It’s not critters themselves that we humans have a problem with — it’s their impact on our space. Whether they are sneaking into your pantry, garage, car or basement, the potential for disease transmission, as well as the damage and expense they leave in their wake, are why they have to go. Getting rid of them can also sap your time and challenge your patience. Nevertheless, the goal is always the same: encourage responsible relocation through the use of humane traps.
Your first preventative step should be eliminating or containing any food sources. “A common problem for pet owners is if you leave bowls of pet food outside for them, you’re attracting wildlife into your yard,” explains Stephanie Mantilla, zookeeper, animal trainer and author of “How To Clicker Train Your Cat.” “Instead, find ways to feed your pets indoors and make sure all food is properly secured so wildlife can’t get it,” Mantilla said.
You should also prevent animals from entering your spaces by sealing and covering access points. Once food and access have been eliminated, then you can work on trapping and removing those that are inside.
What Traps are Not Humane?
The word humane has a different definition depending on who is using it. Poisons are definitely not considered humane and research has shown that rodenticides can travel up the food chain, harming predators including owls, eagles, dogs and cats.
Spring-loaded quick-kill traps have been used for rodents for centuries, but many don’t consider them ethically humane because they kill the animal. They also might work imperfectly and injure, rather than kill, causing unnecessary suffering. Sticky traps are seen in the same light by some because they do not kill quickly, causing critters to die only after they become hypothermic, dehydrated or exhausted.
“Make sure you’re around when you’re trapping an animal, that the weather isn’t overly hot or cold, and that any facility that will be relocating the animal is available to pick up the trapped animal within a few hours,” Mantilla recommends, to ensure your approach is humane.
What to Look For in a Humane Trap
Safety is important when working with wild animals. “Wear thick leather gloves to help protect your hand and choose traps with a handle or other protection,” Mantilla noted. “And make sure it is appropriately sized for the animal you’re trying to catch. A cat is unlikely to try to squeeze into a trap designed for squirrels,” she added.
Traps can be either metal or plastic. “Humane traps are commonly made from steel mesh with holes. If the trap will be outside in the elements, look for powder-coated steel to help it last longer,” Mantilla recommended.
“Most traps are rectangular with a door or gate at one or both ends. In the middle or back of the trap, there’s a metal plate where a sticky food lure is placed that, when set up, once weight is put on the plate, releases the door so that it closes, trapping the animal inside. Avoid food that smart animals will grab. Raccoons are especially intelligent and can reach in for canned food without setting off the weight sensor,” Mantilla explained.
For all live traps to be considered humane, the trapper also plays a role. As the trapper, you must check your traps first thing in the morning and/or every few hours because trapped animals won’t have access to water and will become more stressed over time.
If you’re in need of critter removal and want to do it the humane way, we’ve put together this list of top-rated, quick-kill and no-kill humane traps that are effective and easy to use.
1. Southern Homewares Multi-Catch Humane Mouse Trap
BEST NO-KILL METAL MOUSE TRAP
Depending on the species, a pregnant mouse can have up to 12 babies in just 20 to 30 days, producing five to ten litters a year. This no-kill trap is equipped to catch several mice at once without spring-loaded or weight-triggered doors that need to be reset. Users like its clear top and sturdy design. They can be used with or without bait, although reviewers report better results with a natural food source.
Each trap has two entrances. One reviewer reported catching eight mice in less than two hours. That’s impressive, but your results will vary depending on how large your mouse problem has become. This trap is available in a rectangular shape as well as triangular for placing in a corner.
2. CaptSure Upgraded Humane Trap
BEST NO-KILL PLASTIC MOUSE TRAP
Made from durable, clear plastic, this reusable no-kill trap comes in green or brown so that it can be used inconspicuously indoors or out. A spoonful of bait, such as peanut butter, lures mice, rats and other small rodents through the spring-loaded door.
The upgraded design includes ventilation holes to make the trap even more humane. The fulcrum is near the far end of the trap so the rodent won’t be harmed when the door is triggered.
Once captured, take the entire trap outside and release the mouse by lifting the bait compartment. Then you can clean the trap and reset it within minutes for the next rodent.
