Humane cage traps and enclosure traps are effective methods for catching escaped indoor-only cats, outdoor-access cats lost away from home and skittish lost dogs. However, monitoring a trap is often very labor intensive, especially when set away from your home. Checking the trap frequently (such as every four hours in good weather) is important not only for the well-being of any trapped animal, but also because any time that a non-target animal is caught in the trap is a missed opportunity for catching your own missing pet. For this reason I recommend the use of wireless wildlife cameras or trap alarms. These will alert you when an animal is caught in the trap and you can either release the non-target animal or bring your lost pet home quickly.
Wireless Wildlife Cameras
Regular wildlife cameras (a.k.a. trail cameras) save their pictures to an SD card in the camera that you then need to retrieve to view the photos. There are now a variety of wireless trail cameras available. These cameras will send a picture to your phone or email (almost) every time one is taken by the camera. Some of them require an AT & T or TMobile account, but most now allow you to purchase a pre-paid phone card such as the Go Phone plan from AT & T for only $10/month. Be warned that you may need to talk to several sales associates before you find one that understands what you need to purchase to make the camera work, and don’t let them convince you that you need to purchase a plan that includes minutes. In order for these to work, the camera must be set up somewhere with cell phone coverage. A signal booster may be used in areas with weak signals.
When the camera is directed at a trap, you will start receiving photos via email or text as soon as an animal is caught in the trap. These work well both with humane cage-type traps and larger enclosure traps. These can also help you monitor a trap at night. If you have a smart phone, you can set it up so that the incoming message alert wakes you up and/or you could set you alarm to go off every 2-4 hours to check for any new photos.
Covert Special Ops Code Black
Check out this review from Trailcampro.com. This is the one wireless trail camera that I have used, and it worked quite well.
HCO UWay and Panda Wireless Cameras
Moultrie Game Cameras
Moultrie offers a pay as you go wireless service for several of their cameras. You also need to purchase the Moultrie Spy Game Management System. For more information, visit the Moultrie website.
Here is a review of the Moultrie I35, which is the cheapest model compatible with the Spy Game Management System.
This camera does not require a monthly subscription plan. However, it is only able to transmit up to 250 feet, where it stores a copy of the pictures on a separate device (the “black box”). This would work best if you are trapping around your home and could place the black box in your home. If trapping away from home, you could still put one of these cameras at the trap and then check the pictures from a distance without disturbing the trapping site.
Other Wireless and Cellular Cameras
I am continuing to research other cameras, but most of them appear very expensive.
Build Your Own
If you are tech savvy, then you might consider building your own wireless trail camera. Check out these instructions from eHow.com.
Trap Alarms for Trapping Lost Pets Around Your Home
If your lost dog or cat is close to your home (as is often the case with escaped indoor-only cats), you may be able to use one of these cheaper motion alarms. Some people even use a basic audio or video baby monitor set close to the trap. These type of alarms can be quite useful when trapping at night (when most lost indoor-only cats are active) because they are loud enough to wake you up when an animal is caught in the trap.
These are the trap alarms that I use most frequently.
There are various cheap versions of driveway alarms. I used to use Driveway Patrol, but it is no longer manufactured.
This driveway alarm has a short detection range, so it can only be used if you are trapping immediately around your home. The specifications say that it works up to 400 feet, but I have found that some only work to 50 feet. I have found that you do get what you pay for with these alarms, and they may not last for more than a year. You may be able to find something similar to this alarm at a hardware store such as Harbor Freight Tools.
Chamberlain Wireless Motion Alert
This alarm is supposed to work for up to 1/2 mile, so it should have a reliable range of at least half that. In the city I have found that it may only work for a few hundred feet. You can also purchase additional Add-on Sensors to use with one receiver. Here is a video of my dog entering a trap that is armed with a motion alarm.
In this case, I attached the alarm to a piece of wood and angled it downward. This way the alarm should not go off when an animal walks around the outside of the trap. For the video, I placed the alarm receiver next to the video camera, so you could hear when it beeped, but normally the receiver would be in the house with you and the trapped animal wouldn’t hear it. Though a bit more pricey, I find these alarms much more reliable than the Driveway Patrol.
SpyPoint Wireless Motion Detector
SpyPoint also sells some good quality trail cameras including at least one wireless camera.
GPS Trap Alarms
There are also commercially available GPS enabled trap alarms that don’t have the range limitations of these wireless models. However, they are probably prohibitively expensive for most people since they start around $500. These, like GPS locators and wireless cameras, also require a monthly subscription plan. A few models are the:
- Trap-Alert System available from Wildlife Control Supplies
- TT2 Globalstar Trap Transmitter available from Vectronic Aerospace
Lost Pet Research & Recovery Online Instructions
This information is taken from my Online Lost Pet Recovery Instructions. They also include more detailed instructions on using surveillance (e.g. wildlife cameras) and traps to catch lost dogs and cats. Access to these password protected instructions is currently available for only $20 and can be purchased from the Lost Pet Research Store.