Part of Ireland's TNR Manual
How to Help Community Cats
Manual traps can be designed to catch just one cat, or several. They are traps that are set off manually by the trapper, in contrast to the automatic mechanisms of our Recommended Traps. Note, however, that most automatic traps can be set up to be used manually. We'll explain how here. Multi-cat and drop traps are designed to catch more than one cat and are available to buy or DIY. Here, we'll just touch the surface of the information available.
All cat traps have margins for error, but multi-cat traps are even more prone to miscalculation. So, before you try any live trapping with the traps detailed below, practice using them several times beforehand to ensure you have the feel for how they work and any delays involved in doors closing/traps dropping. Do this before you leave home, rather than in front of cats you're trying to trap - you don't want to scare them before you start!
Single-Cat Manual Traps
You can turn an ordinary box trap into a manual trap by bypassing the whole trip plate mechanism and using a bottle and string to manually close the front door. Open the front door and prop a corner on a full one-litre water bottle. Tie one end of a long piece of string around the bottle's base, then move away from the trap on the bottle side, holding onto the other end of the string. Wait for the cat to go all the way in, then yank the string, pulling the bottle away and shutting the front door.
If not performed correctly, this can go disastrously wrong, including getting the bottle stuck and wedging the door open or the whole trap being yanked without the door closing at all. So, before you try this live, practice yanking the bottle away once or twice so you have the feel for it - do this before you leave home, rather than in front of cats you're trying to trap - you don't want to scare them before you start!
Whenever you see a cat in a trap who avoided the trip plate and is happily munching away on the bait, you want to get him out of the trap so you can set up the bottle and string. The bottle-and-string technique can also be used to pick out a specific cat from the crowd, like one who is pregnant or injured; and to safely trap a number of kittens. If you're trying to selectively trap, put a lot of bait in the rear of the trap. That way, a number of cats can go in, have a bite and leave while you wait for your target cat to do the same.
Multi-cat traps come in a variety of sizes and are designed specifically for dealing with feral cat colonies, and in particular for capturing a queen and her kittens. In practice the trap is kept under observation and at the appropriate moment the trap door is closed by means of a line attached to a release mechanism. Bait is usually placed via a lift-up rear door which also provides the means for transferring the cats singly into a Transfer Basket or Hospital Cage.
MDC's multi-cat trap, available to purchase in the UK is shown to the right.
There are many drop trap designs on the intertewbs, with DIY seeming to be the preferred option. Instead of repeating the information here I'm going to pass you on to some examples online - check them out to see the variety of designs available:
Note that some drop traps can be extremely heavy and you'll need to be very, very careful not to drop them on individual cats or their tails. Better designs have gaps in the bottom to avoid the possibility of tail-squishing.
Like it says on the box, remote-control traps use a wireless remote control to activate the door, which affords greater selectivity when trapping and, if designed well, can eliminate errors inherent in bottle-and-string trapping.
I've found good remote-control traps hard to come by and have only ever used one designed by an electronically-minded volunteer. They are available to buy, but can be prohibitively expensive for small TNR groups - and some come with less-than-ideal trap designs.
There can be a slight delay before the trap door closes so, again, practice beforehand, away from any cats you want to trap, to be sure you'll get your timing right when it matters.