People want to know if feral cats are protected by law. This is a huge question and my answer is somewhat vague. It is difficult to answer cleanly because statutes on animal welfare are complicated and feral cats are both treated as ‘vermin’ in some places and are sometimes stray domestic cats. It is tricky to get a handle on the subject.
Let’s say there are half a billion feral cats on the planet – a guess. Four-fifths of them are unprotected by law (400,000,000). The remaining 100 million have protection under standard animal welfare laws relating to all animals. Being protected means in law they are protected. It does not mean that in actuality they are all protected efficiently. Far from it. It is about being caught and prosecuted. I would suggest that it is rare for someone to be prosecuted for harming or killing a feral cat anywhere on the planet.
It depends where the feral cats live. It might be rash to say that in all countries, except Israel, east and south of Greece (including Greece) feral cats are unprotected. Northern Europe has good animal welfare laws reasonably well enforced. Southern European countries have the laws but lack the enforcement. The UK has good laws decently enforced. The Scandinavian countries have well developed animal welfare laws well enforced.
North America is like Europe in terms of animal welfare law and enforcement – more or less but there must be signicant variation between states. South America will be something like Southern Europe. Asia is poor on animal welfare and China is a hell hole. Forget Africa. They still believe black cats are witches. Australia has a troubled relationship with the feral cat. They thrive on that continent we are told and they destroy native species. The authorities want them exterminated. Protected? No. But their laws on a state by state basis probably does protect them on paper.
Good animal welfare laws protect animals in general. For example take the British Animal Welfare Act 2006 which protects vetebrates other than humans that are not wild. It does cover feral cats. Of course feral cats are often on the boundary between wild and domesticated.
In the UK you can’t harm a feral cat. That is not to say that people don’t harm them. They do and sometimes (most times?) get away with it. Poisoning, trapping, shooting are ways of killing and injuring feral cats in the UK.
I say feral cats are protected in the USA other than under rare exceptions because USA law is similar to and based upon UK law. Cat haters and killers would disagree with me but they never quote the law. Once again protection by statute (on paper) is not the same thing as on-the-ground in the real world protection. A lot of crimes against feral cats go unpunished I believe.
Let’s think about it or ask the question in the title differently. Should we protect all animals wild and domesticated by law? The answer must be yes because (a) humans are the custodians of the planet and (b) humans created feral cats. We have a moral duty to treat them humanely and no one can deny that.
Therefore any country which does not protect feral cats is backward as far as I am concerned. There is a page on animal protection across the globe on this website. It is not complete but provides some pointers.
Note: I have written this without reference to any source. It is a general discussion.