A cat (Felis catus) is feral or semi-feral, depending on its origin. True feral cats are born in an environment without human intervention. Semi-feral cats were at some time cared for by humans; for example, a ‘dumped’ cat forced to live wild.
Cats still have strong hunting instincts, despite being domesticated for more than 4000 years. Many domestic cats adapt quickly to their surroundings, becoming feral in behaviour and appearance if abandoned.
The feral cat is classified as a category 3,4,6 pest animal under Queensland's Biosecurity Act 2014. They can create substantial adverse economic, environmental or social impacts. Their management requires coordination, with programs led by local government, community and landowners.
What they look like
- Feral cats are like domestic cats, but generally display a much stockier, stronger appearance.
- Males can weigh an average of 3 to 6 kilograms, and females range from 2 to 4 kilograms.
- They can appear well kept and have short and long-haired coats in a variety of colours. Completely white feral cats are rare.
- Established populations can evolve to suit their environment, camouflaging while hunting.
Where they live
- They live all over Australia.
- Semi-feral cats usually live around dump sites, alleys or abandoned buildings, relying on humans by scavenging rubbish scraps or feeding on food intentionally left out.
- Feral cats shelter in hollow logs, clumps of grass, rabbit burrows, piles of debris and even hollows in standing trees.
- They keep established home ranges, which vary in size depending on the availability of food and den sites.
- They hunt and kill wildlife, even if well fed by other sources.
- They hunt just after sunset and before sunrise.
- They interact in groups of several adult females, their young of both sexes and one dominant adult male.
Problems caused by feral cats
- They prey on a wide range of native Australian wildlife species.
- Competition for this food and other resources may contribute to declining numbers of native predatory species.
- In urban areas, they may prey on small domestic pets and poultry, also causing devastation in some agricultural areas.
- They can become very territorial and if approached or cornered by people may scratch or bite, which can lead to infection and other health issues.
- Control of feral cats can be expensive and time consuming.
Prevention & control
It is the landholder's responsibility to manage feral cats on their land. There are many steps that can help reduce your property's attractiveness and accessibility to feral cats.
An electric fence with a minimal distance between wires will give a high degree of control for small areas. The electrified wire should be mounted close to the top of the fence. Note this will also restrict the movement of native wildlife, so it is only recommended for the protection of domestic animals.
Non-electrified fencing should include netted roofing or a curved overhang to prevent the cat from climbing up and over the fence.
Trapping techniques must conform to animal welfare practices. The traps must be RSPCA approved.
Soft-catch, rubber-jawed foothold traps will firmly hold the captured cat while eliminating trap-induced or self-induced injury. These traps are not recommended in urban and semi-urban environments due to the risk of catching other animals.
A recommended trap is a wire cage with a trigger that closes the door once the cat has entered. These are usually successful, easy to use and will not harm the animal once caught.
To reduce the habitat of feral cats, remove dense thickets of weeds and piles of rubbish. Cats are often found harbouring under shipping containers. Netting or other means of excluding them will reduce the areas where they can live, breed and hide.
Do not create feeding stations for local native wildlife – feral cats may use them to ambush other animals. Do not intentionally feed feral or semi-feral cats.
Dispose of food scraps, uneaten pet food and excess fruit dropped by fruit trees. Always cover your compost heap or use a compost bin.
Often the most obvious sign of feral cat activity is the presence of cat scats. Unlike domestic cats, they leave their excrement clearly visible to warn other cats of their territorial boundaries.
Monitor your property. If you find feral cats, or identify scats and dens, tell your neighbours. A cooperative community approach is necessary to achieve all pest management goals.
To report a feral cat, click on the following button and scroll down to 'Pest animals' to complete our online form.
Report a problem – Animals