Drop Trap/Remote Control Trap
Lisa A. Pierson, DVM
of a drop
trap in use. (The reason why this cat marched under the trap right
on cue was because he had been fed under it for the previous 2 weeks.)
This page will be an ongoing work-in-progress as I continue to modify a
drop trap that I have designed.
April 22, 2007 update:
I am currently building a Style 1 drop trap and am taking pictures as I
go along. Please see this page for a step-by-step pictorial.
August 28, 2009 update:
I recently purchased a new
remote control device to use on my Tomahawk traps. While I have been very happy with my RC traps
shown below, I do like this new unit
also. It is easy to install and remove (unlike the one that I had a hobby shop guy
make for me) but a bit of modifying may need to be done to allow for
optimal fit onto the trap so as to have the door raised as much as
This device will work, as is, with traps that have spring loaded doors
(Tomahawk, Safeguard, and Havahart) but a receiver-mounting adapter will
be needed for Tru-Catch traps which use hinged gravity doors.
Many people use the 'bottle and string' trick which is a very handy way
to turn a trap into a RC trap. However, I still prefer an
electronic RC trap.
July 18, 2010 update:
Here is a link to another website that has more ideas on how to build a
drop trap. There are 3 links on this
Start with the "To See Pictures" link for an overview of the 4 different
types of traps shown on this site. Please note that the drop traps
on this site are not as small (when folded down) as the ones that I
designed. Depending on your vehicle, this may be an important
issue for you.
December 2011 update:
Please do not attempt to transfer a cat
from a drop trap to a carrier with a swinging door. This is a recipe for
disaster as cats often escape when attempting this. You need to
use a trap or a transfer cage with a sliding
(guillotine) door. Also, see the trap used in the video linked
February 2013 update:
For many years, I have used the Tomahawk
608 traps discussed below. I have now switched to the
606NC which includes several design changes. The catalog
states that they are 30" long but mine is 32". I hope that they
have not made it shorter.
You may not think that the extra 2" is
important but it can be for long cats that elongate their body and step
on the trip plate while outstretched. I have had a couple of cats
do this only to have the trap door hit their butt and not engage.
This is one reason why I refuse to use any trap that is shorter than
Folding Drop Trap
drop trap in use.
those of you who have ever used a drop trap, you know how valuable they
can be. Some cats just will not get into a conventional trap or
have already been trapped and released for some reason and your only
shot at getting these cats is to use a drop trap.
Unfortunately, most drop trap designs are either not collapsible or if
they do collapse, it is not easy to do so.
In searching the web, I found Laura Burns' site
here. Laura was very helpful in
giving me great ideas for an easy-to-collapse drop trap and if you want
to skip the hassle of making one yourself, you can order one from Laura.
(4/07 Update: Laura is pretty backlogged on her trap orders so you
may want to roll up your sleeves and start making one.)
Laura's site also discusses how to use a drop trap which is outside the
scope of this webpage.
Laura and I have
one 'creative difference of opinion' that I need to mention here.
I am a very strong believer that it is crucial to have bungee cords
attached to the drop trap to the left and right of the door.
These bungee cords are then attached to the wire transfer trap to hold
the two traps securely together.
When a cat bolts out of the drop trap they can do
so at a very rapid speed. They usually then turn around in a
fraction of a second and can easily get out by pushing their way through
any small gap between the two traps. People really underestimate a
panicked feral cat's ability to muscle their way through a small gap!
I have heard of this happening on several
occasions. Even one cat escaping is one too many - especially if
that one cat is the neighborhood 'baby machine' that you have been
trying to get for the past many years. These are the 'trap savvy'
cats that you may very well not ever get back into any kind of a trap.
So please.....make sure that you have bungee
cords attached to any drop trap that you use.
They are easy to
attach using a eyescrews. (picture below)
I will show two designs on this page. Style 1 one is a breeze to
use but is much more difficult to build. See
here for directions. You have to be very
precise when attaching a flat hinge to a round pipe but it is not as
difficult as it sounds. You just have to be careful to hold the
drill firmly and keep it on track. You can use wood if you prefer.
I just hate to sand and prefer the durability and longevity of PVC pipe.
Style 2 is not that hard to set up and may be just fine for people using
it infrequently but if you are a very active trapper and use a
drop trap frequently, you may get a bit frustrated with the setting up
and breaking down of Style 2.
Also, with regard to Style 2, my first trap had a flaw in the plastic
garden fencing that I was using as the netting (the same netting shown
in the picture) and a cat managed to rip its way out of the trap very
quickly! Needless to say, that was a huge disappointment since she
was a park's local baby machine. I ended up having to dart her
with a tranquilizer dart.
