How do I… use an automatic trap?


Automatic traps work by activating to close a door when a cat or other animal enters and stands on a pedal, or activates a pull string, to cause the mechanism to close.

The main types in use all work in a similar way.

There are five types in use:

  • Manual trap of standard dimensions
  • Multi catch trap of larger size
  • Drop trap
  • Electronic manual trap – remote controlled
  • Using a normal automatic trap but bypassing the mechanism (some types of trap only)

The method has major advantages over other approaches in that:

  • The cat doesn’t need to stand on a treadle to trigger the trap
  • Only the required cat or cats is caught
  • Already neutered cats can be allowed to exit the trap without capture (this also acts as a positive signal to other cats)
  • Multiple cats, and mums with their kittens, can be caught in one closing
  • The number of trapping events (closing of the door) is reduced – more cats per closure and more successful trapping per closure
  • Since the trap is attended, trapped cats are covered and removed more quickly
  • There are less working parts to the trap, so defects are less likely
  • Manual traps are generally cheaper
  • Cats’ wariness of traps is reduced, so the colony is neutered quicker
  • Overall time on the site is reduced, with less (but longer) visits needed
  • Targeting of female cats, pregnant cats, injured cats, is possible

Types of trap – standard manual

This is a standard size trap with a drop door held in place by a clip, which when withdrawn by pulling a string, shuts. 

There is one commercial version of this trap available – the MAC trap made in the UK by MDC Exports Ltd ( Versions can also be made from old automatic traps, sometimes broken ones.

Types of trap – wooden manual trap

A wooden trap with a ‘drawbridge’ door is also seen. Often homemade, one is also sold by MDC (‘J & K Trap’). International Cat Care does not advocate these, as wood is difficult to disinfect, and the trap may warp when wet. Also the door does not secure shut when the string is pulled to activate the trap. Instead the trapper must walk to the trap to shut it – highly stressful for the trapper and an escape risk for the cat.

Types of trap – multi-catch trap

This trap is larger, with the advantage that lots of cats can be caught per closure. However when holding several cats, it becomes quite heavy, therefore needing two people to carry it safely. Though cats can be transferred out from it into transfer baskets, this would have to be done at the site of trapping, which may deter further cats not yet caught.

A version of this trap with a remote control mechanism that fits on the top of the trap forms the electronic remote multi-catch trap, which is also referred to above.

Types of trap – drop trap

This trap works differently by being raised above the group of cats at ground level. This helps with cats who are reluctant to walk ‘into’ something. Once caught, the cats have to be transferred out from it into transfer baskets at the site where the trap was set, as there is no floor – this may deter further cats not yet caught.

Though many people use home-made drop traps, and information is freely available by internet search, a version of this trap is now manufactured by Tomahawk in the USA and marketed by a number of animal handling equipment suppliers in North America.

Manually rigging an automatic trap

Some automatic traps can be rigged to work manually by bypassing the mechanism. In the photo below right an automatic ‘Tru-Catch’ type is set manually by holding the door open with a stick tied to a string (this also works on the MDC ‘Eesicatch’ model as well). In the left hand photo, a peg is used to jam open the door on a Havahart type trap.

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