight with a small litterbox. The top also opens, which is extremely useful when loading a pet cat (or a netted cat) that doesn’t want to be loaded!
Your vet may like the smaller version: they have to inject the cat through the wire mesh, which is difficult if the cat comes in in a very large trap, or in an airline-style carrier. They can transfer him/her into the small transfer carrier.
Available from ACES 800-338-2237 or http://www.animal-care.com/ and other online sources. Ask how long it will take to receive it.
3. Trap divider/isolator
Also from Tru-catch, the TD2 trap divider $14 (aka isolator, or “cage fork”). (Tomahawk carries one also but it’s lighter weight and gets bent out of shape.)
Useful to confine the cat to one end of the trap while you change the paper at the other end. Use a COVER over the cat (not as pictured) to help the cat feel safe - if he's panicking he can probably get through a single trap divider. You can use 2 dividers at 90 degrees to each other, for safety.
This makes a nice gift for your vet, if they don’t have one already. They need to squeeze the cat into one end of the trap in order to inject the anesthesia.
3. Tomahawk Drop Trap (DT1) this is the original, 3-foot-square version. It's not recommended for kittens - probably because it could injure or kill one, if it came down on one. I don't recommend the larger size, due to its greater weight, and the larger area means more running room, more scope for injury from running into the trap.
You folks are awesome - nice hustle! May your
trapping efforts be fruitful!
Nov 19, 2014
Hi, Laura. I spoke with you on the phone a couple of months ago asking some questions about constructing a folding drop trap. My brother built me a folding drop trap based on one The Hundred Cat Foundation bought from you back in 2008 or 2009. I said I'd send a photo and here it is, with the very first cat I trapped with it just this past weekend. This was a female that has had two litters this year and wouldn't go into a regular box trap due to some mess ups by the caregivers who tried repeatedly to trap her. She got spayed this past Monday and there will no more kittens from her! My brother used heavier wood and accidentally made it 18 inches tall instead of 14 inches, so it's a heavy trap, around 32 pounds. It's awesome though, worked well, and I can't thank you enough for making some of your measurements and supplies available. Feel free to use this photo if you'd like for any purpose that is helpful to the TNR cause! Best, Leslie Jackson (State College, PA) The Hundred Cat Foundation, Inc. www.HundredCats.org
This Far Side cartoon illustrates (in part)
that drop traps are not new.
Critique: I'd suggest a shorter propstick - no need to prop it higher than the cats' eye level - it just takes longer to drop. Also, these folks don't appear to cover the droptrap once there's a cat inside - it really helps speed up the transfer if you do. You're standing over the trap with a very panicked cat in it. He might eventually figure out that he can "hide" in the covered box trap - but if he'll be less panicked if the trap is covered, and he'll instinctively go for the light at the end of the "tunnel" (the box trap with a towel placed only over top and sides).
thanks to Peninsula Cat Works!!