Unowned and feral cats

Responsible cat ownership, including microchipping and desexing, helps to curb the number of unowned and feral cats each year

Unowned cats are dependent on human society for food and shelter, but nobody claims ownership or responsibility for them. They often live in colonies.

Feral cats
are non-domestic cats, born in the wild and are not dependent on humans for food and shelter. They often live in their immediate family group or solitary and have no or minimal contact with humans.

Feral cat management is necessary to reduce their impact on native wildlife. See the Board’s position statement on feral cat management.

Don’t feed

Well-intentioned people may contribute to increases in the homeless cat problem by feeding an unidentified cat. This can attract other unowned cats to the area. Undesexed cats reproduce, creating more unowned cats which exacerbates the problem.

Instead of providing food to an unowned cat, you might consider taking the cat to your local council, vet or shelter to be scanned for a microchip. If the cat is unowned or cannot be reunited with its owner, you may wish to take ownership, have it desexed and microchipped (if not already) and consider containing it on your property (check your council by-laws regarding this).

Alternatively you may wish to surrender the cat.

Microchipping and desexing

Make sure your cat is desexed, microchipped and registered in Dogs and Cats Online. It should be appropriately identified with a collar and tag.

Many adult cats taken to shelters are obviously owned, but without identification can’t be reunited with their owners.

Undesexed cats can quickly contribute to the unowned and feral cat populations. Ask your vet about early-age desexing to prevent unexpected litters.

Seizing and detaining

If you capture a cat with ownership details attached to its collar, you must return it to its owner. If the cat has no visible identification, contact your council for advice—a council officer can scan it for a microchip. You must not contain a cat for more than 12 hours.

Don’t release

If you own a cat and can no longer care for it, do not dump it. Not only is this cruel but it is also illegal under the Animal Welfare Act 1985 and the Landscape SA Act 2019. Try rehoming the cat or take it to a shelter.

If you trap an unidentified cat, you must not release it elsewhere. See above section, seizing and detaining.