Is it legal to shoot feral cats anywhere in USA?

One of today’s hot cat topic is how to deal with feral cats in the USA. Broadly speaking there are two camps: the shooters and the TNRers.

Although I detest arch-troller Woody, he consistently states that anyone, anywhere in the USA has the legal right to shoot feral cats (link opens a new window/tab and shows his comment). Feral cat shooters have the protection of the law, he claims. He says there is no need for a petition, such as Ben’s to legalise it. I am referring to shooting feral cats for no specific reason other than to kill them.

He writes this:

it’s STILL legal to shoot all feral cats in all of the USA.

Is that correct? Warning to Woody: You are barred from this conversation. I need to pin this down. We need to know exactly what the law is on this.

Wisconsin – an example

I refer to a good source: North Shore Animal League America.  A visitor asks: Is it legal to kill feral cats in Wisconsin¹?

The county animal control officer who has 20 years experience said  “that it is legal to kill feral cats in Wisconsin…”. Is she correct?

Elinor Molbegott, an Animal League expert quotes the law:

Section 951.02 of the Wisconsin Statutes states that “No person may treat any animal, whether belonging to the person or another, in a cruel manner.”

Cruel means: “causing unnecessary and excessive pain or suffering or unjustifiable injury or death.” (ection 951.01).

Elinor says: “it is clear that section 951.02 prohibits causing unjustifiable death to an animal, even by owners.”

My comment: Shooting a feral cat dead will cause pain and suffering. Even if the shot is perfect the cat will suffer for a moment or much longer if the shot is imperfect.

A judge would almost certainly agree with me because it has been determined that the only humane way to kill a cat is by lethal injection administered by a trained practitioner (a vet).

The issue is about causing suffering and pain. If death is instantaneous it could be argued by a shooter that the cat suffers no pain. However, there has to be a moment, a second at least, when a cat has been hit by a bullet when she feels enormous pain or pure shock. I believe that could be proved scientifically. Accordingly, in respect of Wisconsin I conclude that it is not legal to shoot a feral cat dead.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources have confirmed in a telephone conversation that is is illegal to shoot feral cats in that state. The same goes for PA.

General — USA wide

First I will propose that the laws of other states are similar in their wording to Wisconsin and PA laws with similar interpretations.  On that basis shooting feral cats is considered cruel and illegal.

On the website (high visitor numbers – large site) a visitor asks, “Is it legal to kill stray or your cats?” This is the page. It appears to be non-state specific.

Responses from lawyers:

  1. Alan Brinkmeier (Chicago Lawsuit / Dispute Attorney) – No
  2. John M. Kaman (San Francisco Criminal Defense Attorney) – No, it’s not legal to kill stray cats. That’s what animal control personnel do as a last resort….
  3. Laura Mcfarland-Taylor (Bolingbrook Trademark Application Attorney) – No, it is not legal to kill stray cats. If you killed your own cat you could well be charged with animal cruelty.


It is not legal to shoot feral cats anywhere in the USA. That is certain, whatever shooters say. The law on animal cruelty in the USA is on a per state basis. Each state has their own law which is similar nationwide. Feral cats are not legal described as “pests” or “nuisance animals” or non-native species in American law and regulations.

There are discussions on making it legal to shoot feral cats in some states.

The fact that people discuss legalising the shooting of feral cats proves that it is illegal.

See also an article about the legality of killing feral cats in Texas:

Is it illegal to kill a feral cat in Texas?

And also see some more on the legality of killing feral cats in Wisconsin:

Is It Legal to Shoot Feral Cats in Wisconsin?


  1. Killing feral cats is not quite the same as shooting feral cats in Wisconsin but similar because if an individual kills a cat they are likely to employ a method that is not humane.


Facebook Discussion


Is it legal to shoot feral cats anywhere in USA? — 18 Comments

  1. Here’s a clue for you to put this into real-world perspective. If an endangered Florida Panther is threatening the life of a human or someone’s business, it too can be legally shot to death. Nuisance-animal laws supersede any and all animal-protection laws. Tell us of just one free-roaming house-cat that has never been a nuisance to anyone else’s lives (human or animal), and I’ll show you a mirror to show you a liar.

