Gear: Catch-Pole

Catch-poles go by several names: animal control poles, control poles, snare poles, rescue poles, and others. For our purposes, I prefer to call it a rescue pole, but few people understand that term. Consequently, I will refer to it by its most recognized name: catch-pole.

Catch-poles were not designed to rescue cats in trees. They were designed primarily to control hostile dogs by snaring them around the neck and leading them from place to place under their own weight while keeping them at a safe distance from the handler. They were never designed to lift an animal off his feet, but we can get away with this unintended use simply because cats are so much smaller than the dogs for which they were designed. Of course, for our purposes, cats should never be snared around the neck. The only proper way to snare a cat is around the chest just behind the front legs.

Catch-poles come in several fixed lengths as well as adjustable lengths. Generally, you will want the shortest length that serves your purpose because it can become difficult to maneuver a long pole in a tree where limbs often interfere with your movement. On the other hand, you are usually in a position where you need a pole as long as possible in order to reach a distant cat. The longest pole currently available is one that extends from seven to twelve feet, and that one is the most useful for most situations. Anything longer would be unmanageable. For those occasions when I can get reasonably close to the cat, I also have a catch-pole that is extendable from four to six feet. Those two poles will cover all your needs and are available from Ketch-AllAnimal Care Equipment and Services (ACES), and Tomahawk Live Trap.

As you pull the steel cable through the pole at the handle end, the noose at the other end gets smaller and smaller and automatically locks into position. The only way to release the tension on the cable and make the noose larger is to pull on the release knob at the handle end of the pole which unlocks the cable and allows an internal spring to push the noose back out to full size.

The noose of a catch-pole is a steel cable covered with a thick, soft, plastic coating, and that is minimally suitable for lifting a cat under his chest. Ideally, I want something larger and softer for the cat's comfort, so I add a tubular foam padding to the end of the cable to soften the cable and to spread the pressure over a slightly larger area. This padding on the cable places a limit on the smallest size noose that can be formed, so the padding can be only long enough to fit under an adult cat's chest without extending far back up the other side. This padding will still fit a kitten with more coverage on his chest and sides as long as the kitten is not very small, so, when dealing with small kittens, consider the smallest noose you can form and trim the padding beforehand if needed.

For the cable padding, I happened to have some tubular foam that came off the hoop of a fishing landing net, and it works very well. Otherwise, I would use rubber tubing like that used for a Big Shot sling. Since both of these paddings are tubular, the end of the catch-pole cable must be removed to slide the tubing over the cable. A solution that can be wrapped around the cable without removing it would be easier, but it is not difficult at all to remove the retaining ring under the head of the catch-pole to expose the end of the cable.

Deciding on the length and position of the padding on the cable can be troublesome. I don't do many catch-pole rescues and have not yet settled on a "perfect" solution, but, for now, I am using a length of tubing that is six inches long under the assumption that is the longest it can be for a small kitten but is still long enough to be beneficial for a very large adult cat. For a small kitten, I would want the tubing to be placed at the extreme end of the cable, but, for a large cat, I would want to slide it down a few inches to be sure the tubing fits under the cat's chest. Padding on the cat's sides is less important. For now, I have settled on using a coated rubber band that people use to hold their hair in a ponytail and placing it tightly over the end of the tubing to hold it securely in place while still allowing me to slide it along the cable into the ideal position when needed. I have not yet used it in this manner enough to recommend it, but I will update this page with better ideas as I learn them.

Catch-poles are very sturdy tools, but they do have one important weakness. They are vulnerable to getting jammed when there is a kink or fold in the steel cable. Expandable poles are especially vulnerable since they typically have more cable hanging loosely from the handle end. It is wise to take care of the loose cable when in use and in storage to prevent bending a crease into the cable. Kinks can also happen internally, so it is recommended that the tool be stored with a small amount of tension on the cable. When the cable is unsafe for use, it is wise to have a spare cable on hand for a quick repair. Catch-poles are relatively easy to take apart and repair, but you will probably need snap-ring pliers for that purpose.

If you use a catch-pole for a rescue, you will also need a net or some kind of container to secure the cat as soon as possible. See the next page, Gear: Net, for further information.

Cat-Handling Gear:  Net   >>>