The moral of that story is...use good netting. I examined the
flawed area and could see where the green plastic netting was very thin
in one area. This just happened to be where the cat decided to pull on
it with her claws.
Also, I would not want to use the green plastic fencing hundreds of
times because the more times it is bent, the weaker it will get. But if
you are a 'light' trapper, it may very well meet your needs.
My Style 1 design is a variation of Laura's original folding trap but it
varies from Laura's in that I use PVC pipe and Laura uses all wood.
Also, Laura's is open netting on all sides and the top whereas
mine is solid on all four sides with netting just on the top.
Laura's is lighter than mine (~17# and mine is 26 - 30 lbs - depending
on how much rebar I add for weight) and she uses a
hinged platform to put a bucket of bricks or rocks on to keep the trap
from moving which I would find inconvenient.
The trap that I use is 30 lbs and I would not want it any lighter -
as long as
you are using a tail spacer as discussed in the
Safety for the Cat section
on the Building A Folding Drop Trap page. The lighter the
trap, the more apt the cat will be to get out of it. And...I tend to
catch several cats at a time which would be a problem with a lighter
trap with that many pounds of cats jumping around!
(More on this issue below the pictures - July 18, 2010 update.)
Laura's trap and my Style 1 both collapse in seconds and are very
compact and easy to carry and store.
21, 2007 - Quick notes:
1) The weight
of the trap - I trap alone and do not want to have to break my neck
running to the trap to hold it down. I also want the option to be
able to catch several cats at one time which I would not dare do with a
lighter trap. The trap that I use is 30
dimensions of the trap - I prefer to work with a larger trap - 44"
x 44". The bigger traps will usually clear the tails of most cats
whereas the smaller traps will often come down on the tails. (If
you watch cats eat under these traps, it is not unusual for the tail to
be past the perimeter of the trap.) Also, the larger trap makes
it much less likely that a cat will rapidly turn and get out from
underneath it before the trap reaches the ground.
trapped 3 large adults at one time with my trap (30 lbs) and it held
them well. I have also trapped 5 cats and kittens at one time.
(especially a 3' x 3' trap) should have a 5/8" gap between the trap and
the ground to help protect the cat's tail should the trap drop on it.
directions page for pictures
of what I use to create the gap.
July 18, 2010 update:
I want to reiterate - I will not use a
light drop trap. I have seen too many cats get out from under them and I
have no desire to ever have that happen to me. My trap is 30 lbs
and I am very happy with this weight.
The president of our rescue group has one
that I made for her that is 26 lbs and she has never lost a cat out of
that one but she never pulls the rope with more than one cat under it. I
do not want this kind of restriction since there are many times when my
target cat is under the trap with another cat....that I may or may not
want. With a heavy trap, I can pull the rope on more than one cat
with more confidence.....knowing that if Cat A is going up while Cat B
is down low, the trap will not raise up resulting in Cat B getting out.
I often hear people comment that heavy
traps are too dangerous. But....the bottom line is that ANY trap
can hurt a cat if the trapper is careless and pulls the rope at the
Pay attention to when you pull the rope...and no cat or kitten will get
I have trapped hundreds of cats and kittens with my heavy trap. I have
also made ~15 of these traps for the people at FixNation who loan them out to other
trappers. Nobody has ever reported injuring any cat or kitten with
these heavy traps.
Remote Control Trap
For the past several years, I
have been doing 90% of my trapping with the drop trap and 2 remote
control traps and I love the flexibility that these traps give me. I
have outfitted two of my
#608 traps with the remote control equipment.
how either a remote control trap or a drop trap can come in handy:
1) I can
decide what order to catch the cats/kittens. For instance, I was
recently trapping a mom and her kittens. The mother was
exceptionally wary of the trap and I was concerned that her kittens
would trigger it and that would be the end of my chances of getting
her...at least right away. One kitten did enter the trap first -
with the mother standing near the trap watching. I chose not to
trigger the trap. The kitten then backed out and the mother went
in at which time I triggered it. I then got the kittens within the
next hour....because they are just not as smart as their mother at this
2) I trap in
areas where there are a lot of skunks, raccoons and opossums. In
one recently TNRd colony, the skunks outnumbered the cats 5 to 1.
It was a nightmare to deal with because the skunks were so bold that they
would just march right into the traps. Needless to say, this was a
huge problem and every time I had to chase away (as gently as I could)
an animal that I did not want to trap, the cats that I *did* want to
catch would then just get more wary of the trap. The RC trap has
taken away the stress involved of constantly having to chase away the
other critters. Plus...I don't have the heart to chase them out of
the trap since they are hungry too!