    • What you are saying is pure and simple rubbish. It is not legal to kill a cat because it is a nuisance. There are exemptions to killing a cat is when the cat is a nuisance to livestock and that applies perhaps to certain states in the USA. When cats were nuisance to people it does not mean you can kill them. 99% of outdoor cats are not a nuisance to anybody. You know it and I know it. Your comment is completely ridiculous as usual and you have been banned for that simple reason. I will not accept comments that are ridiculous, illogical and written by a troll like you. Your are incorrigible and the only way to fix your distorted thinking is to get a brain transplant

      • Thank you for banning that jackass, Michael. Looks like Woody’s fuse is getting shorter and shorter. He’s not even pretending to be civil anymore.

  2. Cats kill an unbelievable amount of birds and mammals every year, and cause those animals great pain and suffering. If anyone has seen a cat play with its victim they know exactly what I’m talking about.

    Why are we so concerned about a cats pain but not the slow death of their victims? What about the millions of dollars spent every year on habitat and reintroduction efforts for other animals? That cats kill by the millions.

    It may be illegal, that’s why a game warden told me to always stick to the SSS method. Shoot, Shovel and Shut up. BANG, BANG

    I like cats, just not free range ones. It is mind boggling to me that they are protected. Then again look who we voted in for president.

    • As usual, you miss one of the most vital points in this discussion. Cats like all predators kill their prey instinctively as an act of survival. Humans like you who shoot animals do not do it for survival but in part and sometimes fully for the pleasure of it. You argue that you are justified in causing pain to a cat by shooting it because cats cause pain to their prey is ridiculous. Also, you have been reading too many biased and poor research studies into the predation of the domestic cat on prey in the USA. Nearly all estimates on the numbers of wild animals killed by feral, stray and domestic cat in the USA are inaccurate because they are based upon guesses which are in turn based upon extrapolations from small studies in small areas. It has been conclusively found that this does not produce accuracy. In addition quite often the scientists who turn out the studies are biased and sometimes they are ornithologists. I suggest that you become more critical about scientific research studies on the subject which are not scientific at all. I also suggest that you become more logical in your thinking and less cruel in your behaviour. Finally, I suggest that you turn your attention to the devastating impact that human activity has upon all wildlife on the planet. Humans kill far more wild animals than all the domestic stray and feral cats combined. They do this primarily by destroying the habitat in which wild animals live or they trade wildlife as commercial assets. Think about that for a bit and look at yourself in the mirror while you do it.

      • All of your points are valid ones, Michael. Of course, logic and humanity are wasted on something like Woody. It will never admit that humans are the greatest engine of extinction on the planet, and it will also never admit that wild birds are some of the most disease-ridden creatures on the face of the planet. Even so, no reasonable person would advocate killing all birds or killing cats. Only a sicko would promote that idea, and Woody certainly qualifies as one mentally ill troll.

      • You like to promote true scientific studies, don’t you? Then why aren’t you citing the scientific studies that show and prove that cats kill just for the enjoyment of killing, whether they are hungry or not. Their desire to kill is completely unrelated to their need to eat. They were bred by humans specifically for this purpose — to kill other animals even when they aren’t hungry. Is this just another convenient relapse of that head-up-a** disease of yours?

        • You say that cats kill for the pleasure of it but they do not. You produce scientific evidence which supports that statement, please. In addition, you say that cats are bred by humans specifically for the purpose of killing for pleasure. That is complete nonsense and you know it. I’ve never heard a more ridiculous statement as that.

  3. The ONLY laws they are trying to pass is to make it legal to kill cats wherever they are sighted, on any land anywhere, not just on your own property. You don’t have the legal right to kill a cat on someone else’s property unless they have requested it or allow you do so so. Just as you don’t have the right to shoot someone’s cattle on their own land, unless they say “Sure, come on over and harvest a few for your table.” This is why so many people find those laws foolish. They just kill cats on their own properties to keep the numbers in check. There’s no need for those laws at all if everyone did their civic duty. You must have lived as a renter your whole life and know nothing about laws governing land that you actually own.

    • You don’t have the legal right to kill a cat on someone else’s property unless they have requested it or allow you do so

      So you agree, on that fact alone, that you can’t kill feral cats anywhere in the USA.

      Why are you so sloppy in your arguments?

      I own property and have done for many years. I just have a completely different viewpoint and a much more refined viewpoint than yours. Your argument is so crude and basic.

