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How can we best manage domestic cats in Australia?

There are an estimated 3.3 million owned cats in Australia; cats are the second most popular pet and 29% of households own a cat. However, while many of these cats are highly valued by humans as companions and pets, many others are not well-cared for and have no defined owner. Estimates suggest there are 0.7 million unowned cats, of varying sociability but still with some dependence on humans, living on the fringes of our towns and cities.

Although considerable efforts have been made to reduce the unwanted domestic cat population, the complexity of this problem makes effective cat management very difficult. It requires a high level of government and community support and communication and coordination between all stakeholders, aspects which are often difficult to achieve and maintain over time.

Over recent years the Australian community’s acceptance of cat management measures such as desexing, cat containment, registration and microchipping has increased, as has public concern over the adverse impact of cats on wildlife and over the euthanasia of healthy cats. With this shift in the level of public understanding of the significance of cat related issues and the urgent need for solutions, RSPCA Australia has developed a detailed report – Identifying Best Practice Domestic Cat Management in Australia – to help identify more effective, consistent and humane strategies for the management of domestic cats in the future.

The report is based on a discussion paper which was made available for public consultation in 2017. The public consultation process attracted 1159 online survey responses, 759 emails and 104 detailed submissions from various stakeholders whose primary interest ranged from including cat ownership, government regulation, animal welfare to conservation and feral cat control. Detailed consideration was given to the feedback received in the development of this final report and the changes to the document are outlined in the Response to Public Consultation on the Discussion Paper.

The Identifying Best Practice Domestic Cat Management in Australia report examines existing knowledge, legislation and strategies for cat management to help identify potential best practice approaches that will protect cat welfare whilst reducing the negative impacts of domestic cats. A total of 21 recommendations are contained in the report with key findings including the need for universal agreement on defining different cat populations and more active collaboration, particularly between local government, community cat rescue groups and veterinarians at the community level. This report is a useful resource for those wanting to know more about evidence based strategies for effective domestic cat management. A summary of the findings and recommendations from the report can be found here.

Visit the RSPCA Australia Safe and Happy Cats website for more information.

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Updated on November 6, 2023
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