Continuing with the above thought.....on several occasions, a bold skunk
or raccoon, or an ear clipped cat has 'shown' a timid cat that the trap
really is a good thing! I have had many raccoons go into the trap
and crunch dry food so loudly as to draw the cats closer. The cats
then sit there and watch with their little minds saying "hey...that food
sounds mighty tasty in there!" The coon, skunk, or cat will back
out and then in goes the cat that has been watching.
however, is that the coons and skunks often drag the bowl out of the
trap and you have to go and re-fill the bowl and put it back on the trap
and re-bait the front part of the trap. Some people use a bowl
with a wire mesh on the top and I did this for awhile but then I felt
sorry for the animals that were hungry. It was bothering me to see
them so frustrated. Also, it has been nice when some cats that
have already been TNRd go into the trap to eat. Since I do
withhold food from the colonies that I trap at, it is nice to see the
ones that have already been altered at least have a chance at a good
The RC trap
uses 12 rechargeable batteries - 4 for the receiver and 8 for the
transmitter. I do not recommend using alkaline batteries since you
really want a fresh charge on this unit prior to using it. There
is nothing worse than sitting for hours...only to have the cat that you
are waiting for enter the trap and then nothing happens when you pull
the trigger on the transmitter. Fortunately, the trap can still be
set manually very quickly. I ran into a dead battery problem
recently so I just quietly asked the cat to back out of the trap...went
over and hooked it up manually....stepped back and the cat went right
back in and triggered it.
This trap was
not cheap. In addition to the cost of the trap itself, fitting it
with the RC set-up ran me ~$150 (parts and labor) and that did not include the
batteries. Rechargeable batteries are ~$3 each so that is another
$36 and then the charger is ~$15. Of course if you are handy yourself
or know someone who is familiar with RC products, you can cut the cost
One word of
warning: You MUST BE VERY PATIENT when using this trap. Not
once...but twice...I have triggered it a fraction too early and the cat
was not quite in far enough and he/she got hit in the butt and the rest
was history because he backed out.....what a disaster. You MUST be very careful to make
sure the cat has a paw on the trip plate and his head in the food bowl before triggering this trap
otherwise they will get hit in the butt and they will back out....and
probably never enter a trap again.
Remote Control Trap
Plexiglass Liners in Traps
years of trapping I was going to scream if I had to line one more trap
with newspaper or deal with anymore soggy paper that had been soaked in
tuna oil. All of my traps are now lined with Lexan with a plastic
shower curtain for a white background. No more trying to tape
newspaper down in the trap on a windy night. I can now either just
wipe the trap out with a wet paper towel or hose it down.
cats overnight, be sure to place them on something absorbable since the
urine will run off of the Lexan. On a good note, the cat will
at least not have to sit on soggy, urine-soaked newspaper all night.
I only use 1 or 2 traps at a time so once a cat is trapped, it is
transferred to a transfer cage with a guillotine door (see
below) that has paper in it in case they
urinate or defecate. It is then easy to re-bait the trap and keep
going instead of taking the time to re-line it with newspaper.
still love the fact that my traps are lined with Lexan but I have
encountered several cats that have stepped over the trip plate....eaten
the food....and then stepped back over the trip plate without triggering
it. (See second picture below for the remedy for the problem.)
trip plate visible did not work well since the cats often stepped over
I added an extension to the trip plate. The
plate is 4 inches deep and I made the Lexan trip plate cover 6 inches
deep so that there is no way that a cat can step over it. Or so I
I have had a couple of cats manage to step over my 6" trip
plate cover. I
now put a double food bowl in the trap so they are less apt to try and
step over the trip plate because, if the they do, they will step in the
food. As of February 2013 I have not had any cats step over the
I always put the food as far back in the
trap or bowl as possible and I use both canned and dry since many cats
are dry food addicts. I use Temptations treats which most cats
model # 306):
I love these transfer cages.
I take several of these into the field and just two 608s and my drop
trap. You must be very careful when transferring a cat to these
cages. Make sure that the trap and cage are well-braced together
otherwise a cat can hit the end of the cage and separate the two.
If he doubles back quickly, he can escape through the gap. This is
especially true with small kittens if a small gap occurs.
I put the
front end of the trap against my truck tire and then I have my leg
bracing the back end of the transfer cage to make sure that they do
Be sure to
have the cage somewhat covered so that the poor cat does not ram his
face thinking that he can get to freedom.
Shelters for Feral Cat Colonies
Here is a
link to ideas
for building shelters for feral cats.
Updated July 2010
Partially updated February 2013
Lisa A. Pierson, DVM
Information on this site is for general informational purposes only
and is provided without warranty or guarantee of any kind. This
site is not intended to replace professional advice from your own
veterinarian and nothing on this site is intended as a medical diagnosis
or treatment. Any questions about your animal's health should be
directed to your veterinarian.