  4. Below is a link to an interesting website that I’ve been letting cat-owners know about, Those who like to claim that killing cats and other small animals is illegal. I’m sure the laws in the UK are the same as they are in every other country. For someone to kill any animal on their own property being illegal would have made life in the UK (and everywhere else in the world) impossible.

    I think part of the problem is that the net was taken over early by urban-psychotics (made that way from being isolated from reality for so long). People in rural areas, living their lives, doing chores, and doing what must be done to survive, rarely if ever posted their experiences and lives to the net. Why should they? (Let alone most didn’t have net access for how long, nor even knew of its existence.) Now some rural people who are trying to re-educate the bambi-cartoon-diploma’ed psychotics are finally telling them how life really is. Cat-owners don’t like waking up from their psychotic bliss they’ve slumbered under all their sorry lives.

    They want to let their cats roam to experience real life, right? Little did they know that REAL life is now coming right back into their own homes and lives through reports of what their cats have been doing out in the real world. And why people are now letting them know that their cats are being shot on sight. They no longer have to wonder why their cat never came home — blissfully imagining that someone must have adopted it and is loving it like they did. WRONG! It was shot dead and buried, as it should be.

    Tell one of them to hang up a steer to slit its throat so they can make hamburgers on their backyard grill and they’ll yell “animal abusing murderer!”

    An interesting read for anyone who is so out of touch with reality and where their food really comes from …

  5. Shoot to maim IS illegal, and rightly so. No respectable hunter with the least bit of morality will shoot at an animal and allow it to run off maimed. They MUST, BY LAW, track it down and put it out of its misery if it was only maimed. If you let an animal suffer, then yes that IS illegal.

    Look to your country’s hunting laws and any other laws in which animals are killed for human consumption and use. Any laws that allow you to humanely kill animals also applies to cats, they’re just another animal. There is NOTHING special about them, they are not above the law when it comes to legal ways to kill animals. If a cat is on your property, then you have EVERY right to destroy ANY animal on your own property — AS LONG AS YOU DO IT HUMANELY — this INCLUDES using a gun.

    If shooting animals was considered inhumane and animal cruelty, then no country on earth could ever issue any hunting licenses, nor allow hunting. I don’t know of any country on earth that doesn’t allow hunting or killing of animals. If that were the case there’d be no butcher shops nor meat aisles in any grocery store in those countries. Do they allow hunting in your country? Do they kill animals humanely to stock your grocery stores? Then it’s legal to shoot cats to death humanely. It’s pretty much that simple.


    Either that, or they are so psychotic that they refuse to face reality.

    That’s all it boils down to!

    • Any laws that allow you to humanely kill animals also applies to cats, they’re just another animal.

      Wrong. Cats are domesticated and companion animals. Stray cats are companion animals straying. They belong to someone. And feral cats are linked to companion animals. They may be first generation from a companion animal.

      The animal welfare laws apply to cats and you can’t cause suffering or pain and shooting cats does cause suffering and pain.

      Deer are part of the hunting season. Although I hate hunters it is legal in season and under regulations to hunt deer.

      When someone kills food at an abattoir is done under strict rules.

      I have quoted the law. Now, you quote me the law which says you can shoot feral cats anywhere in the USA. I leave you with that challenge.

      Don’t fudge it or wriggle around it, just make a good argument and quote me the bloody the law.

      • Feral cats are not domesticated animals. When a cat is born in the wild it is a wild animal. When that wild animal steps on my property I am within my rights to harvest it. I am also allowed to shoot a pet if its causes a problem on my property. Actually I am allowed to do so anywhere if I am threatened by the animal. Now if I see a pet cat I would not shoot it. I would try to find a different solution. Feral cats on the are a different story.

  6. Thanks for getting to the bottom of this officially. Hopefully woody won’t carry on repeating his made up stuff again and again. It’s always been fairly obvious just by the way he says things that he is making it up or bending things in his preferred view/angle. If it were serious and he were telling the truth then I am sure it would be delivered in a different way to start off with. That’s why I just don’t believe what he says. Thats just me.

    • bending things in his preferred view/angle

      Yes, he does this to justify what he does. Mind games. He gets away with it (if he actually does it) because of lax enforcement.

      If police officers shoot cats what hope do Americans have of animal laws being enforced?

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