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.

Feral cats
Feral cats. Photo in public domain
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

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.” (section 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.

Feral cats
Feral cats (Feral Alley Cats). Photo in public domain.

Ohio – another example

Licking County Humane Society Board and staff said in a statement that: “The Ohio Revised Code makes the killing of domestic animals like cats explicitly against the law.”

They made the statement in response to an earlier statement by Bill Hayes, a Republican candidate for Licking County County Commissioner, who was participating in a forum. He suggested that in order to control feral cats people should be allowed to hunt them. He quite quickly retracted his statement after he was heavily criticised. He realised that it was illegal to do as he suggested.

And the point is this: you cannot tell the difference between a feral cat and a domestic cat. Therefore, a prohibition on shooting domestic cats is also a prohibition on shooting feral cats. And if you shot what you thought was a feral cat but which in fact was a domestic cat, the owner could sue you for compensation and you would be committing an act of criminal damage, a crime.

In fact, one pest controller, who appears to know what he’s talking about, says that it is illegal to shoot feral cats in Ohio. I think that he is working backwards like me. If you shoot stray cats, you might you shoot a domestic cat. The whole idea of shooting at cats is simply impractical and that, by the way, applies across the whole of the USA.

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.


31 thoughts on “Is it legal to shoot feral cats anywhere in USA?”

  1. Michael, you’re are moron. Feral cats are a human caused problem that need a human solution. They need to die, especially in situations where their attacking our pets!

  2. You are wrong in your assumption that “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.” In a clean head shot this is not true and likely not in most other shots. A bullet travels between 1100ft/s and over 3,000ft/s, nerve impulses travel at about 900ft/s. If the brain is destroyed before the nerve impulses arrive it would be impossible to feel any pain, as pain is the brains interpretation of the nerve signal. In addition, if you talk to anybody who has ever been shot or they will report that the pain does not hit for several seconds after impact. Even if the shot is imperfect, there is a strong likelihood that no pain will be felt if it is a clean, rapidly fatal shot. In both of those scenarios there would be far less trauma or pain than in trapping a cat and having a vet strap it down and place a needle in it to shut down its heart. So, scientifically, a clean shoot is far more humane and less stressful on the animal.


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