Region III Quarterly

Volume 2 - No. 4

October, 1940


By Robert R. Budlong,
El Morro National Monument.

(Web Edition Note: The National Park Service does not endorse, nor condone, the creation of such a device to deal with stray animals. This article is merely reprinted for historical purposes.)

Domestic cats are cute pets but they are out of place in a wildlife refuge. Marauding tabbies from nearby farms wreaked such havoc among our bird population that it became necessary to do something about it. An effective and humane device was constructed that functions automatically to discourage such visitations, and now, seemingly, no cat will venture within the boundaries of this national monument more than once. The contrivance includes a platform upon which some salmon is placed as bait. Through a trigger arrangement actuated by the weight of the cat as he is about to sample the fish, a bent lath is suddenly released and applied smartly to the south end of the feline. Propelled down a metal chute and into a tub of cold water, he emerges with great speed, streaks for the nearest boundary fence, and never returns. While I never could find one of the victims, after one application of the "spanker", my neighbors tell me that their cats have become rather shy. The pussies stay at home, keep looking over their shoulders, and have spells of resting in a most peculiar manner. They look thoughtfully off into space, as though some memory bothers them. They frequently go to sleep standing up, or rest lying down; seldom do they just sit. And they have acquired a distaste for salmon!

The "walloper" consists of a three-sided pen and a long chute that leads down toward a large washtub of water. Incorporated in the floor of this chute is a delicately-hinged platform, flush with the floor, and supported lightly by a rubber band stretched beneath it. When the platform is depressed about a sixteenth of an inch it closes an electric circuit and releases the tripping device. This consists of a large rat-trap with an iron washer fastened to the pan and an electro-magnet built into the trap directly beneath the pan. The magnet is actuated by a 22-1/2 volt battery. The weight of the cat depresses the platform and closes the electric circuit; the magnet pulls the rat-trap pan down, the wire jaw flies forward and knocks free a long nail that is held in place back of a carriage-bolt head. To this nail is fastened a long cord, which in turn is tied to a lath, the opposite end of which is firmly fixed to a heavy post in such manner that when the lath is strongly bowed, the string is long enough to let the nail catch beneath the carriage-bolt head, keeping the lath bent until released by the rat-trap. This lath is not ordinary building lath, which has insufficient strength and spring, but stronger and sterner stuff. When this bent lath is released, it flies forward, and through a nicety in adjustment applies a vigorous spanking to the posterior extremity of the cat. It is best to pad the business-end of the lath with a sponge-rubber kneeling-pad, such as is used by some housemaids and gardeners. The result is a severely spanked cat. The entire operation takes but a fraction of a second, and, Presto! your cat problem is solved. An added refinement in construction is to connect one wire leading to the magnet through the metal parts of the trap via the trigger, to break the electric circuit as the trap is released, thus preventing the battery from running down.

You must build the entrance to the spanker carefully, so that the cat will voluntarily assume the correct position. Once that happens, his future actions become involuntary. Therefore, we make a three-sided blind just ahead of our tunnel, or chute, and place some salmon just beyond the movable platform in the floor. The cat will eventually stalk into the open end of the blind and cautiously approach the salmon. If we take a series of measurements of average cat length, average stride of front legs, average distances from front paw to nose, and so on, we can properly adjust our hinged platform so that when the cat's front paw touches the platform and releases the mechanism, only about five-and-a-quarter inches of cat protrude from the blind. It is essential that the cat have its tail erect, but Nature attends to this. The cat feels anticipation or something, and it is the nature of cats to hold the tail erect at such moments. With respect to "average" on the necessary cat measurements: this depends upon the size of cats raised in your vicinity. Keep accurate notes of these measurements. I find that seven cats will give sufficient average. You obtain this by adding each column (length at foreleg, length from extended paw in normal creeping position of the cat to tip of nose, etc.) and dividing tha totals by the number of cats. From these measurementes you determine the length of the entrance from where the spanker stops, to the edge of the hinged platform.


All parts must be covered with sheet metal. Don't use wood throughout - you can't be sure of grain direction in the wood, and moisture raises the grain, so line it with zinc or galvanized iron-sheeting. By further experimentations you can readily determine the proper tension on the lath. You should spank the cat violently enough to propel him a predetermined distance, but not cause any injury. This tension is regulated by lengthening or shortening the string from the lath to the nail that holds the lath in its bent position.

We next come to the problem of what to do with the cat as he is propelled forward. He invariably goes head-first. You might do as I did with one spanker that was the most effective of all: contrive another propelling device where the cat emerges from the tunnel that will release from the shock of his landing and propel him vertically over the nearest fence. This, I have observed, adds to his humiliation. If you have no fence, you will find that it is not very difficult to construct one, in order to achieve just the right effect. However, I find that by building the tunnel so the far end has a strong downward direction, and by placing a large-size washtub full of cold water beneath this, satisfactory results are obtained. You should remember that pressure and friction produce heat. Not that the cat will become hot-headed - quite; the contrary. He will go into the tub headfirst, but the warmed end will immediately be completely submerged. It has seemed to me that this cooling device is most humane.

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Date: 17-Nov-2005