Design: Alleycat Allies

The original drop trap for feral cats was designed by an Alleycat Allies volunteer - may she live forever. It was built out of PVC pipe, looking a little like a soccer goal.
Please see Dr Lisa Pierson's design below, if you're interested in the second-generation FOLDING version of a PVC trap.
As of 5/2010, Alleycat is selling a re-designed folding drop trap with solid wood sides, for $165.
I would be concerned about the wooden bar across the top (holds it open).  I think a lot of heads are going to get bumped on it.  I don't think this trap is 14" tall, as stated.
We'd be interested in finding out what buyers think of it!


HubCats said...

Dear AlleyCat Allies,
thanks for sending me this evaluation unit, and for giving me another opportunity to give you my feedback. As someone who's trapped several thousand cats in drop traps, I hope you will hear me as the (crotchety) voice of experience.

I think it's GREAT that ACA is promoting the use of drop traps, and this is an interesting design, with potential. I commend you for incorporating field evaluations into the design process.

I've read Lisa P's remarks, and I am in agreement with them. I would add the following:

1) Most importantly, and to be blunt, I believe this is a dangerous trap, and I can't bring myself to try it in the field! It actually weighs 25 pounds, not 23. This would compare to 12-15 pounds for our trap (non-folding and folding) - if you don't count the anchor flap - that's the actual drop-weight.
Lisa made her trap (which is heavier) bigger specifically to avoid dropping it on cats' tails. The rubber feet you've added might preserve a tail IF you were trapping on a dead-level surface, but I've never met with that situation in the field. I calculated the size of the two traps in cubic inches, ACA's is exactly HALF the size of Lisa's trap, with a comparable weight. HubCat's trap is 36x33x14 (shorter front to back).

2) You may not be aware, but the trap has gotten shorter - our trap is 14"high, or about head-high for an average cat, and the ACA design is 11.5" high. There are several consequences of this:

The netting WILL come down on some little cat-person's head - and the fencing material is not stretchy.

Because it has a low ceiling, the cats inside will be able to bring more force to bear on the netting - heads WILL get stuck, the netting will stretch and break - as it is weak to begin with. I advise people to make the trap TALLER, if they're concerned about the cats being able to lift it. The taller it is, the less power the cats have to lift it - standing on their tippy toes. Lisa's pictures speak LOUDLY.
You can't make this trap bigger OR taller because it's already too heavy.

3) An interesting consequence of the solid sides (which I hadn't realized before), and the shorter (11.5") propstick, is that trappers will have a limited view of the cats in the trap. If they weren't able to see eartips before the cat ducks under the trap - they will probably not get the chance, afterwards. I would prefer a longer propstick for better visibility. Unless you're standing unusually close to the trap, your line of sight would generally be under its raised edge. The opacity of the sides will mean that it's relatively dark in there, too, which impairs visibility, especially in low light. Lisa compensates by using a clip-light. This wouldn't bother most people, except for the high-volume trappers. I'm NOT saying that with THIS design, you should use a longer propstick. I worry, with Lisa, about the stability.

4) the brace for the sides is absolutely necessary. The hook-and-eye hardware is completely inadequate to the task, will rust and break after one season. I don't call my trap "collapsing" because the word has negative connotations - as you've discovered!

5) my unit had a split in the front panel, from the door opening to the end of the board (about 5"). Not sure if this was damage in shipping (it was well packed) or a weakness in the wood, or perhaps having the opening too close to the end of the board. I don't believe this would affect functioning.

The problems with this trap are serious - however they stem from the materials used, not from the design. I can envision this trap made out of coroplast or a similar lightweight sheet material, extra bracing as needed in wood or vinyl, athletic netting on the top fastened in the same way that HubCats netting is fastened. make it 16" high, and it would be lightweight and weatherproof, and relatively easy to build.

I hope you'll give it more thought, and I look forward to the result!

Laura Burns

HubCats said...

Dr Lisa Pierson's evaluation: