Is it legal to shoot feral cats in PA?

To outsiders “PA” means the state of Pennsylvania, USA. I have answered the question “off paper” by which I mean through research rather than relying on first hand experiences. If anyone can add first hand experience (excluding trolls such as Woodsman001) I’d be happy to publish their comment.

The answer to the question in the title lies in the overlap of the following issues:

  1. Statutory law regarding animal cruelty in Pennsylvania (5511)
  2. Hunting regulations in the state
  3. Pest control in the state
  4. Control of ‘nuisance animals’

Regarding killing, Pennsylvania’s animal cruelty laws concern domestic or zoo animals. Regarding abuse the law concerns people who are caring for animals. Therefore, in respect of a true feral cat, which is a wild cat, the animal cruelty laws of this state are irrelevant it seems to me except for volunteers doing TNR work (this may be important). The statutory law covers the killing of domestic animals. Shooting a domestic animal will often kill him/her.

Because the animal cruelty laws of the state do not cover true feral cats, on the face of it, it would be legal to shoot a feral cat in this state. However, as I have stated several times before, how is a shooter able to distinguish between a feral, stray or domestic cat? And let’s be clear, many feral cats are semi-domesticated. Would that or should that place them under the protection of the law? Therefore on a practical level it is highly unwise and should not be attempted. A person shooting a cat that he thought was feral could well end up in the criminal and civil courts expending a pile of money on his defense and still find himself in jail and massively out of pocket.

The forum (a hunting website) backs up what I have stated. It states that “owned and loose, stray, and feral; killing them is against the law”.


You might expect that the hunting regulations and pest control regulations of Pennsylvania refer to feral cats specifically allowing them to be culled or exterminated at will by the citizens of the state. However, I can find no reference to feral cats in the law regarding hunting in this state therefore it cannot be said that shooters have permission under hunting regulations. The reason is the impossibility of distinguishing feral from domestic.


As for pests, a Pennsylvania state website ( refers to invasive species. They say they can be pests. They list them. The feral cat is not on the list. Therefore feral cats are neither invasive species nor pests as listed by the authorities in this state and therefore cannot be dealt with under this heading.


As for nuisance animals, feral cats could fall under this heading. The website states that “shooting live ammunition, whether to frighten or kill, has limited application. Generally, live ammunition may only be fired during hunting season or under permit”. Therefore we have to fall back on hunting regs referred to above. And once again there is always the overriding issue of distinguishing feral from domestic.


Exceptionally rarely a person may have to kill a cat, either domestic or feral, who is attacking them. They may shoot the cat and therefore under the circumstances they may raise the defence in court that they shot the cat in self defence. This would be unfortunate because whenever a cat attacks somebody it is, in my opinion, the person’s fault unless the cat has rabies.


Feral cats are not protected by the state’s animal cruelty laws but domestic cats are. Domestic cats go outside sometimes. Most times, you can’t tell the difference between domestic and feral cats at a distance or even close up for that matter. I say this even though feral cats do have tipped ears sometimes (the left ear is partially amputated to indicate that the cat has been through a TNR program). Because it is often impossible to distinguish with certainty domestic from feral cat it is impossible to shoot them without the real possibility of committing a crime under the animal welfare laws and under laws relating to criminal damage as the target may well be someone’s domestic cat companion.

The law on shooting feral cats needs clearing up in my view. It is too vague. It leaves the door open to people who like to hunt feral cats.

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Is it legal to shoot feral cats in PA? — 9 Comments

  1. Again, educate yourself. ALL house-cats (the Felis catus species, created by man by selective-breeding for human purposes), whether feral or indoors or in your silly self-stroking lap, are called “domesticated cats”. Stop using your layman’s terminology and definitions. Your doing so is driving you insane. Use the definition and term as used by all laws and all fields of science, and anyone with even a first year of high-school education. Felis catus, feral or not, is a domestic or domesticated species.

    Did you even go to any school at all?

    Laws do not GIVE you permission to kill animals, they can only deny you permission to kill which ones and/or how many.

