Allies Drop Trap Review
Lisa A. Pierson, DVM
June 6, 2010 update: The main
article on this webpage was written in July, 2009. Since then,
Alley Cat Allies withdrew its first drop trap model from the market and
went back to the 'drawing board' to fix some major problems with their
original design - discussed below. While many improvements have
been made, there is still a fatal flaw in their trap. The netting
that they are using (black netting - not the original orange netting
shown below) has holes that are too large. If you see the
picture below where a 4 month-old kitten is sticking his head through
the netting, you will understand why the netting being used on their
newer traps is still unacceptable.
As noted below, there is
no point in making a drop trap that cannot be used to trap kittens.
I have trapped hundreds of kittens with my drop trap and I cannot
imagine why anyone would make a trap that is so restrictive.
I also contacted the very
experienced people at FixNation in southern California. They have
been using 15 of my drop traps (no...sorry....I don't make them
commercially) for the past 4 years and they have trapped hundreds of
kittens with them and have never injured a single one and no kitten has
ever escaped from the trap.
Can you just imagine how
frustrated you will be if a mom and her kittens are under an ACA drop
trap with netting that will not hold a kitten? You would
miss a great opportunity to get a mom and her entire litter - or just
multiple kittens -with one pull of the rope!
Or...think of how frustrating
it will be to have an older kitten under the trap....and sit there
thinking...."Do I dare pull the rope?!?...Will this trap hold this
kitten/teenager or are the netting holes too big?!" I would be
ripping my hair out in utter frustration.
Also keep in mind that each
time you pull the rope, cats and kittens that are nearby will now be
frightened by the trap and then they will be less apt to go under
it.....wasting more of your very valuable time....and increasing your
risk of never catching them.
The netting that I use has
holes that are only 5/8 inch square. I would never use a trap that
has netting with holes larger than 1 inch square and I really prefer a
net with 3/4 inch holes - or smaller - because the smaller the netting
holes, the less apt the cat/kitten will be to put a head or leg through
it and get injured.
If you do purchase this trap,
I would highly suggest that you replace the netting to a more
suitably-sized hole - no more than 1 inch square and preferably
Gourock and look at their
Golf Impact (not barrier) Netting. They have netting that
has 3/4 inch square (not diamond) holes that would work well.
Their website is a bit confusing so you should just call them. The
last time I checked with them (several years ago) you could order a
small panel of a specific dimension. The traps that I
build require a 5' x 5' piece but the ACA traps are only 3' x 3' so I
would get a section that is 4' x 4' so that you have plenty to work
Gourock's netting is not
cheap but it is a high quality product that will last for a very long
Make sure that you really
secure the netting well! Never underestimate the ability of a
panicked feral cat to get though a very small hole! Make sure
that the corners are VERY well secured! The corners
seem to be a common place for a trapped feral to try and get out of the
If you wish to make your own
trap - or hire someone to make one for you - see my
Building a Folding Drop Trap page for a
pictorial and instructions on how to make your own.
I wrote to Becky Robinson
(president of ACA) several weeks ago regarding my concerns but she never
As many experienced trappers
know, a drop trap is a necessary tool for efficient feral cat colony
management. Since designing
and building my PVC pipe folding drop trap 3 years ago, I have caught more
‘un-catchable’ (with a wire trap) cats than I ever imagined I would. I
never go out into the field without my drop trap. In addition to my
own drop traps, I built 10 for FixNation, a high volume spay/neuter
clinic, and they have been in constant use for the past few years so I
am very confident in my design in terms of efficiency, safety, and
more information on how I build my drop traps, see
Building a Folding Drop Trap
Please note that I do not build them for commercial sale since they take
far too much time to build.
Recently, I was asked to evaluate a
drop trap being manufactured and sold by Alley Cat Allies (ACA). I was
excited to hear that there was finally a second commercial source of drop
traps. Laura Burns of HubCats, to the best of my knowledge, is the only
other source of
this valuable TNR tool.
