Rules surrounding stray cats and cat ownership

Responsible Cat Ownership

Cats are beautiful, intelligent, and amazing creatures. Cats will continue to provided invaluable companionship and comfort to many of us, as they have done for centuries. Cat owners also have a responsibility to their cat, their community, and our globally unique Australian environment.

Responsible cat ownership includes effective containment, housing, feeding, control, health care and breeding. Cat owners need to be aware of the problems which can occur if their pet cat/s are allowed to roam or wonder outside their property. Curfews and containment by-laws for domestic cats are increasingly more common across local government areas(1). Council encourages all cat owners to keep their cat/s safe at home and contained within their property boundaries at all times, as recommended by the RSPCA (2), the UNSW (3), TSRH (4), the AAS (5), the NFF (6), and most importantly the Australian Veterinary Association (7). Council especially encourages containment of cats from dawn to dusk, as recommended by the Cat Protection Society of NSW (8) and WIRES (9).

  • Ensure that your cat is microchipped and registered. Put a collar and tag on your cat.
  • Desex your cat at an early age. You will not have the worry about unwanted kittens and it reduces the chances of having a non desexed male hanging around marking his territory and yowling at inconvenient hours. Desexing male cats at an early age will reduce involvement in cat fights and the tendency of your cat to wander looking for a female.
  • Keep your cat/s within your property at all times. Do not allow your cat to roam.
  • Ask your adjoining neighbours if your cat/s causes any nuisance or problems.
  • Ensure your cat/s wears both a collar and a bell.
  • Keep your cat/s healthy and happy, and avoid nuisance problems caused by boredom.
  • Clean up after your pet cat/s.
  • Make sure you really want a cat and are prepared to care for it before acquiring one.

Uncontained cats

In 2020 the report of the federal inquiry into the problem of feral and domestic cats in Australia, found that: “Cat containment was strongly supported by inquiry participants” (10). Uncontained pet cats are at high risk of injury, and may contribute to the feral cat population. Feral cats are identified by Council’s Biodiversity Management Strategy 2015-2035 (2nd Edition) as a “well-established pest animal”. In Australia, an estimated 300 million animals are killed each year by uncontained pet cats. There are many more pet cats (~3.88M) in Australia than feral cats (~2.7M).

Many people do not like the presence of an uncontained cat for a range of reasons. The cat may be noisy, may defecate in their yard, may attack their pets, damage property, kill wildlife or spread diseases such as Toxoplasmosis (11). An uncontained cat is also at high risk of being a ‘nuisance’ cat. Council may issue an order in relation to a nuisance cat (12). Furthermore, every individual will have a different view as to what constitutes a ‘nuisance’ cat. Under the NSW Companion Animals Act 1998 a cat is a ‘nuisance’ if it:

  • Makes noise that persistently occurs or continues to such a degree that it unreasonably interferes with the peace, comfort or convenience of any person in any other premise.
  • Repeatedly damages anything outside the property on which it is ordinarily kept.
Section 32 of the NSW Companion Animals Act 1998 also allows that: Any person may lawfully seize a cat if that action is reasonable and necessary for the protection of any person or animal (other than vermin) from injury or death. However, any seizure of a cat must be consistent with animal welfare laws such as the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986. If you do have issues with a cat, Council recommends you firstly discuss your concerns with the cat’s owner. In most cases, cat owners will want to do the right thing and be a responsible cat owner. You may also seek a Noise Abatement Order, independent of Council (13).

Council has steps in for processing a seized cat:
  • Firstly, make every effort to safely, respectfully, and promptly reunite the seized or lost cat with its owner.
  • Where the owner cannot be identified, surrender the cat to our contracted veterinary services provider.
         a. Lismore Veterinary Clinic, 20-22 Uralba Street, 6622 0033 (14)
  • These veterinary services will scan the cat for a microchip, in order to reunite the cat with its owner.
  • Where the owner cannot be identified by the vet, the vet with surrender the cat to either:
         a. An animal welfare agency or shelter, for the purpose of care and readoption, or
         b. A Lismore City Council Ranger (6625 0500) for temporary housing at Council’s animal pound.
  • Owners retrieving their cat from Council’s pound are subject to per-day housing fees, and the compulsory costs of registration and microchipping (which are increased for a cat not desexed) before the cat can be claimed.
  • Unfortunately, unidentified or unclaimed cats may be humanely euthanised.