    • Beth, you are Woody (Woodsman0001) in drag – and you are a drag and you’re completely wrong. It is you who needs educating. True feral cats are not domestic cats. Don’t you understand the word ‘domesticated’?

      • 2do•mes•ti•cate \-ket, -‘kat\ noun (1951)
        : a domesticated animal or plant

        Please tell us how you can “tame” and/or “train” a plant into a lap-plant, according to your definition of “domesticate”.

        domesticate verb
        to adapt (an animal or plant) to life in intimate association with and to the advantage of man (the man who domesticated the first dog)

        1do•mes•ti•cate \de-“mes-ti-‘kat\ do•mes•ti•cat•ed do•mes•ti•cat•ing (ca. 1639)
        verb transitive
        1 : to bring into domestic use
        2 : to adapt (an animal or plant) to life in intimate association with and to the advantage of humans
        3 : to make domestic

        do•mes•ti•ca•tion \-‘mes-ti-“ka-shen\ noun

        1do•mes•ti•cate \de-“mes-ti-‘kat\ do•mes•ti•cat•ed do•mes•ti•cat•ing (ca. 1639)
        verb transitive
        1 : to bring into domestic use
        2 : to adapt (an animal or plant) to life in intimate association with and to the advantage of humans
        3 : to make domestic : fit for domestic life
        do•mes•ti•ca•tion \-‘mes-ti-“ka-shen\ noun

        You would do yourself and all of your pathetically stupid readers a world of good if you even knew the definitions of the terms you try to (but wrongly) use.

        You fuckingly PATHETIC & STUPID MORON who never even went to ANY school! You’ve proved that without one doubt left.

        • Woody you are a complete arsehole and you must have been pissed when you wrote that. Are you an alcoholic? It sounds like it. The domestic cat is barely domesticated as it is. When a domestic cat becomes feral he/she is genuinely wild and unsocialised. Such a cat cannot be described as domesticated.

          What point are you trying to make? You are being utterly stupid and ignorant.

  2. I was admiring a blue jay on the back deck rail. Today under the deck furniture where feral cats have been living I found what was left of it after the “domesticated” cats that were born in a neighbors brush pile had dinner. I have found feathers in the yard several times this summer. My smaller old dog has almost lost his eye trying to “befriend” them…he was just curious.Females are very protective of their litters and can be dangerous. The asshole across the street puts large quantities of food out for them, usually there are 5-8 adults lounging there. Apparently “Beth” you have either never had such a problem or you may be one of those assholes feeding them. They are a nuisance, they are dangerous ( because of their feeding on wild animals they are a rabies risk) and they need to be dealt with. In my case there is no spay/alter release program near me. There are approximately 8-12 adults probably 15-20 younger kittens living in an area of about 2-3 acres. I do not dislike cats…but do the math. In no time at all the bird, rabbit and small animal population will be gone from my area. I am sure there are some sadistic fucks hunting them for fun, that I assure you is not the intent of most who have a feral cat issue. Trap and release elsewhere does not solve the problem. It is the same as a rat infestation. Unfortunately thats how i will treat it. I like cats in general, it does hurt me to have to kill them. Hunt them? Never. Still they must be controlled just as other animal population that is a nuisance to the welfare of a particular area.

    • I have published your comment in the interests of free speech and a balanced argument. I disagree with you of course. TNR does work and it does reduce the numbers. And it is humane. What you want to do is inhumane. Don’t blame the cats, blame the people who irresponsibly let their cats create them. And you are demonstrating speciesism, the preference of one species over another. There is more that it wrong with your argument and the counter arguments are on the site in numerous places.

      If you are Woody aka Woodsman001 don’t write a second comment as it will be deleted.

  3. I shoot them with a population of 500 on my property and growing its a problem. They fight. They are nasty. The bring mites and fleas near our animals. They are nuisance animals. Unless domesticated. Look at wild pigs. A domesticated pig is ok it breaks out it takes weeks before it adapts to the wild. Becoming a nuisance animal. Cats are the same.

    • Well, I say that you are committing a crime because you don’t know for sure that the cats are all feral. Some may be stray domestic cats. And feral cats are not classified as nuisance animals.

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