Please see Laura’s review of the
ACA drop trap
I find this to be a very awkward
situation because I know that ACA is trying to make a commercially
available - and affordable - drop trap which is desperately
needed! However, there are so many negative issues
with this trap that I had to completely re-build it to make it suitable
- and reasonably safe - for use. I am very worried about the
ACA traps that are
already out there. In my opinion, based on my years of
trapping experience, cats will be injured - or will escape -
with this trap as it is. Unfortunately, many people will not even
realize that a cat has been injured with this trap.
In my very strong opinion, the ACA
drop trap should be recalled. This trap is not only dangerous, it
is also very poorly built.
Above all, do no harm.
ACA Drop Trap Evaluation:
I received the ACA drop trap and
was immediately disappointed. One screw had already fallen out
into the box and there were other screws that were loose and the net had
already torn. This trap was unusable right out of the box.
When trying to get it to stand up,
it looked like a Laurel and Hardy comedy routine as it kept collapsing.
The same problem was
experienced when visiting with the FixNation staff and working with their ACA trap. I am not sure how ACA ever
got this trap to actually stay in a square form – given the ineffective
hook and eye that was used and how it was placed on the trap. Even if they did
get it to stand up, any wind or a cat rubbing up against it would cause
it to collapse and fall very easily – especially when using a single,
versus double, stand. When building a folding drop trap, you need to
make sure that it is VERY steady with no chance of collapsing on its
To all of you who have purchased
this trap and have received from ACA a new side hasp, if your trap is
made with pine as the one they provided me is, do not use the new hasp
with the screws that were provided. You cannot use regular wood screws
into soft pine and expect them to stay tight after being jarred over and
over again when the trap is dropped. Given how important these
screws are to the integrity of the trap, I would not even use them if
your trap is made of plywood which does have better purchase than soft
pine. If either screw on this hasp
fails, the trap will either fall down on its own, or the hasp will come
undone once you have dropped it on a cat. If that happens, the cat
could escape or be injured.
Please note that the screws that
ACA is using have very shallow threads with very little purchase into
Here is a quick summary of the
changes that were necessary to make this a *safer* and usable trap. I
will go into more detail below:
needed a new net.
of the screws needed to be replaced with machine screws and nuts -
several of the screws fell out or were falling out - the hinges were
sides only provided for a 1/4" tail gap and this is dangerous;
tails WILL be severely injured!
eyescrews in the door needed to be lowered. (The traps that
ACA has already sold do not have eyescrews but they put them on the
one that they provided for my review.)
trap that ACA sent to me did have the new side hasps but I replaced
both screws with machine screws and nuts. I removed the hook
and eye because it was of no help in keeping the trap square.
double stand needed to be built to increase the safety level.
Bungee cords were applied to the door.
1) The netting is unacceptable.
This trap will catch cats - no doubt - but the netting will tear
and cats will get out. Once the net tears, the trap will be useless until the top is replaced. I
shot a movie showing just how easy it is to tear the netting and sent it
to ACA. I used very little force to tear the netting. I tore it in
several places just before removing it and replacing it with suitable
Quick story about our group's
president trying for a 'baby machine' for 3 years: I made her a drop
trap with netting similar in strength to the ACA netting She dropped
the trap on that cat and just like a can opener.... the cat ripped
through the netting and was out in a heartbeat. It was a HUGE disaster.
Needless to say, I got a very angry call from my friend at 2AM....just
after she lost this cat.
This trap’s net was even torn when
it arrived on my doorstep as shown here:
If it tore like this with
basic handling, just think about what would happen with a panicked cat
(as most trapped ferals are) pushing hard against it. Add in teeth and
claws damaging/weakening the plastic and you have a cat that is now out
of the trap.
People really underestimate the TINY hole that a feral
cat can escape from and just how strong they are.
This trap just has
to tear in one place for an adult to escape.
This netting is also unacceptable
because of the size of its holes.
Kittens can escape without any
tearing given how big the holes are.
I set it up in my foster room and
Calvin, a 4 month old
kitten, quickly stuck his head up through the netting. An adult cat
could also push its head through it very easily when panicked.
A trap that can't be used for kittens
would be of absolutely no use to me. ACA states that this trap is
not to be used for kittens but what is a person supposed to do with a
mom and a litter under the drop trap? Or just a litter of kittens
without mom? I say "pull the rope!" I caught 5 kittens with my drop
trap the other day. 5 sets of reproductive organs with one pull of the
rope is very efficient trapping!
