Feral cat

Feral cats are domestic cats living in a wild state. Although the domestic cat has a long history of associating with humans, it retains a strong hunting instinct and can easily revert to wild behaviours.

Feral cats are often more muscular than house cats, and are opportunistic predators that have a major impact on native species. They are found throughout Australia.

You can support a national feral cat mapping project by reporting feral cat populations.

Feral cat is a restricted invasive animal under the Biosecurity Act 2014.

Scientific name

Felis catus

Description

  • Cat with similar appearance to domestic cat but often with increased muscle development, particularly around head, neck and shoulders.
  • Males generally weigh 3-6kg, females 2-4kg .
  • Coat is generally short and ranges from ginger, tabby and tortoiseshell to grey and black.
  • Most active at night, with peak hunting activity soon after sunset and just before sunrise.
  • Eyesheen is distinctive green under spotlight.

Habitat

  • Thrives under all climatic extremes, and in vastly different types of terrain.

Distribution in Queensland

  • Found throughout Queensland.

Life cycle

  • Male cats reach sexual maturity at about 12 months.
  • Females can reproduce at about 7 months.
  • Can produce up to 3 litters a year, usually of 4 kittens but varying from 2 to 7.
  • Most reproduction occurs between spring and summer.
  • Birth follows gestation period of 65 days.

Affected animals

small mammals; birds; reptiles; amphibians; insects; fish

Impacts

Environmental

  • Eats small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects and even fish.
  • Threatens small populations of critically endangered species such as bilbies and nail tail wallabies.
  • Particularly harmful in island situations, where it has caused extinction of some species.
  • Competes for prey with native  predators such as quolls, eagles, hawks and reptiles.
  • Carries toxoplasmosis, which is particularly harmful to marsupials, causing blindness, respiratory disorders, paralysis and loss of offspring.

Economic

  • Minor costs associated with condemnation of sheep and lamb carcasses due to sarcosporidiosis and toxoplasmosis, which are carried by feral cats.

Social

  • Can injure and transmit disease to domestic cats.
  • Carries parasites that can affect humans.
  • High numbers in urban areas cause hygiene problems.

Control

  • Successful control programs require multiple methods, including night shooting, poisoning, trapping and fencing, combined with land management practices. Daytime shooting is sometimes productive (e.g. in arid or semi-arid areas, where cats take refuge in canopies of scattered low trees along drainage courses).
  • Fence potential food sources such as rubbish dumps. (Unfenced rubbish dumps and similar habitats with abundant food contribute significantly to feral cat populations.)
  • Practise responsible cat ownership to decrease new sources of feral cats.
  • Trap cats in wire ‘treadle-type’ box traps. This method is most practical for semi-feral urban cats. Attractants/lures may be meat or fish and should be placed so that they cannot be reached through wire and retrieved by clawing.
  • Lay rubber-jawed leg-hold traps as for dingoes and foxes. Leg-hold traps can work well with true feral cats, which would normally avoid live-capture box traps. Ideal trap sites are those where territorial markers (e.g. faecal deposits and pole-clawing) are noticed. Tuna oil has shown some success as an attractant; however, feral cats seem more readily attracted to a site by visual stimulus such as bird feathers hung from a bush or stick.
  • Some councils lend cat traps for removing stray and feral cats in urban situations.

See the Feral cat ecology and control fact sheet (PDF, 1.43MB) for more information.

Legal requirements

  • Feral cat is a restricted invasive animal under the Biosecurity Act 2014.
  • It must not be moved, fed, given away, sold, or released into the environment without a permit.
  • The Act requires everyone to take all reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risks associated with invasive plants and animals under their control. This is called a general biosecurity obligation (GBO).
  • At a local level, each local government must have a biosecurity plan that covers invasive plants and animals in its area. This plan may include actions to be taken on certain species. Some of these actions may be required under local laws. Contact your local government for more information.

More information