The Florida Cats Indoors materials have been
developed in partnership with the American Bird Conservancy
For the purposes of this Web site, the term "free-ranging cats"
applies to owned cats that spend all or a portion of their time
outdoors where they may prey on wildlife. "Feral cats" are
those cats that are not owned and exist in the wild. Feral cats can
be born in the wild or may have only recently entered into the
wild, but we make no attempt here to distinguish between these two
groups. Feral animals can exist in the wild completely unaided by
humans or they may be members of so-called "cat colonies" that
receive varying levels of care and food from human
The domestic cat (Felis catus) is a beloved house pet,
with over 77 million pet cats nationwide. Of these, about 43
million spend some time outside. Additionally, there may be
60 to 100 million homeless stray and feral cats. Domestic
cats are becoming a common feature not only of our backyards and
city streets but also of our parks and other wild lands.
Domestic cats are descended from the wild cat of
Africa and southwestern Asia and were domesticated by the Egyptians
about 4,000 years ago. Animal behavior experts note that cats
will hunt and kill even if well fed. Domestic cats are very
effective predators on rabbits, squirrels, mice, lizards, snakes,
and many species of wild birds.
Domestic cats can have impacts on
Domestic cats are not a part of natural ecosystem.
A single individual free-ranging cat may kill 100 or more birds and
mammals per year. Scientists in Wisconsin estimate that cats kill
at least 7.8 million birds per year in that state alone. Even cats
with bells on their collars kill birds and small mammals.
Cats compete with native predators and spread
Domestic cats can be a nuisance and cause damage in
many of the same ways that wild animals do, such as killing poultry
and other small domestic stock.
Homeless cats may compete with pets for food.
Free-ranging cats can kill birds at bird
Cats can be a nuisance in gardens when they
defecate and cover their feces by digging.
Modify your actions
to begin solving the cat problem.
Do not feed cats other than your
own. Do what you can to eliminate cat's artificial food
sources. Bring in pet food at night and secure trash cans by
fastening the lid tightly or enclosing in a bin with a locking
Keep bird feeders away from bushes and
underbrush where cats can hide. If a free-ranging cat
remains a problem at your feeder, you may need to stop feeding
birds for while to allow the cat to move to other hunting
Try to work problems out with your
neighbors by first determining if the cat is owned and
asking the owners to control their cat. The nuisance cat may be
homeless or it could be your neighbor's.
When all else fails you can trap the cat in
a humane way and transport it to an animal shelter. Make
trapping a pet cat a last resort and check your local ordinances
first! In some communities, it is illegal to trap a
neighbor's cat even on your property. Use a live trap baited
with sardines or tuna spread on newspaper or a paper plate. Place
the bait in the back of the trap so that the cat must enter the
trap to get the bait. Check the trap regularly, preferably every
hour. To keep from capturing animals such as raccoons and opossums,
only trap during the day. Be very careful not to be
bitten or scratched; stray or feral cats can carry rabies and
other diseases. You can receive additional technical assistance on
dealing with nuisance domestic cats through your local Humane Society or animal shelter.
If you are a cat
owner, be responsible:
Obey your local pet control ordinances, and do not
allow your cat to become someone else's nuisance.
Recognize the impact that your pet may have on
native wildlife and consider making your cat an indoor cat. Indoor cats live longer, stay healthier, and do
not kill native animals. Outdoor cats can be trained to be indoor
cats and new pet cats should stay indoors right from the start.
NEVER intentionally release cats into the wild.
Abandoning cats is inhumane, harms our native wildlife, and is
against state law.
The FWC and Feral
At its May 30, 2003 meeting at Kissimmee, the
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission passed a policy
regarding feral and free-ranging cats.
It is apparent from recent articles and letters in
the media, as well as from feedback directly to the Commission from
the public, that some people have a serious misunderstanding
about that policy.
What the Commission approved May 30 was just that -
a policy - "to protect native wildlife from predation,
disease and other impacts presented by feral and free-ranging
This policy does not call for the FWC to kill cats,
nor does it outlaw the practice of Trap-Neuter-Release. It is the
foundation for FWC staff to interact with affected parties and
develop science-based, humane solutions when cats impact rare
wildlife - particularly on lands the Commission owns or
manages. It calls for us to work cooperatively with other
land-management agencies to prevent the release or feeding of cats
on public lands supporting wildlife habitat. Among our
strategies is the development of a public-awareness campaign
focusing on responsible cat ownership and the impact on native
wildlife posed by feral and free-ranging cats.
For more detailed information about what the policy
does and does not mean, please click on the following link.
Review of Feral and Free-ranging Cats
Assessment: Impacts of Feral and Free-ranging Domestic Cats on
Wildlife in Florida. (.pdf 318KB)