It makes no sense to use netting
that limits the size of animal that can be caught or to use one that is
so easily torn.
Plastic also does not hold up well under repeated bending.
Bending weakens it. Sunlight is also hard on plastic and even though this trap is supposed to be
kept out of the sunlight, people may not adhere to that
2) This trap is very heavy for its
size. When I posted on one feral cat group about the fact that I use a
heavy trap (30 lbs), I did not realize that ACA’s trap was so small. My
trap's inside dimensions are 44” x 44”. The ACA trap is a very small 34” x
34”. 10" makes a very big difference when dropping a trap on a fast
My PVC pipe trap is also fairly
flexible which is going to be much less apt to hurt a cat than a heavy
wooded trap but the bottom line is....pay attention to where the cats
are when you pull the rope!
Any trap can
hurt a cat if the trapper is careless.
Don't pull the rope if the cat's
head is not in the food bowl. I have broken this rule on
occasion but I am very experienced and know when I can get away with it.
video illustrating just how fast
a cat can spin around and run out from under a trap - even a trap as
large as mine. This movie is also a great example of what NOT to do when
using a drop trap on a cat. I got overly confident since this cat was
fairly tame - not very skittish. He was stuck on the roof of a hospital
and nobody could approach him. Attempts had been made to trap him in a
conventional trap. I wanted to video catching the cat but by the time I
turned on the camera and got my hand back on my rope, the cat had
started to turn around. I decided to pull the rope anyway which proved
to be a big mistake in this instance although I have gotten away with it
many times since then with other cats. I always warn people to
wait until the cat's head is in the food bowl before pulling the rope.
This cat got out from under the trap before it dropped.
much more apt to happen with a smaller trap.
(As a side note, the cat in the
above video was perfectly fine after escaping from the trap. He
was later trapped and is now in a safe and loving home.)
With the ACA trap, cats and kittens stand a much higher chance
of getting hurt - especially with INexperienced trappers. That is
a key issue. Many people purchasing this trap are inexperienced
with drop trap usage.
That said, I will not trap with a
light drop trap since cats will be more apt to get out from under them -
especially if trapping more then one cat. If one cat goes up and
lifts up the trap even slightly....while
the other one is down....the 'down' cat can escape from under the trap.
When I drop a trap over a cat, I want to know that the cat will not be
able to lift the trap up.
My personal solution is to use
a heavy trap but one that is bigger than the ACA trap.
I understand why people build small
drop traps (easier to store, handle, and ship) but, personally, I hate
them. They do injure tails and there is less room for error. I can see
having it be 36” x 36” in a NON-folding trap because of the difficulty of
storing and transporting a large, non-folding trap but with a folding
trap, we don't need to be so stingy with the size.
dropped my trap on 4 adults and 1 teenager at one time. However, I would NOT
recommend that anybody without sufficient experience – and a large,
heavy trap - attempt this. (Obviously, you also need enough
transfer traps to handle every cat that you trap unless you catch some
with earclips that you will be letting loose.)
3) If someone is to use this trap,
they need a double stand - for safety reasons. There is no way
that I would set this up on a single stand and then have to sit there
and hold my breath wondering if that raccoon, cat, or kitten was going
to knock it down on the head of another animal. I would be a
Single stands can be adequate for
fixed traps but they are not as safe when used with folding traps unless
that folding trap is very rigid when open – which this one is not.
Here is a picture of a cheap (under
easy-to-build (time - less than 5 minutes) PVC pipe stand:
There are no negatives to using a
double stand - there are only positives. I am much more relaxed
when using a double stand because I know that only *I* can cause the
trap to drop.
Regarding the spring-loaded eye
hook: Geometrically.....there is no way for that one hook to hold it
open in a *steady* position.
5) The feet for the tail gap are
not doing the job. The feet are only 3/8" tall and when the sides were
put on, they were applied lower than the front and so there was only a
1/4" gap. I
cringe when I think of all of the tails being painfully injured
by this heavy, wooden trap crashing down on them.
