Trapping involves the use of a wire mesh cage with a triggered door to capture feral cats. Cats are attracted by a bait, sound or scent lure and the spring door is triggered by the weight of the animal once it enters the cage. A variety of items can be used as bait, but it should reflect the staple prey of feral cats in the area to enhance capture efficiency. Lures can be used in and around the trap to increase the likelihood of capture. These can be scent based (e.g. tuna oil, catnip or cat urine), visual (e.g. bird feathers) or auditory (recording of a cat call played through an appropriate device).
Traps should be placed in areas where feral cats are known to frequent, but where they will not be interfered with by humans or livestock. Trapping is most effective at night and traps must be checked regularly to minimise stress to captured animals. It is recommended that traps are set in the afternoon, checked early morning and left closed throughout the day. If traps are left open during the day then they should be checked again at dusk. Steps should be taken to protect the welfare of trapped animals if operating in harsh environments, such as covering the cage with shade cloth and providing water during hot conditions and providing bedding in cold conditions.
- Cats (or non-target species) are not harmed in the trap
- Each animal can be checked for a collar, identification tags or microchip
- Suitable for urban and rural settings where pets and other non-target animals may encounter traps
- Trapping may be effective for targeting problem animals
- Trapping is time consuming and labour intensive, as traps must be checked regularly
- Cats that are wary of human infrastructure may be cautious of entering a cage trap
- Traps are not target specific, so other animals may be captured. Every effort must be made to avoid impacts on non-target species.
- Cage trapping is not effective as a broadscale method
We recommend consulting the Pest Smart standard operating procedure for trapping cats using cage traps, including animal welfare and human health considerations. Ensure care is taken and gloves worn when handling feral cats to prevent exposure to toxoplasmosis and other diseases.
Every effort must be made to ensure the welfare and wellbeing of trapped animals. It is therefore not recommended to trap in extreme weather when captured animals may suffer exposure or shock. Selection of appropriate traps and trap sites will increase chances of success and minimise non-target captures. Traps should be set with vegetation cover or be covered with shade cloth or hessian to protect any captured animals from the weather.
Trap alert systems can also be used to remotely monitor whether the trap door has closed, as is being done at Arid Recovery, allowing people to prioritise checking of closed traps first. Captured animals should be approached carefully and quietly to minimise distress. Once captured, feral cats can be humanely euthanased by an authorised person at an animal shelter, council pound or veterinarian, or by shooting while still in the cage at an appropriate site away from urban/residential areas. If transporting the trapped animal, keep it in the cage, cover with a breathable material such as a hessian bag and move it in a quiet, air conditioned vehicle.
- Trapping must be undertaken in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act 2002, which means that animals must not be subject to unnecessary stress, exposure or harm, and reasonable care must be taken to ensure other animals are not harmed. It is an offence under the AW Act to be cruel or cause unnecessary harm to an animal, including declared pests, and penalties of up to $50 000 and imprisonment for five years apply to an offence.
- Techniques that minimise suffering to the animal prior to, and during the activity are considered most humane, according to the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions – feral cat humaneness matrix. The RSPCA Australia Knowledgebase provides information on the subject of humane killing.
- PestSmart provide a standard operating procedure for cage trapping, which provides helpful tips and welfare considerations.
Cage trapping is ideal for use in urban or residential areas where domestic cats are present, as any cats caught can be checked for signs of domestication (e.g. collar, microchip) before being removed. Cage trapping is most useful when used in combination with other methods, such as in addition to shooting or where populations have already been reduced and the aim is to capture the few remaining individuals. It is useful for targeting known problem cats, as their removal can then be verified.
Local councils may loan traps or hire them out for a small fee. Find your local council here and see what information they have on managing cats. Rangers may be able to assist with trapping or other resources.
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