Map showing locations of feral cats in Australia
From Assessing Invasive Animals in Australia (2008) National Land & Water Resources Audit, Canberra
Download the map as a PDF file (PDF - 771.49 KB)
Feral cats threaten the survival of over 100 native species in Australia. They have caused the extinction of some ground-dwelling birds and small to medium-sized mammals. They are a major cause of decline for many land-based endangered animals such as the bilby, bandicoot, bettong and numbat. Many native animals are struggling to survive so reducing the number killed by this introduced predator will allow their populations to grow.
Feral cats can carry infectious diseases which can be transmitted to native animals, domestic livestock and humans.
Feral cats are the same species as domestic cats, however they live and reproduce in the wild and survive by hunting or scavenging. They are found all over Australia in all habitats, including forests, woodlands, grasslands, wetlands and arid areas. The map illustrates the estimated abundance of feral cats across the country.
Feral cats are predominantly solitary and nocturnal, spending most of the day in the safety of a shelter such as a rabbit burrow, log or rock pile. They are carnivores, generally eating small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and insects depending on their availability.
More information on feral cats:
- The impact of cats in Australia - fact sheet
Key threatening process under the EPBC Act
The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) provides for the identification and listing of key threatening processes. A key threatening process threatens or may threaten the survival, abundance or evolutionary development of a native species or ecological community. Predation by feral cats is listed as a key threatening process.
Once a key threatening process is listed under the EPBC Act a threat abatement plan can be put into place if it is shown to be 'a feasible, effective and efficient way' to abate the threatening process. A feral cat threat abatement plan has been made to address this key threatening process.
Threat Abatement Plan
The threat abatement plan for predation by feral cats (2015) sets out a national framework to guide and coordinate Australia’s response to the impacts of feral cats on biodiversity. It identifies the research, management and other actions needed to ensure the long-term survival of native species and ecological communities affected by predation by feral cats.
Cat eating a crimson rosella
Copyright C Potter
Feral Cat Taskforce
The Feral Cat Taskforce is a national advisory, coordinating and informal oversight group tasked with providing information and support to the Threatened Species Commissioner and the Department on implementing the feral cat actions and targets in the Threatened Species Strategy. Members from the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments, NGOs and key feral cat researchers:
- Advise on implementing the ‘Tackling feral cats and their impacts’ targets in the Threatened Species Strategy;
- Advise on feral cat management actions which are most likely to be successful at protecting priority species;
- Monitor and report on feral cat management activities in their jurisdiction or organisation;
- Encourage partnerships between governments, NGOs, and the community; and
- Champion innovative feral cat management solutions.
National declaration: feral cats as pests
At the Meeting of Environment Ministers (Melbourne, 15 July 2015), Ministers endorsed the National declaration of feral cats as pests. As part of this declaration, Ministers agreed to review arrangements within their respective jurisdictions and, where necessary, to remove unnecessary barriers to effective and humane control of feral cats. Ministers also agreed to consider feral cat management as a priority in threatened species recovery programs, and to pursue the development of a national best practice approach to the keeping of domestic cats.
Jurisdictions have made considerable progress to remove unnecessary barriers to effective and humane control of feral cats. Future meetings of Environment Ministers will provide a platform to continue work on a coordinated national approach to maintain momentum on this agreement.
Inquiry into the problem of feral and domestic cats in Australia
The Australian Parliament conducted an inquiry into the problem of feral and domestic cats in Australia in 2020, with reference to the prevalence of feral and domestic cats in Australia; the impact of feral and domestic cats including on native wildlife and habitats; and the effectiveness of current legislative and regulatory approaches. The Committee tabled its report on 4 February 2021.
- Tackling the feral cat pandemic: a plan to save Australian wildlife
- Australian Government response to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy report: Tackling the feral cat pandemic
Controlling feral cats
Control tools available for feral cats are shooting, trapping, fencing, baiting and a grooming trap.
Control of feral cats is challenging as they are found in very low densities over large home ranges and are shy, making them difficult to locate. They are also extremely cautious in nature.
Shooting cats is labour intensive and requires a lot of skill. Trapping of feral cats using cage traps is permitted everywhere in Australia and trapping using soft-jawed leg-hold traps is permitted in some states and territories. There are best practice standard operating procedures for shooting and trapping.
Predator-proof fenced areas are an effective way to control feral cat impacts (in restricted areas), as is the eradication of feral cats from offshore islands. As such safe havens can be costly and require ongoing biosecurity measures, their establishment needs to be carefully considered.
The most effective form of feral cat control over large areas is poison baiting.
Poison baits intended for feral cats must be laid on the ground (as cats, unlike other feral species such as foxes, will not dig up a buried bait).
There are two types of bait currently available for use in Australia — Curiosity® and Eradicat®.
Curiosity® : the Australian Government led the $5.9 million project to develop the Curiosity® bait for feral cats. The Curiosity® bait for feral cats is a small meat-based sausage containing a small hard plastic pellet encapsulating a humane toxin. It is designed to minimise the risk of native animals being poisoned by a low dose of the toxin and a design to minimise uptake of the hard plastic pellet.
- Curiosity® bait for feral cats - information about Curiosity® bait for feral cats and how licenced users can obtain baits for use
Eradicat® bait for feral cats is only for use in Western Australia. This bait comprises a small meat-based sausage injected with a synthetic toxin known as 1080 which replicates a naturally-occurring poison found in some plant species in Western Australia. Many native animals in the region have developed resistance to this toxin. In some parts of Australia, the Eradicat® and Curiosity® baits may present a significant hazard to wildlife species.
The Department is developing a third bait for feral cats called Hisstory® that is designed to minimise this hazard.
Felixer® Grooming Trap
The Felixer® Grooming Trap is a novel and automated tool to help control feral cats and foxes. The traps use rangefinder sensors to distinguish target cats and foxes from non-target animals and sprays target species with a measured dose of toxic gel. The solar-powered Felixer can hold 20 sealed cartridges of toxic gel and automatically resets after firing. Felixers photograph all animals detected (including non-target animals that are not fired upon) and can be programmed to play a variety of audio lures to attract feral cats and foxes. The Australian Government is currently supporting the commercialisation of the Felixer trap – for more information on the Felixer including future availability and order placement contact:
FERAL CAT SCAN - Free app
Record Feral Cat activity
Have you seen a feral cat recently? Record feral cat management activities, including feral cat sightings, eradication and impacts on native species via FeralCatScan – a free app available for download onto iPhone and Android devices.