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Cat laws and regulations

classifiedTHE WELFARE OF CATS - NCCAW Position Statement


NCCAW Position Statement

There has been considerable public debate about the cat's place in Australia, and the
relationship between the domestic and feral cat. There have also been calls for cats to be
brought under control.

Responsibly owned cats can provide valuable companionship but stray and feral cats are a major
problem. Control measures must address both domestic and feral cat populations.


The cat was introduced to Australia before European settlement by shipwrecks, and is now part of
the ecosystem.

NCCAW accepts that it is now impossible to eradicate unwanted cats, although this may be done in
a particular locations. It is important that feral cats are not replaced by uncontrolled urban


A cat control program must have the following goals:

to protect the welfare of cats
to reduce cats impacting on native wildlife
to reduce public nuisance caused by uncontrolled cats
to recognise the cats' value to society
community education.
Key Points

A successful, long-term cat control program should recognise and consider:

The importance of the cat as a valuable companion animal. Their eradication is not a practical
solution, or one that the community will accept. For any management plan to succeed, it must
have community support and long term commitment.
Cat owners' responsible and able to ensure the animals' welfare.
A cat owners' responsibilities must be recognised and defined. Attempts to deal with the cat
problem must take account of the cat's natural hunting instinct. Any control measures must be
'cat friendly'. Persecuting cats for their natural hunting instincts simply creates division in
the community. Measures must be developed to curtail the cat's ability to hunt, but still give
it the right to be a companion animal.
Even if a feral cat population is successfully controlled and its numbers reduced, this does not
solve the problem of community nuisance caused by irresponsibly owned cats.
Any control program must take account of the relationship between domestic and feral cats, as
they are biologically the same, and differ only in their level of domestication.
Food is a major driving factor, and even feral cats will readily co-exist with humans during
droughts and food shortages. These factors are important because:

domestic and feral cats will breed and continually replenish and increase the wild population.
Whilst a wild cat population can be self-sustaining, the supply of food and weather conditions
provide natural biological limitations to its expansion
to be effective, any control program must address domestic and feral populations, and any form
of biological control will affect both populations equally.
The eradication of wild cat populations is probably not feasible. The aim should be to reduce
their numbers to a level that will:

not endanger native wildlife populations
allow threatened and endangered wildlife populations to recover.
The cat's current legal status throughout Australia is inconsistent.
Australian, state and local governments should be involved in the control programs'

It is important that the community is educated in responsible cat ownership. Educational
programs should be incorporated into the school curriculum and must address all of the goals
established for an effective cat control program.


State legislation should be consistent and enforced at local government level, and be adaptable
to local conditions.

Appropriate legislation must be developed to address the cat problem, taking into account the
particular characteristics of the cat. Effective and comprehensive legislation will:

legalise the status of the cat to enable control
foster responsible ownership of domestic cats
allow the impounding and/or destruction of cats
identify owned from unowned cats
protect the welfare of cats
allow avenues to address nuisance caused by cats
protect native wildlife from cats
provide funds for cat control
include provision to deal with non-compliance.
Explanatory notes on legislation

Identification and registration of domestic cats

Identification should link a cat to its owner, and may or may not involve a fee. It should be:

nationally consistent
in the form of an electronic permanent identification, but a collar and tag is adequate
A central registry or link between existing identifications and registrations should be
established. This will:

allow owned, domestic cats to be distinguished from feral cats
allow impounding and/or destruction of cats
protect the responsibly owned cat
allow for incentives to be passed onto responsible owners.

Cats are prolific breeders. All domestic cats that are not specifically required for breeding
should be desexed to reduce the number of unwanted cats, as well as fighting and wandering off.


Domestic cats should be confined at least between dusk and dawn. This could be varied to suit
local conditions. This will:

protect the cat from fights, car accidents, the spread of disease and will control public
provide some protection to wildlife
allow night trapping programs to be undertaken without interference, and hence, be more
allow owners to interact more with their pets.
Control of Feral Cats

Even after responsible ownership of the domestic cat population is achieved, there will still be
a feral population left to control. Humane control programs must be conducted with due
consideration of the welfare of these cats, and under strict supervision of government


There is still much to learn about the cat problem. In particular:

more data is required to assess the impact of the cat on wildlife populations
the population dynamics and interaction between domestic and feral cats
interaction between cat control and the control of other introduced species eg. the rabbit
effective and humane control
effective ways to educate the community about responsible cat ownership, and the impacts cats
selecting and breeding for non-hunting cats
behavioural modification studies
behavioural enrichment studies and the human/animal bond.
This Position Statement was first published in April 1995 and was reviewed by NCCAW on 20
February 2008. NCCAW made the decision to retain it without amendment.

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