Risks of Trapping

What are the risks of trapping any animal?

Humane traps are designed to confine and NOT to kill or injure. The risks involved, therefore, are secondary to the trap itself — primarily psychological pain and exposure to environmental hazards.

The psychological risks are the following:

Most animals, particularly wild animals, will be very frightened at the prospect of being so enclosed. Please be prudent as to how and where you trap, so that the fewest number of animals are stressed. Make an effort to find the quietest traps that you can. Theoretically, any animal could literally die of fright though it is uncommon and I personally have never seen this. Susan Greene of central New York State shared, "Red squirrels will sometimes nerve themselves to death. Wildlife control trappers sometimes find dead squirrels in traps even when the trap has been in a quiet, cool attic overnight. I am not aware of other instances of other species of animals dying of fright, personally." On the other hand, there are animals who have no qualms at all. One sweet tabby cat gave her trapper — a complete stranger — purrs and ankle rubs after her ordeal was over (which included a trip to the vet to identify her sex). Feral rescuers (who trap, neuter, and release feral cats) have noted cats, usually a previously neutered tom, who foil their efforts by repeatedly entering a trap just to get the food, knowing he will soon be released — since he has already been neutered.

For the most part though, I think we can safely say that it probably isn't a pleasant experience. It frightens the animal, yet they have it in them to eat a good meal. I was wrought with guilt when I saw the bare spot on my cat's head from her attempts to push her way out of the trap; at the same time, I am also certain that without a trap she would have starved to death.

The environmental risks are the following:

A trap which is left out in the elements (sun, rain, wind, severe cold) runs the risk of subjecting the animal to dehydration, heat exhaustion, freezing, or frostbite, etc. Additionally, the trapped animal can be subject to predation by other animals, or other people, unless carefully monitored. There are people who may misinterpret the situation, release the animal, and destroy the trap.

What can I do to reduce these risks?

Place your traps in safe, sheltered areas. Set up a baby monitor (or other speaker device) so that you can hear if the trap closes and respond quickly. Let it be known that you will be trapping so that neighbor cats can be kept in at night. Check your trap often. There are organizations that are staffed with people who will help you monitor your trap. Some organizations will not loan out traps without constant supervision. The ideal situation would be to monitor the trap continuously and immediately release nontarget animals (and, hopefully, reunite with your pet) to reduce the stress of being confined. Realistically though, I know it would be difficult for one person to maintain constant surveillance. I know my cat would not be here if I only set out the traps when I could monitor them.

What is the long term psychological effect of this experience on a cat?

One month after we were able to trap our cat, Sage, and bring her home, I was wondering if she would have permanent negative feelings about the trap and if the trauma of being trapped was so horrible that it was imprinted on her brain. I was thinking just in case of an earthquake or fire where she might get loose, she would have to have pleasant associations with the trap in order for us to retrieve her. So I put some chicken in the trap, wired open the door securely. Sage could smell the chicken and started purring. Then she saw the dish and circled the trap and walked right in — not a bit of hesitation. She stayed inside near the bowl to make sure another batch of chicken wasn't forthcoming, then took a bath in the trap. I left the trap out for several days and she would often run inside to play or just wait there hoping more chicken might appear. Apparently, whatever she felt when we trapped her in June 2000 was not so bad that she won't walk in today.

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