This picture shows a towel under
the trap to simulate the body of a cat as if his head would be in the
food bowl. Notice where the tail would be. It would be right under
the edge of the trap. (The kitten under the trap is only 10
Too many people do not realize
how these traps do injure tails because the trapper can't see it and the
vet never looks. The cat is under general anesthesia just to be
spayed/neutered. Nobody is radiographing its tail. Aside from blunt
force trauma to the tail, cats can also experience 'traction' injuries
whereby the tail is stuck and the cat runs off - pulling on the tail and
causing neurological damage.
A cat's tail is 12-13" long. At
the base it is ~3/4" thick....mid-way it is 5/8" thick...and about 4"
from the end it is 3/8" thick.
Because my trap is 10" wider than
the ACA trap, I can get by with a smaller gap but I still make it a 5/8”
gap just to be safe.
When re-making the ACA trap, after
removing the netting, I removed the side panels and raised them to leave
a 3/4" gap.
Laura from HubCats pointed
out that the above measurements only hold true if on perfectly flat
ground. If the ground is not flat and has bumps in it, that ‘tail gap’
can be quickly closed resulting in an injured tail.
6) The screws are not adequate
for this trap. This wood is like butter and there is no purchase for the
very shallow-thread screws that are being used. Machine screws and
nuts - preferably, nylon lock nuts to keep them from vibrating loose -
need to be used given the jarring that this trap will have to withstand.
When I first opened the
trap, I noticed a screw on the ground. It had fallen out of one of the
hinges. The one next to it was half way out, and the third one could
easily be unscrewed with just my fingers. This is a picture taken
straight out of the box. Also, notice the inadequate gap between the
bottom of the trap and the floor.
When I tried to tighten the other
screws, they just spun and spun and spun. There was no purchase. This wood is so soft that you don't even have to drill a hole to
put a screw in it. You can just screw it in without drilling.
Hex head screws were used. These
kind that most people do not have a tool for. Everyone has a Philips or
a slotted screwdriver but not everyone has a socket set handy.
Considering how the hinges and
screws loosened up just from being transported across country, one
can only imagine what shape they will be in after the trap is dropped a
It is my understanding that some of
the original ACA traps were made with plywood. Plywood has better
purchase than the wood used on the trap that ACA sent to me. However,
I would still not trust the use of anything but machine screws and nuts
even in plywood.
I removed all of the screws,
drilled holes completely through the wood, and replaced them with 1 1/8"
machine screws and nylon lock nuts.
7) I am a stickler for using bungee
cords to attach the wire trap to the drop trap so that there is no way
that a cat could escape.
This is especially important with a big,
powerful tom cat that can hit the end of the wire trap hard and separate it from the drop
trap. ACA put eyescrews on the door of the trap that they sent to me
but eyescrews were not put on the original traps that they sold. I use
Tomahawk 608s that are 12" tall. The placement of screws on
the ACA trap are 9" from
the ground so they would work ok with my trap although I like them at 8"
to pull more centrally on the trap.
Some people use 9"x9" traps so the
placement of the eyescrews on the drop trap that ACA sent to me would be
too high for this size of a trap. They should be about 6" or 7” from
the ground. That way, all heights of traps can be accommodated.
8) It is very frustrating - not to
mention hard on one's back - to handle this trap. There is nothing
to keep it closed and there are no handles to carry it by. I added
handles to it.
The bungee cords that I applied to
the door hook onto eyescrews that I added to the back panel. This
keeps the trap closed.
9) I would be very nervous about
following ACA’s recommendation of turning the trap on its side and using
the front door to transfer unless you are using a
This suggestion is being made if the user
does not have a trap with a guillotine back door. If you do this, you
may very well have a cat escape so be very careful. Inexperienced
trappers usually underestimate just how fast and strong a feral cat can
be when in a panic.
I realize that this is not the
critique that ACA was hoping for but my first and foremost concern is
for the animals and their safety. I am hoping that with ideas from
experienced trappers, ACA will come up with a safer trap that is built
to last. It will most likely have a higher price point (my trap
costs ~$100 just for the materials) but quality and
safety are critical issues that need to be addressed before this
trap is put into use.
Updated June, 2010
Lisa A. Pierson, DVM