They’re available in two sizes and in packs of one, two or six traps.
3. Kat Sense Instant Kill Reusable Pest Control Trap
BEST QUICK-KILL FOR RODENTS
If you must kill the critter, the most humane traps will kill instantly with very little room for error that would cause injury or suffering.
This indoor/outdoor trap is designed with your safety in mind. It includes a removable bait cap that allows you to place bait before the trap is set. The sensitive pedal and jaw-style teeth prevent false triggers, stolen bait and escapes. Once the trap is triggered, the high-power, stainless steel metal spring snaps shut with 35% more force than most other snap traps. Durable, washable plastic construction is easy to clean, eliminating odors that can alert rodents to avoid the trap. The release mechanism is designed so that you can hold the trap over a garbage can and dispose of the contents without touching the animal to prevent disease transmission.
The manufacturers suggest using them alone or in pairs near baseboards, corners or spaces in which you know rodents are hiding. Sold in packs of six or 12, they also offer a money-back guarantee.
4. Kat Sense Covered Tunneled Indoor/Outdoor Snap Trap
BEST CHILD-AND PET-SAFE QUICK-KILL
Quick-kill traps can be dangerous to small children and household pets. These humane traps offer all the benefits of its Instant Kill cousin above, with an added tunnel that prevents accidental harm to family members. The tunnel can be entered from two sides, making the ideal placement for this trap in the normal pathway that rodents might travel, along walls or other flat surfaces.
Sold in a two-pack, customers note how easy they are to use and that they often see results within just a couple of hours.
5. Kensizer Small or Medium Animal Humane Live Cage
BEST NO-KILL FOR SMALLER RODENTS
The simple, effective design of this rectangular cage has been copied by many manufacturers and scaled up and down in size. The Kensizer brand is well-rated because of its sturdy yet lightweight aluminum structure. Made from fine galvanized wire mesh, this trap allows the animal to breathe easily while preventing them from chewing its way out, which can happen with plastic or wooden traps. These humane traps are also reusable and should last for years.
Touching the bait trigger closes the door trapping the animal without distress. Customers have noted that the pedal trigger is sensitive without being falsely triggered. The door handle design allows for easy opening without getting your fingers near the trap opening.
6. Havahart Large 2-Door Humane Catch and Release Animal Trap
BEST TRAP FOR LARGER ANIMALS
“Before you go out and buy a trap, make sure the animal is actually a nuisance,” Mantilla cautioned.
“Often, opossums are trapped because people assume they’re dangerous but they perform a very important job in the ecosystem. Opossums compete with rats and cockroaches for food so if you have an opossum around, you’re unlikely to have the other two pests. Opossums will also eat ticks from your yard which is a great service,” Mantilla explained.
Each galvanized wire mesh trap has spring-loaded doors and a solid metal plate that prevents the animal from attacking your hand while it’s on the handle. The large trap is appropriate for armadillos, skunks, small dogs, cats, foxes, groundhogs, nutria, opossums, raccoons and similar-sized animals.
“It’s best to work with a local wildlife removal service that works with trap and release,” Mantilla added. “Some cities may not let you trap and release animals without a permit. You also may inadvertently be creating orphaned wildlife if you accidentally remove a mother animal away from her young.”
Havahart humane traps are also available with just one door and for small and extra-small animals in one and two-door styles.
Why Trust Spy?
Lorraine Wilde, M.S. lives on a hobby farm in the Pacific Northwest where she’s had lots of opportunities to humanely trap and release a number of uninvited furry friends. She also holds a Master’s degree in environmental science and is a firm believer that consumers can make informed, environmentally-conscious choices to protect our planet. Recently, she has shared with SPY readers her experience road-tripping with dogs as well as her top dog calming products.
Stephanie Mantilla is an experienced positive reinforcement-based animal trainer with a focus on cat behavior. Her 12 years as a zookeeper have given her experience and training with a range of animals from lions, cheetahs and tigers to bears, elephants, shrews and monkeys. Mantilla is also the author of the new book, How To Clicker Train Your Cat, where she walks cat parents through the steps for training their cats the fun way.
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